Charlie on Trial: Lakewood Residents Protest City's Pit Bull Ban

click to enlarge GREG MURRAY

Continuing the concerted effort that has been building in earnest over the past year, Lakewood residents assembled outside City Hall yesterday on behalf of a dog named Charlie.

According to Lakewood's breed-specific legislation (BSL), dogs that have more than 50 percent "pit bull" DNA are not permitted in the city. Charlie was adopted and brought into a Lakewood home earlier this year, and the animal warden reported that "the puppy would be welcome in Lakewood at this time."

The ordinance, enacted in 2008, has been enforced rather selectively. Earlier this year, a state appeals court ruled that the spirit of BSL is unconstitutional.

When Charlie got loose through an open gate this summer, his looks earned him some fresh suspicion from the city. Yesterday's protest coincided with a hearing that will determine whether Charlie has too much pit bull in him to remain in Lakewood. His owner, Jennifer Scott, attended the hearing today, asking the crowd outside to wish her luck before she went in.

click to enlarge ERIC SANDY / SCENE
All Breeds Lakewood organizer Kerry Stack was out among the people on Detroit Avenue, relaying information from those inside the building as residents held signs to passing motorists. "I'm With Charlie" was the rallying cry, and drivers honked in support. One man even cried out "beep beep" as he ran past.

The hearing's conclusion — Lakewood will decide Charlie's fate in "three to five days" — was anticlimactic, as Stack said, but she and others vowed to continue the fight against this legislation in general. (We'll keep an ear toward Lakewood for how this story ends.)

"We're not talking about dogs," Stack said. "We're talking about families ... and Lakewood is family too. We don't discriminate against anybody based on how they look."

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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