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Dayton Man Wants Pit Bull Law Changed After He's Forced to Hide Dogs

A Dayton man had to remove his two dogs from the city after the Campbell County Animal Control has deemed them to be pit bulls which are not allowed in city limits.

Robert Wade, 47, is a lifelong Dayton resident and said the situation began when a woman startled the dogs inside his house causing them to bark at her.

“The lady was visiting somebody on the street and she came up to a window where the back of my couch is at this window. My handicap niece and nephew are sitting on this couch and the dogs are in their lap. She comes up behind them and startles them. The dogs jump up and start barking into the window and carrying on. That's what dogs are supposed to do. They're protecting their house and their people."

Shortly after, Wade says, Animal Control was sent to his home.

"They've never been out of the yard, they've had their shots. They're up to date on everything. Both of them were rescue dogs,” Wade said. "One of the dogs is deaf. That lady came up behind them and scared them. The one dog obviously didn't hear them but she went with the reaction of the other dark and started barking.”

Campbell County Animal Control Officer Terri Baker gave a different rendition of what happened that day.

“The dogs were in the front yard and a pedestrian walked by the yard and the dogs charged the fence at a woman and frightened her. Dogs are not allowed to come into contact with the parameters of the fences and especially aren't allowed to come into contact with pedestrians on the sidewalk because you don't want an incident where they would scratch them with a toenail or bite them if a person reaches over and touches them. You want to prevent a situation from happening to keep the pit bulls safe and to keep the people safe. So having them in the front yard and allowing them to charge the fence, that wasn't very responsible either,” Baker said.

Wade says that his dogs are mutts and that he isn't sure what kind of breeds they are mixed with but he thinks the ordinance is unfair and that dogs should be considered vicious on a case-by-case basis rather than by breed.

“My one dog is a boxer mix, and my other dog is a mix of dogs. I've lived there for about two years. There's not been a problem with the dogs; they don't get out, they're in a fenced-in yard,” he said. “You need to judge this on a case-by-case basis. The next dog that has a short nose and it barks, it's a vicious killer. Chihuahuas and poodles are some of the meanest dogs there are.”

Baker explained that the ordinance pertaining to the pit bull ban is intentionally vague to allow officials to interpret dogs as pit bulls in order to err on the side of caution.

“The ordinance states predominant characteristics of an American Staffordshire Terrier or Staffordshire Pit-Bull Terrier. They make the wording of the ordinance very vague in order to group in a bunch of dogs that have those characteristics, because pit bull isn't really a breed. It's a group of dogs; it's the look, the bully look. That's why it's vague so that more dogs can be labeled,” she said.

She said that removing the dogs from the city was the right step for Mr. Wade to take while he sorts out the steps required to allow his dogs to live with him. She said that she regularly shows some lenience in cases of dog owners who are faced with possible citations for having pit bulls in city limits.

“I try to give people time and I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Of course, I don't want to take pit-bulls to the shelter because we don't adopt them out that easily. You have to jump through a lot of hoops to adopt out a pit or a pit mix, and if I write a big fine on a pit, and the owner doesn't claim it, then there is a chance that the animal could be put to sleep, so that's why we try to give them the opportunity to get them out of the city first. So, yes, I try to be nice and give people the benefit of the doubt and remove them from the city, but then people don't remove them from the city and I am the bad guy because I have to seize them.”

She also said that had Wade been able to provide documentation from a veterinarian that says the dogs are not pit bulls, it would have helped his case, but because he administered his own vaccines to the dogs without ever seeing the dogs, there is no paperwork to display.

“I'm not saying that (Wade) is not a good pet owner, but if we would have had some veterinarian documentation, or a vet's letter that would have said these dogs don't have pit bull in them whatsoever, that would have helped, but he's never had them to a vet, so I had no paperwork to look at.”

Wade says that removing his dogs from his home has upset his family which consists of two special-needs children that live in the house.

“Those dogs are like therapy to my niece and nephew who play with them all the time. My nephew is rather slow and my niece should have never lived; she's severely handicapped. They're both in special classes and these dogs are tight with those kids, and now I have to get rid of my dogs and hurt my family,” he said. “They've never had a problem, but now they're deemed vicious for protecting handicapped kids. I think it's a little far fetched.”

Wade claims he was initially given 10 days from the city to provide the necessary documentation but then was told the next day that his dogs would be seized.

“I had to take my dogs out of my own home. They're like my own kids, you know? I've had them since they were pups. I got to take them out and hide them places.”

Terri Baker says that removing the dogs from the city was the right move for Wade to take.

“The number one step is to get it out of the city first and then they can start making steps to prove otherwise, because my job is to remove anything that looks like that. Now I know that Mr. Wade did not have the money for a citation, because he never had the dogs to a veterinarian. The dogs had been taken to a local low-cost spade/neuter clinic where they had been spade and had their rabies shot there, so at least they had those minimal things done, and he did do his vaccines. That's one of the Kentucky state laws is you are to provide medical attention for your animals.”

Coming up with the money for the veterinarian documentation has indeed been difficult for Wade to come up with.

“I'm trying to get the money together to get them to a vet. I have to take both dogs to a vet, have a vet say that they aren't Staffordshire Terriers and sign and date it that they've seen the animals and that they have their shots. That's going to be about $150 a piece. Times are hard. I don't know anybody that has an extra $300 laying around that they can just afford to put out because somebody said these things,” he said.

There is an online petition for Mr. Wade being able to keep his dogs with over 1,500 signatures, but the petition has no legal grounds to allow him to keep his dogs in Dayton without documentation.

“You can look at the one and tell it's a boxer mix. The animal-control lady said she could tell she's a boxer mix and asked what she's mixed with. Hell, I don't know. She said she thinks she's mixed with pit bull but that is her opinion.”

He said that the dogs have become emotionally distraught by being removed from his home and are currently in different locations outside of the city.

“It's affecting my animals because they grew up together. Now they're apart and they don't want to eat and they're moping around. This whole thing is just wrong and it's over nothing. I could see if it was a dog that did something—that bit somebody. They haven't bit anybody, they haven't been out of the yard. The lady is telling me how good they look and how nice their coat is and was proud that they're spayed and they're better taken care of than most people's kids, and this is animal control.”

Wade said that he has spoken with his immediate neighbors on either side of his home as well as the neighbors behind him, none of which have a problem with his dogs. He said that the dogs are out only for an hour at a time at most and that they are supervised when in his backyard which is surrounded by an eight-foot privacy fence.

Baker says that Animal Control is simply following city rule

“I'm just upholding an ordinance, that's my job. It's not my opinion that matters,” she said.

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor

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