First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade Unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
This is a famous statement attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller(1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intelectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group. This could become the new slogan for Breed Specific Legislation commonly referred to as BSL.
Lennox as a puppy safe in his owner's arms
What is Breed Specific Legislation? It's a law or ordinance passed by a legislative body pertaining to a specific breed or breeds of domesticated animals. This breed specific legislation is like racial profiling but for dogs and punishes them for being the wrong breed (or mix) rather than for bad deeds.
Breed-specific legislation can include:
- Breed bans (you are no longer allowed to own a dog of a certain breed)
- Breed-specific insurance requirements (you can only own a dog of a certain breed if you are able to obtain expensive insurance, sometimes not even available)
- Breed-specific mandatory spay-neuter policies (you are required to spay or neuter your dog specifically because it is a target breed - this will eliminate entire breeds)
- Breed-specific mandatory microchipping (you are required to chip your dog and your data will be tracked in a database like a sex offender)
Breed-specific legislation makes it harder to own, keep, or adopt dogs of a specific breed, mixed breed dogs, or dogs that even just"resemble" targeted breeds. Each of these types of breed-specific laws or policies fails to keep children and communities safe.
I am ashamed to say I was for BSL in the beginning due in large part to my total ignorance of what it really meant. No one can argue there are some vicious dogs with a propensity to bite. I erroneously thought this legislature was to protect us from these dogs demanding they be under mandated tight restrictions with their owners being held personally liable for any damage done. I had no idea it was targeted at certain breeds rather than certain dogs owned by irresponsible owners.
A year ago Kirby was attacked by a boxer. This boxer was allowed by his owner to roam freely and attacked Kirby in a friend's front yard. By the grace of God it didn't kill him but the damage was extensive. Kirby endured surgery requiring stitching closed an area of over 5 inches which is a lot when you consider how small he is. He was in such pain that he didn't move for almost two days. The owner paid for Kirby's medical bills and later gave the dog to someone who would keep it in an enclosed area. I foster dogs so it is hard for me to say I firmly believe this particular boxer should have been destroyed due to her history of killing and attacking other animals (I later learned Kirby was not the first).
I thought BSL meant dogs with this known propensity to bite must be kenneled at all times leaving the owner with the full responsiblity of any damages. I thought BSL meant a dog witha history of attacking other animals, or even children, with the intent to kill would be destroyed.
I didn't know how wrong I was until I heard about Lennox, a dog in Ireland. Lennox, like many other dogs,was seized under the controversial Dangerous Dog Act, breed specific legislation aimed at eliminating pit bulls and any dog that looks like a pit bull. Lennox was seized under a defective warrant in May 2010 and has been held in a secret location, without visitation from his family, since May 2010. He has been twice ordered euthanized because of his looks but his family is still fighting for his right to live. There has been a worldwide publicityand awareness campaign mounted in an effort to save Lennox and return him to his family. Nearly 120,000 people worldwide, myself included, have signed a petition in support of freeing Lennox and over 550 celebrities are campaigning for his release.
Lennox in the days before his seizure
This beloved six year old family pet was taken from his family only because he resembles a pit bull. He waits in a filthy desolate cell having never shown any harm or aggression toward another human or animal. For over a year he has been living in horrid conditions with no contact with his family. He has been
tested over and over with still no signs of aggression on his part. I can't help but feel that the goal of the Belfast Council is to attempt to make him into an aggressive dog in order to save face. Even so Lennox continues to bring out the best in people as they continue to rally to his aid.
Lennox isolated in his current "home"
It's time to put an end to the shameful practice of breed discrimination. Should we condemn innocent dogs for the shape of their heads? Should we seize them, ban them, and kill them based on stereotypes and fear? I now know it's time to end the fear, ignorance, and downright hatred of innocent dogs. It's important to protect children and the community from dangerous dogs. But breed-specific legislation is wrong for many reasons:
- BSL provides a false senseof security
- Banning breeds does not prevent dog bites
- Breed bans do not address irresponsible ownership
- Breed discrimination punishes good dogs for being the "wrong breed"
- Breed discrimination may force good owners to surrender or even euthanize their beloved pets
- Breed bans increase surrenders at shelters
- Breed bans increase euthanasia rates of healthy, adoptable dogs
Some places with BSL use checklists for breed identification in an attempt to standardize the identification process. Some checklists are very short, while others tick off dozens of characteristics in great detail. The person performing the identification may be asked to choose along a sliding scale whether a particular dog matches or does not match a particular characteristic on the checklist allowing their users to draw personal conclusions about whether a particular dog matches each item.
Following is a pit bull checklist used by the city of San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control. It determines a dog is predominantly a pitbull breed (American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, orStaffordshire Bull Terrier) if he possesses 5 out of the following 8 characteristics:
- Head is medium length, with a broad skull and very pronounced cheek muscles, a wide, deep muzzle, a well-defined, moderately deep stop, andstrong under jaw. Viewed from the front, the head is shaped like a broad, bluntwedge.
- Eyes are round to almond shaped, are low in the skull and set far apart. Kirby eyes are round. They are low and set far apart in relation to his head size.
- Ears are set high. Un-cropped ears are short and usually held rose or half prick, though some hold them at full prick. Kirby's ears are set high on his head even though they do droop.
- Neck is heavy and muscular, attached to strong, muscular shoulders. Kirby has a muscular neck attached to strong muscular shoulders.
- Body is muscular, with a deep, broad chest, a wide front, deep brisket, well-sprung ribs, and slightly tucked loins. Kirby has a muscular body with a deep broadchest and well sprung ribs.
- Tail is medium length and set low, thick at the base, tapering to a point.
- Hindquarters are well muscled, with hocks set low on the legs.Kirby has well muscled hindquarters.
- Coat is a single coat, smooth, short and close to the skin.
Under this test Kirby possesses 5 out of the 8 required characteristics used which would determine that he is predominantly a pit bull breed. His coat gives him the Yorkie appearance hiding the muscular stout body that lies beneath. How insane is this? Before you think I am being overly dramatic consider that Lennox whose DNA proved he is a Labrador/American Bulldog mix was determined to be a predominantly banned breed based only on visual measurements of his body taken by an uneducated Dog Warden.
A final point is the fact that "pit bull" isn't even a breed but a term used to categorize3 breeds of dogs: American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier. In addition there are a tleast 11 breeds that have the looks of a "pit bull"
First they came for the American Pit Bull Terriers,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't an American Pit Bull Terrier owner.
Then they came for the Staffordshire Terriers,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Staffordshire Terrier owner.
Then they came for the Mixes resembling Pit Bulls,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't one of those owners.
Then they came for my dog
and there was no one left to speak out for him.
Today I find I can't sit on the fence any longer and must choose a side in this inhumane war against all dogs. I'm choosing the right side! What side will you choose?