JUNE 30, 2011: This is a reposting of a blog I wrote when the Army first initiated its pet policy banning specific breeds of dogs from military bases. While the blog is not new, the policy and its aftermath are still affecting responsible dog owners and good dogs. One of these dogs is Petey, and he needs our help because he is losing his home and the family that loves him…
Petey is a pit bull mix owned and loved by a soldier based in Ft. Cambpell. While Petey’s “dad” is currently deployed in Afghanistan, his “mom” is being forced to find a home for Petey due to the biased pet policy. Petey’s dad is heartbroken because he can’t even say good-bye to him, and he knows he won’t be there when he comes home. Petey is socialized with dogs and children, up to date on all his vetting, and is a good dog. If you can help Petey, PLEASE contact me (email@example.com) or his mom, Katy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ARMY “ORPHANS” CRISIS
March 2009When I first became involved in rescue, there seemed to be nothing more heartbreaking than the person who just did not want their dog anymore. The reasons vary…the dog no longer fit in with their lifestyle…they were having a baby…their significant other didn’t like the dog…whatever their reasoning and sometimes for no reason at all, they just wanted the dog gone.
The thought of dumping my beloved companion has always seemed unfathomable to me. I simply can’t imagine not developing that bond, that deep love and faithful companionship, with my dogs. Our dogs depend on us for everything. Our dogs’ lives revolve around us – our devotion, our care, our love and our attention. It didn’t make sense to me when I started the rescue, and time certainly has not changed my astonishment over the reasons why people no longer want their dogs.
What has changed, however, is my viewpoint since becoming so actively involved in fighting breed specific legislation.
Do you know what is more heartbreaking than the person who just doesn’t want their dog anymore? The person who wants their dog more than anything, but legally cannot keep him or her because someone made the decision that their dog – and all dogs like him – are “dangerous.” That designation is not based on any behavior of the dog, but rather, it is based solely on the physical characteristics of a breed…a square jaw…a big head…or any other physical characteristic that enables one to describe the appearance of a dog – not the temperament of a dog.
These decisions come down from governmental entities, typically municipalities, as knee-jerk reactions to adverse incidents in the community. In this particular case, the decision comes in the form of a “pet policy” implemented by the United States Army that applies a blanket designation of “aggressive” to all pit bulls, rottweilers, dobermans and chows. Soldiers across the country are being forced to give up their family companions because someone with no personal knowledge of their dog has designated him or her as an “aggressive breed.”
Ironically, we send our soldiers overseas to fight for our freedoms, only to have them return to the United States to find that some of their freedoms have been revoked. We entrust these brave men and women with the responsibility of defending our country. We trust them to make mature and reasonable decisions regarding the manner in which they maintain our freedoms. We entrust them with our hope that they will secure our rights and our freedoms, as well as the elusive “American dream.” Yet we don’t trust them enough to be responsible with the dog breed of their choice?
Loyalty and commitment are common themes of many, if not all, military unit mottos. Are we to believe that these character traits are only encouraged with respect to a soldier’s military life? Shouldn’t these qualities be associated with and employed in all aspects of life – and, for that matter, not only the lives of soldiers? These are the traits that we respect and admire so deeply in our military personnel and hope to achieve for ourselves. “Be all you can be” implies a pledge to become the best person we can possibly be by utilizing our strengths, including our loyalty and commitment to the world around us.
We know the army recognizes the special bond between humans and dogs as the current story on U.S. Army’s website is dedicated to service dogs and their handlers. The article sets forth the deep ties between soldiers and their dogs. In fact, the final paragraph of the article states:
“We have a bond with these dogs that are as attached to us as we are them. I have gone to war with this dog, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I will go to the end of the world and back again for this dog, and I know he would do the same.” Air Force Staff Sgt. Joel Townsend speaking of his K-9 partner, A-Taq.
While I have not gone to war with my dogs, my feelings for them are certainly just as strong as those of Sgt. Townsend.
According to the Department of Defense, the military divorce rate continues to climb over previous years. In addition, the U.S. Army reports that the suicide rate among troops is at a 30 year high. Our soldiers put their lives on the line for their country, and in doing so, they see things I cannot ever imagine trying to process – all of which can and does leave them traumatized and carrying very real emotional scars. Our troops come home to strained marriages and relationships – must they also add to their worries the stress of losing their dogs? There are few things more therapeutic than interaction with our pets, and animals have long been recognized as being a positive force in the healing process and boosting our emotional well-being. In a time when our military personnel are emotionally broken, the Army is taking away one of the most accessible and effortless forms of therapy available to them.
Forcing people to abandon their dogs goes against every element we teach people about responsible dog ownership and lifetime commitments. Moreover, these types of policies punish responsible dog owners and do nothing to prevent incidents related to aggressive dogs. Quite frankly, if you are an irresponsible owner, you will be irresponsible regardless of the breed of dog you own. Despite the growing sentiment caused by breed specific policies, you are not an irresponsible owner BECAUSE of the breed of dog you own, and these policies only support archaic and manipulated stereotypes of both owner and dog.
The new Pet Policy for Privatized Housing includes a “grandfather clause,” and military personnel who currently own dogs of the targeted breeds can do so until they vacate their current on-post housing. However, it is common knowledge that military personnel are stationed at many posts during their military careers. Therefore, a dog that is safe from the pet policy today, may be a victim on this same policy tomorrow.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Ledy VanKavage, an attorney with Best Friends Animal Society, says that even if you don’t have a dog – if you can sympathize with military families – call your United States Senator or U.S. Representative. “This is still news, and it is likely most public officials aren’t aware of this ban and affront to military families,” she says. “I believe in my heart President and Michelle Obama would be appalled.” To write a letter to the Obama’s, please click this link to access an online form.
In addition, please contact the House and Senate members for your state’s Armed Services Committee. To find out who your respective members are, please use the below links.
Finally, the Department of the Army’s memorandum issued on January 5, 2009 states that any comments relating to clarification of the policy can be directed to the Plans and Policy Division representative, Ms. Joyce VanSlyke (email@example.com).
All correspondence should be professional, polite and respectful. In addition to the foregoing, you may want to include the following:
(1) Alternatives to breed specific legislation, including increased fines for irresponsible dog owners, as well as the possibility of revocation of ownership rights for habitually irresponsible dog owners regardless of the breed they own;
(2) Educational programs and services for children;
(3) Information regarding the ineffectiveness of breed specific legislation.