I received an exasperated message yesterday from a blog reader. She was frustrated by breed specific legislation and angry that city officials – through arbitrary and discriminatory laws – could force responsible, loving dog owners to give up their dogs. She was discouraged and on the verge of giving up her hope of winning the battle against BSL.
This is for Sandra…
Encouragement for the Fight — The Tide is Turning
By signing the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, our forefathers adopted and gave birth to a new nation, an independent nation, a nation free from oppressive rule and tyranny. The desires that our forefathers laid out in that Declaration set forth so well why we have not only the right, but the obligation, to fight breed specific legislation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Declaration of Independence, adopted July 4, 1776)
Unfortunately, all men [and women] are not created equally. The situations in which our freedoms waiver vary from community to community. Discrimination eats at our freedoms based on our gender, race, religion, community “status”, choice of life partner and, lest I forget, choice of canine companion. Under these circumstances – and so many others – all men and women are not equal in our “free” country.
As stated above, one of the main goals of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was to create a nation free of oppressive rule and tyranny.
Tyranny: arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power. (Random House Dictionary)
Let’s face it, tyranny exists in many governments across the U.S. We are now at the point where local officials are legislating how far below the waist people are allowed to wear their pants. I must admit, it is beyond me why someone would want to wear their pants so the crotch hangs down to their knees, but don’t our local governments have better things to do than use OUR tax dollars to create laws that require police to enforce city-wide dress codes?
There are many examples of government exceeding its boundaries but, to be perfectly honest, my biggest concern revolves around responsible dog owners being denied the right to own the dog of their choice because of arbitrary decisions based on nothing more than a dog’s physical appearance.
Obviously, we do not create laws for dogs – we create laws for people. Laws are meant to deter behavior and to punish people who continue to participate in those behaviors. Before we go any further, let’s make one thing perfectly understood…DOGS DO NOT VIOLATE THE LAW…their owners do. However, when it comes to breed specific legislation (BSL), that is not the case. BSL targets dogs. More specifically, it targets dogs because of the way they look. Think there’s nothing “arbitrary” about that? Think that the breed of a dog can be easily determined? Well, read on.
Before his forced “retirement,” Tom Skeldon was the dog warden in Lucas County, Ohio. While his name is synonymous with unadulterated ignorance and bias in the canine community, he was considered an “expert” in breed specific legislation by those who support such laws. In this capacity, he testified on behalf of the City of Toledo, in the matter of Toledo v. Tellings. Regarding breed identification, Mr. Skeldon testified as follows:
[t]here is really no way to tell if a dog is or is not a pit bull, and the determination is made by animal control officers’ subjective judgment. (Toledo v. Tellings, 2006 WL 513946 (Ohio App. 6 Dist) (March 2006))
Ok class, time for a quick grammar lesson… The word “subjective” is defined as “particular to a given person, i.e., personal discretion. “ The word “arbitrary” means, among other things, “contingent solely upon one’s discretion; based on or subject to individual judgment or preference.”
In a nutshell, dogs are being singled out and killed for no other reason than someone made a subjective decision, based on their own personal experience – which, quite possibly, could be no personal experience at all, that the dog is dangerous simply because it LOOKS LIKE a “pit bull.” Not because of the dog’s actions. Not because it has done anything to pose a danger or threat to the community. Not because he or she belongs to an irresponsible owner. Dogs are dying because they have physical characteristics that certain people – who may or may not have any experience whatsoever in dog breed identification – have assigned to “pit bulls.”
Nevermind that a minimum of 20 other breeds possess the same physical characteristics of bull breeds. Boxers, labrador retrievers, mastiffs, and a host of other breeds are affected by breed specific legislation and so-called “pit bull bans” because they were born with certain physical characteristics that an uneducated group of people have decided deem a dog dangerous.
It is simply preposterous to decide that any given dog poses a danger to society based on nothing other than its appearance – yet it happens every single day in our country that is supposed to be free from arbitrary governing.
In the past few years, it seemed to be the trend for government officials to turn to arbitrary laws to “cure” their dog problems. For a while, it seemed more and more cities were implementing breed specific legislation. Despite this, the number of reported dog bites in the United States has remaied the same for the last several years. In the U.S., an astronomical 4 million+ dog bites are reported every single year – this is IN LIGHT OF the many breed bans that have been implemented across the country. It certainly makes one wonder – if BSL is truly the key to ensuring safer communities and preventing dog attacks, why haven’t these statistics decreased?
You may ask, “How can this be?” The focus of local governments has been to enforce laws against dogs instead of people. More specifically, these laws do not even focus on dogs who have proven themselves to be dangerous or problematic to the community. These laws condemn dogs because of the way they look. “Problem dogs” are a direct result of “problem dog owners.” You can remove every single “pit bull” from the United States, and if the issue of irresponsible dog ownership is not addressed, communities will experience the same “dog problems.” While those problems will involve different dogs, they will most certainly involve the same problem dog owners.
Every dog in every community has an owner. Moreover, dog ownership is a responsibility, and dog owners – not the dogs themselves – owe a duty to their communities to be responsible. Breed specific legislation leaves our communities more vulnerable as they give the sense of false security to residents. After all, all the “bad” dogs are gone…right??
Perhaps you noticed my use of the past tense when referring to the number of places proposing BSL. Alas, the BSL tide is turning. We are seeing fewer and fewer BSL alerts issued and more government officials enacting common sense, effective generic dangerous dog ordinances that focus on human responsibility and behavior and not canine appearance.
Why the change? Because more and more responsible dog owners like YOU are speaking out against ineffective and arbitrary laws and offering suggestions and input to their local governments. Owners of dogs targeted by BSL, as well as those that are not, are speaking out for laws that make our communities safer as opposed to knee-jerk reactions that only put a band-aid over the gushing wound of personal and owner accountability.
Our forefathers have vested in us the right to be free from arbitrary government and laws. It is our duty to make our voices heard when local governments attempt to take some of our freedoms based on arbitrary and subjective decisions. Breed specific legislation is arbitrary governing at its most basic level.
Please do not be silent.
Breed specific legislation is NOT a “pit bull” problem. Dogs with certain physical attributes – and the responsible owners that love them – need you to stand united with them and fight breed discrimination today and every day.