PARMA, Ohio — We’ve all been given the advice “always read the fine print.”
But where if the fine print doesn’t exist? Or the fine print isn’t specific?
The Northeast Ohio SPCA will no longer be listing the breeds of its adoptable dogs online in hopes of ending the stigma about certain types of dogs.
However, some people have already expressed concerns about not having that information – specifically those living in cities with breed bans or restrictions in place.
These questions prompted News 5 to look into which criteria determines which types of dogs are allowed within certain city limits.
DanaMarie Pannella specializes in Animal Law and is familiar with these ordinances.
“This is one of the main issues with breed-specific legislation,” Pannella said, “Is that it is impossible to accurately visually identify the breed of an animal.”
A handful of cities in Northeast Ohio ban certain dog breeds like pit bulls, dobermans, rottweilers, akitas, huskies and German shepherds.
Additionally, some enforce strict rules for breeds categorically deemed aggressive.
“They have to wear a special florescent green collar,” Pannella said. “They have to be muzzled.”
Northeast Ohio SPCA employees say it’s nearly impossible to accurately determine a dog’s breed, especially with limited information about where the dog came from.
“Ninety percent of the time it really is just a guess,” Stefanie Merkosky said.
Merkosky said the shelter’s choice to remove animal breeds from adoption listings will give all dogs a fair chance at finding a home.
Pannella supports the shelter’s decision to leave that information off its website and said other shelters across the country have done the same for years.
“You could walk into a shelter and it could be labeled a Labrador retriever and do a DNA test and there’s absolutely zero Labrador retriever in that animal,” Pannella said. “You’re probably not going to love the animal any less, but it might not be the dog you thought it was.”
Pannella offered tips prospective pet owners can take to protect themselves and their animals from these regulations.
“Perhaps take a photo of the animal to the local animal warden to make a determination about whether that animal will fall within the banned breed list,” Pannella said.
She added “dog DNA tests” have become increasingly popular, but buying one comes with risks.
“Of course the double edged sword is they get the test and the animal is on the banned breed list,” Pannella said.
Attorneys practicing Animal Law believe the bans should be more specific.
“How much of the breed is too much for these breed bans?” Pannella said. “Often legislation or ordinance does not specify whether it’s a majority or simply any percentage.”
Animal lovers nationwide are calling for rules based on behavior instead of breed.
“If it’s raised to be aggressive it’s going to be an aggressive dog,” Merkosky said. “Whether it’s a chihuahua or a pit bull.”
“Imagine how much simpler of a system this would be,” Pannella said. “Versus trying to figure out whether or not a blocky-headed dog is a pit bull or not.”
Estimated breed information is still available for those who visit the Northeast Ohio SPCA looking to adopt.
“They’re all shelter dogs and they all need love and a home,” Merkosky said. “So we want to open people’s eyes more to that.”
The Northeast Ohio SPCA is located at 9555 Brookpark Road in Parma, OH.
Because pit bulls are currently banned in Parma, pit bulls are not adoptable at the shelter. However, the Northeast Ohio SPCA works with local and national pit bull rescues to find homes for those dogs.