Breed Specific Legislation: Being a Breed Steward at a City Council Meeting

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So you’ve just heard your local city, town or village is going to look into a breed specific ordinance after a dog-on-dog or dog-on-human incident causing a knee jerk reaction in an attempt with preemptive public safety measures because of said incident. This isn’t a pretty situation to be involved in no matter how you spin it. Emotions on both sides are high – both for the victim and/or the victim’s family and for the public who is being unfairly targeted due to the irresponsible actions of one individual/family who allowed their dog to run amok – especially if that dog had shown aggressive behaviors prior to the incident leading to breed specific legislation. For the reason above, one must tread carefully when considering working with a city council to find a solution that benefits public safety, satisfies the victim’s need for justice for those who could potentially be harmed in the future by potentially dangerous dogs and doesn’t single out a particular breed – thus satisfying bull breed dogs and other targeted breed owners.

Being a breed steward isn’t an easy task. Bully breed owners are targeted especially hard by those who loathe and fear the breed and one must hold themselves above reproach by those who would sink to drag the battle to a lower level that would allow derogatory remarks, unprofessional behavior and even wishing harm on the hate-filled party who spews such vitriol aimed at a passionate pet owner who is only seeking to keep their pets protected in the face of adversity.

These individuals would like to stomp any potentially non-breed specific legislation because of their fear of these dogs. It is not, however, to say that these fears from are unfounded because the sheer number of instances where a bully breed-type dog that has severely harmed or killed another pet, livestock animal or even human being is astounding and utterly abhorrent. These instances are becoming far too frequent as particular breeds and breed types rise in popularity and it is the responsibility of those who hold these breeds near and dear to their hearts to fiercely guard them through responsible canine husbandry and not let them run amok in polite society.

That being said, you must now prepare for that inevitable ‘battle’ with those who would wish your personal canine companions ill will because of the actions of another. This battle is more so a battle of reasoning and logic than it is of emotionally charged feelings. When one approaches city council one must do so as a professional on their level. Here are some tips to remember when thinking of attending a meeting in terms of presentation:

  • It is a serious social faux pas in a situation like this to come into a meeting like you’re going to the local bar on a Friday night. A pair of clean, hole-free jeans or khakis and a dress shirt or a skirt and blouse are far more appropriate attire than your favorite pro-breed shirt that reads something along the lines of “If it ain’t pit, it ain’t shit” type of phrase. All of your fellow breed stewards share the same passion but it isn’t them who you are seeking to impress with your attire.
  • Come prepared with facts and solutions and make sure you have copies for each city council person so that they are able to browse through it at their leisure. This could include a sample breed neutral law like the one that the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) has on their website (Click here for a copy of this ordinance for your files) or other anti-breed specific legislation factoids – including cost analysis, current copy of the state dog statutes, etc.
  • If you intend to get up and speak in front of city council, remember that you must be polite and professional. Speak with conviction but without emotion. (This isn’t an easy thing to do, believe me. I’ve had to learn over the years to put on a professional air despite the fact I am quaking in my boots because I utterly loathe speaking in front of large groups of people.)
  • If at all possible, have a short speech prepared that highlights the key points of interest – especially if you have done your research on the incident(s) leading up to this action. Make sure it is under three minutes in length as this is typically how long city council gives each person to speak because of the sheer volume of people that typically attend these meetings when such a heated topic is brought forward.
  • Do not, for any reason, bring your dog to the meeting. The only exception to this rule is if you require the use of a service or assistance dog. Not only is your canine companion not welcome but it could detract from the issue at hand – especially if your dog has a lapse in manners and does something foolish and out of character.
  • If you are a resident, please remember your voice carries more weight in this situation than those who are from out of town – even if they represent a business or other organization. You are, ultimately, the person or family who will be tossed into the middle of this situation and your voice must politely be heard regardless of what breed you own because it isn’t just bull breeds that are targeted in many US cities.

The above suggestions will help to provide the stepping stones away from breed specific legislation if you and your fellow protestors act accordingly and maintain your aura of professionalism. Do not allow yourself to be dragged into a petty he said, she said battle of emotions no matter how angry, frustrated or upset some of the commentary makes you. You aren’t there for a bar fight but for the right to protect your canine family member and help the city find a solution that positively impacts on all of its citizens to keep them and their companion animals safe from harassment and harm.

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