A change is gonna come…

Perhaps President Obama is right on target with his belief that change is coming. Ok….I know he is speaking mainly of political policies in Washington, but the events of this week showed us that our hard work is paying off with respect to changes in the fight against breed specific legislation. We are seeing more elected officials beginning to understand the reality that people are the driving force behind “vicious dogs,” and that the breed and/or physical appearance of a dog plays absolutely no role in determining whether that dog is or is not “dangerous.”

This third week of January brought some positive news on the BSL front…

The Montana House of Representatives quickly kicked to the curb Representative Robin Driscoll’s proposed bill that would effectively ban “pit bulls” in the state of Montana. Representative Driscoll’s arguments in support of breed bans sounded as if they came straight from dogsbite.org, a website that considers media reports to be statistically and factually sound. (Seriously, stop laughing…its true!!) Fortunately, the remainder of the Montana House Committee had enough common sense to understand that “dangerous dogs” are the result of “dangerous owners” and that, among other things, individuals who support any other position are interested in pursuing their own personal agendas rather than ensuring community safety. HATS OFF to the Montana representatives who swiftly put their foot down and stopped Driscoll’s faulty bill in its tracks.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to hear the city of Reading’s appeal with respect to its 10-year old “aggressive breed ordinance.” The ordinance imposed restrictions on dog breeds that bit too many people. Survey says…WRONG ANSWER. While this is a creative attempt at disguising breed discrimination, the lower court ruled, and the state Supreme Court agreed, that the ordinance violated Pennsylvania state law that prohibits breed specific legislation. The ordinance has effectively been axed.

Oshkosh, Wisconsin and Molalla, Oregon both said “NO” to breed specific legislation. Both city councils conducted extensive research on the issue, and both went to great efforts to included the public in the decision making process. Ultimately, both cities came to the conclusion that breed specific ordinances were not the way to go. Good call.

Despite an official request made by the Sheriff to the county commissioners for an ordinance banning “pit bulls,” officials in Thomas County, Georgia have decided not to pursue any such ban. According to the County Manager, commissioners are currently working on an ordinance that will address the problem of “all vicious dogs regardless of breed.” This is, of course, the only way to effectively ensure community safety.

While we are seeing change with respect to public opinion on breed specific legislation, the one change I am not seeing (unfortunately) is a change in practices related to responsible dog ownership. The news continues to be full of dog attacks, which we all know are the result of careless, irresponsible dog owners. The one difference I am beginning to notice, however, is that more media outlets are picking up dog attacks of ALL breeds – not just those allegedly committed by “pit bulls.”

While it is a positive sign that the media is beginning to recognize that all dogs can and do bite, they are failing to take the golden opportunity they have to educate the public on dog bite prevention. The media would rather reap the glory of a sensationalized headline as opposed to taking the upper hand in the prevention of the next sensational story. The public must be educated on responsible dog ownership, and the biggest focus must be put on kids and dogs. The media, having access to millions of people – is in the perfect position to do just that….but they do not.

If we are to achieve success with respect to eliminating breed specific legislation, the one change that must occur is the elimination of irresponsible dog ownership practices. Sadly, we are not even out of January, and FIVE children have lost their lives in dog attacks. These are senseless tragedies that could have easily been prevented.

If a change really is gonna come, and if future tragedies are to be prevented, public education – not breed bans – is the key to that change.

Click the picture to watch the “Message to the Media.” (The video takes a minute or so to load).

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