Real Bite: Legal Realism and Meaningful Rational Basis in Dog Law and Beyond

Document Type



On August 5, 2002, the City of Toledo, Ohio issued a warrant for the arrest ofresident Paul Tellings on the charge of violating the limitation on harboring vicious dogs.1 Both the Toledo ordinance and Ohio state law in effect in 2002 labeled “pitbull” type dogs per se vicious purely based on their visual identification.2 Toledo’sordinance specifically limited citizens to only one “vicious” dog per household.3 During a routine lead-based paint inspection4 in Tellings’s home, the health inspector noted three dogs that looked like pit bulls in the household, reported it to the dog warden,5 and set in motion a legal action that proceeded all the way through the state’s highestcourt, and ended in a denial of certiorari from the United States Supreme Court.6