Maybe you’ve thought about informed or knowledgeable dog ownership every now and again. I do every time I read a news article about how an irresponsible dog owner has once again jeopardized the rights of others to have the dog of their choice. I mean, seriously, how hard is it to be an knowledgeable dog owner? We know on the most basic of levels that dogs need to be fed, watered, receive veterinary care, and be confined or supervised by their owner, but yet there are so many who fail to follow even these most basic of dog commandments. So, keeping that in mind, being an “informed” owner can be seen as a challenge for some. But if you are the owner of certain breeds of dogs, it is imperative that you be informed.
I read an article today that really got to me. In a nutshell, a resident in Armstrong, Iowa is fighting the designation the city has placed on her dog. Armstrong has a “pit bull ban,” and a city representative has labeled the resident’s dog as a “pit bull.” This designation means the dog must be removed from the city limits. While the resident expressed her willingness to have her dog DNA tested, she objected to footing the bill for the DNA test, which the Mayor advised her was her responsibility.
Here’s the thing. The mayor, either intentionally or unintentionally, lied to the resident. It is the city’s responsibility to prove the dog is a member of the restricted breed. Its a little thing called burden of proof. But the city of Armstrong and other cities across the country with breed specific legislation are counting on you to be uninformed. They are hoping that you will trust in what they interpret to be the law and not question their decisions. That’s certainly what they’re hoping in Armstrong, and I hope the resident takes them to task on this issue.
Being informed means knowing that when a breed ban or breed regulations are proposed in your town, you have the right to question the city’s motives and statistics. Quite frankly, if you are the owner of a breed typically targeted by BSL, its not just your right, its your obligation to do your best to prevent breed specific legislation from passing. Yes, its an intimidating experience – I’ve been to more city council meetings than I care to remember, and I STILL get butterflies in my stomach every single time – but once you have a battle under your belt, you can help others do the same thing – this is how we create informed dog owners, dog owners who aren’t afraid to stand up for their rights.
We cannot sit back and let city officials with no experience in animal control, animal identification or animal behavior dictate what, in their subjective opinion, is a “vicious dog,” a designation generally based solely on appearance and/or physical characteristics by breed specific ordinances. We owe it to our dogs and to the communities we live in to fight the misconceptions and the myths to ensure the safety and welfare of everyone, human and animals, in our communities.
If you live in a city that has BSL in place, being informed means knowing you have the right to challenge that law. You can get the issue placed on a council agenda and start educated and well-reasoned discussions. Its important to remember that laws stick around long after city officials who put them in place are gone. Being informed means understanding that one council’s opinion on the issue a few years ago could be completely different now, and the statistics and knowledge you have could open the door to a more effective, breed-neutral ordinance. Arm yourself with knowledge, and give it your best shot.
The bottom line is city officials are counting on you to be silent. They are counting on you to oblige willingly. You must do anything but. Don’t get me wrong, it takes effort to be informed and stay on top of issues across the country, but its effort that is worth every single second when you know you’ve made a difference — and every time you speak out against BSL, you are making a difference.
You can be the catalyst of change, and in doing so, encourage others with the knowledge and information that you have to follow in your footsteps.
Be an informed dog owner…know your rights and fight for them.