Judge Rules Toledo's Pit Bull Law is Unconstitutional

By Joel Zand on January 21, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Toledo Municipal Court judge ruled that the Ohio city's law concerning pit bulls is unconstitutional because it conflicts with the state's law and is vague.

Judge Michael Goulding was faced with many legal challenges  by dog owner Hugh Smith after the city charged him with 13 alleged violations of Toledo's breed-specific pit bull ordinance.

For example, Smith said -- and the court agreed -- that his pooches are Cane Corsos, not pit bulls.

Unlike the Toledo ordinance requiring pit bull dogs to be muzzled, the state law gives the breed's owners an option of keeping their dogs in pen, on a leash, or muzzling them, This conflict, Goulding concluded, made Toledo's law unconstitutional for imposing greater restrictions than the state's own law.

Concluding that the city dog warden's classification of Smith's dogs as vicious after he received a complaint they were allegedly involved in a 'fracas' with another dog, and that he thought they were pit bulls, Judge Goulding concluded that the dog warden's decision was unconstitutional because it was 'unreasonable and arbitrary,' and because there weren't any procedural protections given to dog owners before their dogs were taken

The court also held unconstitutional Toledo's law restricting the number of pit bulls that people could have to only one dog. This local law conflicted with the state's law which, although it "does not specifically Permit ownership of more than one [pit bull] dog...it does not specifically prohibit it either."

Since Ohio law prohibits local governments from passing "and enforcing laws which conflict with state" laws, the court rule, Toledo's restriction against the number of 'vicious dogs' that a person could have in the city is unconstitutional.

Smith was represented on a pro bono basis by the husband and wife legal team of Daniel Haude and Kristi Haude, The City of Toledo was represented by Assistant City Prosecutor Victoria Smith.

You can read the Toledo court's decision holding the city's pit bull law unconstitutional here:

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