Lakewood family fighting to keep banned pit bull mix in their home

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Family Fighting To Keep Beloved Banned Pit Bull Mix

LAKEWOOD, Ohio – The daily routine for 4-year-old Aleeah Williams can be a struggle. Cystic fibrosis requires her to undergo treatments using a compression vest and a breathing machine. The family pet, a pit bull named Scrappy, has been by her side.

"He's just been a tremendous comfort to her," Aleeah's grandmother, Elizabeth Spais said.

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Scrappy might have to leave the house though, after a Lakewood animal control officer responded to the house Tuesday.

"She was crying, 'what're we gonna do, please don't take Scrappy away,'" Spais said. "It was just really traumatic to try to explain to her we wouldn't let that happen, we won't let that happen to you."

Scrappy is not a trained service animal and is therefore subject to a 2008 Lakewood law stating that "all pit bull dogs and canary dogs are deemed to be dangerous animals," which are banned. Spais is paying for a DNA test, and if it determines Scrappy is more than 50% pit bull, it would fall under the ban. A breed determination hearing has been set for February, during which a Lakewood public safety hearing officer could make a final determination.

"He's not vicious, there's nothing vicious about this dog," Spais said. "He's never bitten, he's never gotten out, he's never attacked anybody."

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Lakewood family fighting to keep banned pit bull mix in their home
In this Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014 photo, a pit bull named Buddy stands with caretaker Michelle Mayer, left, and 9-year-old Charlie Burton, at a dog park in the south Denver suburb of Englewood, Colo. Buddy is being cared for in Englewood because of a ban on pit bulls in Aurora, Colo., where the dog lived with his owners. In the November general election, voters will decide whether to repeal Aurora's ban on pit bulls, which has been in place for the past nine years. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014 photo, a 2-year-old pit bull named Buddy waits to play at a dog park in the south Denver suburb of Englewood, Colo. Buddy is being cared for in Englewood because of a ban on pit bulls in Aurora, Colo., where the dog lived with his owners. But Buddy's place of residence could change if voters in Aurora consider repealing the ban on pit bulls, which has been in place for the past nine years, in the November general election. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014 photo, Michelle Mayer tends to a 2-year-old pit bull named Buddy at a dog park in the south Denver suburb of Englewood, Colo. Buddy is being cared for by Mayer, in Englewood, because of a ban on pit bulls in the dog's home of Aurora, Colo. Voters will consider repealing Aurora's ban on pit bulls, which has been in place for the past nine years, in the November general election. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
This photo provided by the Indianapolis Fire Department shows Ace, a pit bull, resting outside the home of Lindsay and James Bernard of Indianapolis after the home caught fire on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. Firefighters credited the dog with saving the life of the couple's deaf son, Nick Lamb, 13, by licking the boy's face until he woke up. No one else was home at the time. Neither the boy nor the dog was injured. (AP Photo/Indianapolis Fire Department, Rita Reith)
Earl Moffett speaks holds a dog during the "Pit Bulls & Parolees" portion of the Discovery 2014 Summer TCA on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Cameron Younglove plays with a pit bull terrier named Sooke at his kennels near Eudora, Kan., Sunday, March 9, 2014. For much of the past three decades, pit bulls have been widely regarded as America’s most dangerous dog _ but attitudes have softened considerably since then as animal activists and even television shows cast the dogs in a more positive light. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 a pit bull mix shelter dog named Nancy Botwin is photographed at a former landfill by photographer Shannon Johnstone, not shown, in Raleigh, N.C. Johnstone's “Landfill Dogs” project is meant to help find homes for the dogs and raise awareness of the need to spay and neuter pets. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
A Pit Bull available for adoption is seen at the Villalobos Rescue Center, run by Tia Maria Torres of Animal Planet's "Pit Bulls and Parolees," in New Orleans, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. She has moved her family and the show to New Orleans, where hurricanes and overbreeding have left many pit bulls abandoned or abused. Torres is the founder and owner of Villalobos Rescue Center, the nation’s largest pit bull rescue center, which pairs pit bulls with parolees who work to care for the dogs. Torres launched the center in southern California more than 20 years ago and relocated to south Louisiana last year. The show's fifth season premieres on Nov. 2. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
This Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 photo provided by County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) shows Blue, an 8-month old pit bull, during a DACC veterinarian exam in Los Angeles. The medics found several pellets imbedded in the dog’s body and a seriously injured front paw. Although no arrests have been made, an investigation is under way. The dog’s owner turned it over to the department. That way, when the dog heals, the county can find a home for Blue. (AP Photo/County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control)
This undated publicity photo provided by the ASPCA shows Musketeer, a five-year-old Shepard-pit bull mix, in the outdoor run playing with enrichment toys with Lauren Zvernia, ASPCA animal behavior enrichment coordinator, at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, N.J. Musketeer is available for adoption at St. Hubert's. (AP Photo/ASPCA)
In this Jan. 18, 2013 photo provided by the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Richard Palacios and Natalya Prokenpenko pose with Hazel, a 2-year-old pit bull mix, who they adopted from the ASPCA’s Adoption Center in New York. In order to be prepared for dog ownership, experts say you need to examine your lifestyle, home and finances. Then, you need to find the right match. (AP Photo/ASPCA)
In this Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 photo, lawyer Mitzi Bolanos gets a playful kiss from her dog, Bubba, while posing for photos at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Ore. Some cities ban pit bulls and housing in cities that don't can be hard to come by, she said. She wanted to take 3-year-old, 65-pound Bubba home for the holidays, but found that some airlines ban the breed and at least one requires an expensive “dangerous dog” crate. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
This photo taken on Thursday Nov. 29, 2012 in Moriarty, NM, shows one of two pit bulls tied up outside the mobile home where an alleged animal rescuer turned dog napper is accused of stealing two pit bulls. The home’s resident told sheriff’s officials she came home from work to find the woman taking her dogs. She said the woman then threw the two dogs from her moving vehicle when she gave chase. (AP Photo/Jeri Clausing)
In this Aug. 8, 2012 photo, Trixie, 3, a pit bull, tries out an aquatic treadmill meant for dogs in need of lower impact exercise, during a demonstration at LA Dog Works in Los Angeles. The aquatic treadmill is one of three different types at LA Dog Works. LA Dog Works, a 24-hour dog care center, which includes boarding, grooming, training, daycare, hydrotherapy, massage therapy and a retail store, also uses a $3,000 Jog A Dog and a $40,000 underwater treadmill from a company that is now Hudson Aquatic Systems. (AP Photo/Grant Hindsley)
A rescued pit bull catches drops of water from a volunteer of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at a coffee farm lot in San Pablo city, Laguna province, south of Manila, Philippines. Dozens of pit bulls rescued from a dogfighting ring will be put down starting Tuesday by the animal welfare activists who said there are no facilities to rehabilitate them and prevent them from again being used in underground arenas. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A volunteer from the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) pets a pit bull which rescued from South Korean nationals Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at a coffee farm lot in San Pablo city, Laguna province, south of Manila, Philippines. Dozens of pit bulls, rescued from a dogfighting ring will be put down starting Tuesday by the animal welfare activists who said there are no facilities to rehabilitate them and prevent them from again being used in underground arenas. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Rescued pit bull "Guiness" is shown by her new owner during a news confernce at the Los Angeles District Attorney's office in Los Angeles Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. "Guiness," is the only survivor rescued from the dogfighting site, run by Yvette Jimenez and Jessse Jimenez, who pled "no contest" to 31 counts of felony dog fighting. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
This March 8, 2012 photo shows Prada, a 4-year-old pit bull mix, at an animal control facility in Nashville, Tenn. Prada's owner, Nicole Andree, is fighting a lengthy legal battle to save her dog’s life after the animal was ordered euthanized for attacking other dogs. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
American Pit Bull Terriers "Osceola" and "Vade" check out the camera after taking a behavior test Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009, at Parris Island Marine base housing in Laurel Bay in Beaufort, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
Pit bull dogs named, Kerry, left and Oscar, right, join in support at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., held outside the Los Angeles City Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Roxy, a seven-month-old Pit Bull mix is seen with her owner, Jessica Stout, right, during a rally against proposed legislation concerning the dogs, held at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Aug. 15, 2005. State Sen. Jackie Speier has proposed legislation that would allow local governments to institute spay/neuter programs and to regulate breeders, but does not propose a ban of any breed of dogs. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A pit bull stands on its hind legs to get a better look at visitors to the Denver Animal Shelter, June 23, 2005. Denver has instituted a ban against pit bulls, forcing owners to either turn the animals into authorities, move them out of the city limits or hide them from detection. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Pit bull owner Cynthia Carstensen, of Pound Puppy Rescue, is licked by her 11-month-old pit bull dog, Herbert, as brother, Sammie, right, watches during a protest of dozens of demonstrators who brought their pit bulls outside of the Palo Alto Daily News newspaper offices in Palo Alto, Calif., Wednesday, May 18, 2005 to protest the decision to exclude pit bulls from the paper's "Pet of the Week" columns due to their violent nature, according to the newspaper. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Shannon Johnstone, right, a professional photographer, has been taking pictures once a week of rescue dogs from the Wake County Animal Shelter since 2012 at the North Wake Landfill District Park off Durant Road in North Raleigh, N.C. Here, she documents Wezzy, a pit bull that is about 4 years old, with the help of shelter worker Diadra Cooley, Oct. 7, 2013. (Corey Lowenstein/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
A Pit Bull wearing sunglasses is seen prior to the start of in Albania's first Dog Show in Tiranas Sport Palace on June 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO / GENT SHKULLAKU (Photo credit should read GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP/Getty Images)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - JULY 24: A pit bull looks out from a cage in the Liberty Humane Society shelter July 24, 2007 in Jersey City, New Jersey. According to animal shelter statistics, around one-third of all dogs coming into shelters nationwide are pit bulls, up from just 2 to 3 percent fifteen years ago. An estimated 40,000 people are involved in illegal professional dogfighting in the U.S. which often involves pit bulls. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Kerry Stack, who is a dog trainer and owner of Darwin Dogs, shared the story on Facebook, and it has some calling on the city to change the law. Several people posted on the city's Facebook page.

Lakewood City Council President Sam O'Leary, who represents Spais' ward, said it's a topic that needs revisiting, and he has heard from several council members interested in examining the city's dog laws.

"I don't think it's council's role to intervene in particular cases," O'Leary said. "I do think, from a policy standpoint, it illustrates some potential issues with the existing law."

That includes some incidents involving vicious dogs that aren't currently covered under city law and breed specific language for pit bull dogs, according to O'Leary.

"The breed specific nature of the law is not substantiated by the science," he said.

Councilwoman Cindy Marx said she suspects there would be as many opposed to a change as in favor, but she said council is always open to listening to community concerns.

Stack said she doesn't feel residents' voices are being heard.

"I'm really hoping that will change, but I don't just peg things on hope, so we're going to be following through with this."

Even if council takes action, it could be too late for Scrappy, who might have to find a new home.

"That's what I'm afraid of," Spais said. "That's my biggest fear."

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