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


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.

Dog Tolerance and Aggression: The Ugly Realities

dogs_snarling_at_each_otherDog aggression and reactivity is a reality facing many of today’s dogs.  It’s not pretty.  It’s not fun to deal with.  It can be downright dangerous in the hands of someone unable to handle the situation.  The worst thing of all?  It’s a common trait in many dogs and many breeds, especially in the breed that I love and cherish – the American Pit Bull Terrier.  Many people want to sugar coat it, deny it and avoid talking about it like the plague however, burying one’s head in the sand doesn’t do the dogs who have this trait any justice.  They aren’t bad dogs.  They just don’t necessarily want or need other doggie friends.

Dog aggression toward other dogs isn’t, as I said above, necessarily a breed specific trait but it is incredibly common in the American Pit Bull Terrier and related breeds.  Why?  Well, this breed was specifically bred for the specific purpose of being a canine gladiator many moons ago.  Often people want to deny the actual history of the original bull-and-terrier crosses and the associated breed traits but the reality is there.  They were bred for battle against another animal and/or another canine.  They may have performed other duties in home and often times, pit dogs were fine until actually put into the pit as they knew their job and one would have never known the dog had the abilities it did unless one was in attendance at a dog fight.

That being said, there are varying levels of a dog’s sociability toward other dogs.  These levels,pitbull-training originally posted by BAD RAP, describe a dog’s level of tolerance toward other dogs and can range greatly from dog to dog and breed to breed.  These tolerance levels have been classified into four different levels: dog social to dog tolerant to dog selective and finally to dog aggressive.  These levels can be influenced heavily by handler involvement, environment and level of training/handling of that particular dog and is one of the key reasons it is important with dogs who border on more extreme levels of reactivity to be continually supervised and never set up for failure by throwing them into chaotic situations like visiting a dog park. (I’ve already ranted about dog parks here.)

Most pit bull-type dogs tend to fall in between dog tolerant to dog selective as maturity sets in, as is the case with many dogs.  They get fed up with the shenanigans from puppies and other dog social dogs and prefer dogs that they match in temperament and behavior – just like many human beings!  Unfortunately for many pit bull-type dogs that end up in shelters or euthanized, their owners failed to recognize or accept that Fido didn’t love every other dog out there, got snarky and unmanageable and, ultimately, failed by his human being for having traditional breed traits and no one to set boundaries or reinforce good behavior and how to behave even if they’re in a situation that could lead to a reaction.

dogbite_photo2That being said, dog reactivity/aggression should not by any means to be confused with human aggression.  Human aggression is one of the worse offenses dog kind can commit because it brings into play human laws and human emotions and will often lead to the ultimate solution – euthanasia.  I, personally, do not tolerate this type of action from a dog.  If a dog shows serious injury causing aggression toward a person (adult or child), then there is only one fate in my book.  With so many stable-minded dogs of all breeds available, one who harms a human being should not exist in this world because the risks associated with it do no one any good – least of all the dog or person involved in such a vicious attack.

Ultimately, in the end, it will be up to the person to maintain their dog in a situation.  They will need to understand, accept and acknowledge breed traits and tendencies and react accordingly.  Setting up a dog for failure in any circumstance is simply unacceptable and irresponsible.  This act of irresponsibility will lead to other consequences for those who pride themselves in being responsible for their dogs through breed specific legislation and other regulations that are aimed at being reactive to situations of owner failure.  Thankfully, there are many, many resources available out there to help and educate on all things breed specific on the Internet by trusted resources like BAD RAP and DINOS.

National Pit Bull Awareness Month 2013

21423_10151223420059828_576419650_nEvery year the month of October is hailed in as a month of awareness for one of the most misunderstood, mistreated and maligned breeds of dog in modern history – the pit bull.  There are many who would wish to see this breed’s future annihilated and sent into extinction but there are even greater numbers of breed advocates and aficionados who work tirelessly against the opposing side in an effort to reverse breed specific legislation that is aimed to eventually destroy the breed that is affectionately called ‘America’s Dog’ by its followers.

National Pit Bull Awareness Month is only a couple of years into its conception.  The creator founded this month in an effort to show the love and dedication of one very special American Pit Bull Terrier named Tiffin who had crossed the bridge earlier in the year.  This wonderful tribute allowed for the extension of the original National Pit Bull Awareness Day (which was started in 2007) into thirty-one days of advocacy and affection for an incredibly diverse and resilient breed.  This month will allow shelters, breed clubs, other individuals and groups to spotlight the breed through events geared toward education and responsible ownership of this often demonized breed to show that, with a little elbow grease,  this breed can and should remain a part of the heart and soul of so many fanciers across the globe.

 So, the question remains – what can you do to be a responsible advocate for this years National Pit Bull Awareness Month to raise awareness and celebrate your love for this breed?  Well, hereriverouge-september2013-2787 are a few suggestions that may get your creative juices flowing that will not only help the breed but also the community with your positive actions:

– Use the power of social media to share positive images, stories and events involving pit bulls.

– Volunteer at your local shelters and rescues.  These dogs wait for their forever homes and time spent working with them enables them to get closer to the highly sought after end result of that forever home.

– If you’re looking for a new canine companion and can responsibly care for a pit bull, check out those same shelters and rescue groups for your next best friend.  (If a rescue isn’t your cup of tea, which we understand, and you’re still looking for a pit bull, make sure you work with a breeder who is ethical and responsible!)

– Get involved in breed specific activities and events.  Group walks/hikes, dog sports, etc. are excellent ways to network, keep updated on local issues and provide opportunities to passively socialize your dog or to solve a current issue with someone who has one through it already.

– Sign up for that Canine Good Citizenship or Therapy Dog class you’ve been putting off.  Everyone appreciates a well behaved dog no matter what the breed is and eventual therapy dog work will be beneficial to the community as well!

227875_10150183839839828_1098159_nMost importantly, no matter what activities you do this month, make sure you enjoy your dog(s) and be an advocate who acts professionally and politely without being too overzealous.  It is, after all, a hard pill to swallow if one is proved wrong (and something I’ve personally learned from experience many times over!).

Have a wonderful National Pit Bull Awareness Month and don’t forget to celebrate National Pit Bull Awareness Day 2013 on October 26th!

Breed Advocacy and the American Pit Bull Terrier


Ryker at Michigan Renaissance Festival 2012

The topic of breed specific legislation and bully breeds is an incredibly hot button topic and it has a vast array of thought processes from the overzealous “can do no wrong” breed advocates to those who are more realistic about the history and temperament on this breed.  My friend Liz recently wrote an article titled “Advocacy As I See It” on her blog after having another breed advocate accuse her of supporting breed specific legislation because she is incredibly realistic about the breed – especially since she shares it with one very special dog named Inara who has had some ups and downs becoming a model doggie citizen in a state that was known for its horrendous BSL (that was recently repealed!  Yay!).

Now, I’ve been involved in the breed on a major level after my husband and I brought home our very first dog as a budding young couple in 2003.  My first taste of hatred actually came from my own mother who told me to take my 4 ½ week old “baby killer” out of her house and get rid of her.  (Guess what didn’t happen?)  I was shocked and furious.  How dare she talk about my baby girl like that?!  It didn’t take long for her to change her tune and now she brags about her “grand dog” to anyone who will listen.

Unfortunately, though, she’s not the only one who has thought like that.  Some have changed their mind through persistent education from an unemotional friend who would rather facts be there and not phobia but others still have fear and loathing for the American Pit Bull Terrier.  Let’s face it, these dogs have a history because of a propensity to be dog/animal reactive or aggressive and are incredibly powerful. In the wrong hands, they can be a walking disaster and the numerous media accounts that happen almost weekly are proof testament to that very real problem in this breed.

The unfortunate problem for this breed though isn’t so much the ignorance of the owners (though that’s a major portion), but the caliber of those who advocate for the breed.  To realistically sit there and deny the history of the breed and what it was bred for in its infant stages is to deny the very reason we have such a human stable (or at least they should be!), biddable, wonderful companion who is so versatile they can do just about any task you set in front of them does this breed an incredible disservice. Or as Liz put it, “Blowing smoke up people’s behinds to make them sound like magical little bunny-hugging unicorns in a compact, muscular body doesn’t do anybody any good.  Especially the dog.” And it’s true!

Unfortunately, those who would love to think that they are supporting this breed in its entirety are actually harming it by spreading false propaganda about these dogs.  Phrases like, “Pit bulls were nanny dogs!” (Which isn’t correct!  Staffordshire Bull Terriers hold that title.) and “Pit bulls were bred as herding dogs.” only serve to get those who would prefer to see these dogs demolished more fuel for their fire.  These dogs don’t need lies to pump up the fact that they have a strong and loyal following of responsible owners that they can prove their worth on their own.

For this breed, those responsible owners are actually becoming a minority because we choose to realize that our breed was bred for a purpose.  While that purpose is no longer legal, it doesn’t mean that the breed doesn’t still have the genetic traits that were sought after for that original purpose.  (Genetics are quite funny, one change could tip the balance and screw things up royally – take a look at the Extreme American Bullies for example.)  The ability and willingness of a pit bull to be reactive toward another dog (or animal) is still something that is incredibly prevalent in these dogs.  It’s one of the key reasons many pit bull advocates chant the mantra “Never trust your dog not to fight.”  They may not start it.  They may not engage fully.  They may only snap and snarl at another dog but they most certainly will be blamed for it.

Now, this is not to say that every single pit bull is going to be reactive, aggressive or even selective toward another dog but the genetics behind it are there.  They are, after all, bull and terrier-type dogs and both types of dog are known for those exact traits and it’s something that needs a special owner who is willing to put time and dedication into training, socialization and maintenance of their four-legged friend.

These dogs aren’t meant for every Tom, Dick and Harry after all.  They are a LOT of dog and unfortunately the “Save Them All” faction tend to down play that and make people feel sorry for a dog that would not be a good fit in every household.  No one breed of dog is right for everyone be it a poodle, Shih Tzu, German Shepherd, or Great Dane and until people start to realize that, even if it sucks having to admit that (even to yourself!) then the breed will suffer at the hands of its own advocates because they would rather bury reality into a fluffy, rainbow-colored package that barks lullabies and poos glitter logs.

Being an advocate isn’t always pretty but we have to do it for our dogs.  We have to protect our breed from the ignorance, the over-caring and the unkind.  We have to make sure they are not set up for failure or we will eventually lose this wonderful breed to the government bodies that would seek to regulate these dogs out of existence.

So, please, if you want to be a breed advocate know your breed – the pros AND the cons.  Be realistic about your dog no matter how much you love them and realize that those same breed traits you may want to suppress into you subconscious are still there and because of your unwillingness to embrace (even if you abhor) those traits could set your dog up to fail and your advocacy to crumble.

I Am The Majority

Animal Farm Foundation announced a casting call for their “I Am The Majority” project to show that pit bull owners aren’t all thugs and the scum of the earth.  Normally, I don’t get involved in PR projects like this but I felt that this was a nice way to showcase the dogs that come from everyday homes and aren’t just status symbols, lawn ornaments or possessions to be had.  I hope that each of my dear blog readers will go out and do the same with their beloved pit bulls and show the world that there are people out there who are responsible, everyday citizens.

We are Lennox.

There are likely hundreds of blog posts out there on this very topic.  The death of a dog killed by the stupidity of legislation that targeted an animal solely based on the physical characteristics set forth to be deemed ‘dangerous.’ Lennox was held for two years after being seized by local animal control officials for fitting the description of a ‘pit bull-type dog’ – which is illegal in Northern Ireland – and euthanized after a hard fought battle by his family.

During his incarceration, photographs of severe neglect surfaced and showed the suffering that he was enduring at the hands of ‘humane’ officials.  His family was denied one last chance to see him before his imminent destruction.

Those same city officials also denied the family the ability to reclaim his body or his collar (something their daughter wanted as a memento of her dog). Many offered safe passage as an alternative to death and were denied.  In short order, the Belfast City Council simply wanted to kill Lennox because he ‘could have been’ a pit bull – even if he had done absolutely nothing in the five years the family had raised, vetted, neutered, licensed and cared for this dog.

Breed Specific Legislation does little more than kill dogs who have done nothing wrong.  The dogs seized for being ‘prohibited’ animals are, more often than not, owned and cared for my responsible homes that socialize, train and manage their animals so that they are not a nuisance to the public.  In the same token, families are ripped apart as their furry family member is taken, and often killed, in the name of public safety.  It has been proven time and time again that breed bans do not work.  While pit bull bites may drop drastically in number, the numbers of other breeds and mixes typically go on a drastic incline.

While the legislation may look absolutely bomb-proof on paper, the consequences are abhorrent.  Innocent lives are extinguished for nothing more than piece of mind.  “So what if a few dogs die,” the proponents of the legislation often say, but it does matter.  It will always matter.  If enough people sing from the roof tops about the injustices suffered by Lennox and other dogs who have died for being ‘pit bulls’ we may finally have a case to show that it isn’t just ‘pit bull people’ that care about this subject…it’s the world.  With hope, Lennox’s death will not be in vain and legislative bodies across the globe will see the outpouring of effort by all animal lovers for non-breed discriminatory legislation and stiffer penalties for individuals who choose to be irresponsible with their furry, scaled or feathered family members.

For now we stand in solidarity and hold true to the memory of Lennox and the thousands of other dogs who have died because some government body said that they were inherently dangerous.  Today it was Lennox.  Who will it be tomorrow?  Who will they come for next?

The Real Meaning of Roadwork

No, this entry isn’t really about walking and conditioning your dog.  It’s about our trip into the great unknown.  Our first vacation that doesn’t involve some dog event as the main course of action and I’m so freaking excited!

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we are heading down to Virginia.  More specifically, we’re heading down toward Virginia Beach/Chesapeake/Portsmouth for four days before swinging up toward Washington D.C./Arlington.  It’s that time of the year that we get a week off of work and this year we intend to take advantage of it.  Getting to see friends and be ‘tourists’ for the first time in a long time is definitely a worthy reason to take a road trip.

We’ll be loading up the dog mobile with our gear and the gear of four of the five dogs.  We would be taking five, but unfortunately, Duo doesn’t travel well.  The stress of a long road trip does his system no good so he gets to stay behind and enjoy a week’s vacation as the only dog with Grandpa.  Luna, Lyric, Ryker and Mika, however, think that traveling is very awesome and they can’t wait to be going.

The one unfortunate thing is that BSL has limited our choice in areas to stay in up in the Washington D.C. area since a few of the less expensive hotels are in areas where there are restrictions.  We won’t put our dogs in that risk and so are avoiding those areas and spending a bit more money for a canine family-friendly vacation.  It sucks, but it is what it is when it comes to the response to owning an APBT because of the irresponsibility and management of others who have ruined it for the whole.

So, right now, it’s t-minus less than 24 hours before we hit the road.  So excited!

Snickers and Officer Sak to Be Reunited

Officer Sak & Snickers


Officer Sak, a former Chicago police officer who suffered a debilitating stroke, was forced to be apart from his service dog, Snickers, because of the breed of the dog.  Snickers, you see, is a pit bull mix.  After a federal court date, which occurred today, an Iowa judge ruled in favor of the injunction to allow Snickers back with his handler and partner.

The Animal Farm Foundation was kind enough to make sure Snickers was boarded and cared for during the seperation from Mr. Sak – which occurred on December 14th after the city of Aurelia city council said that the service dog had to go regardless of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This is one more chip in the armor that Breed Specific Legislation once held.  With cities relying on an entire genre of dogs being labeled as inherently dangerous to prove their point of view that banning these animals is the right thing to do for the safety of the public.  Congratulations Officer Sak and service dog Snickers.  You’ve done well for disabled handlers everywhere and helped with a positive breed image.

To read more on the story, click here.