Stacie Tamaki, a Dogster member and guardian of Kitai, returns as our guest blogger.
Recently my Dogster pal Lisa from www.helpfido.net helped to defeat breed-specific legislation (BSL).
My personal feeling on the matter is that BSL unfairly punishes owners with loving, well-adjusted pets based on the bad actions of a few dogs within their breed. Plus there are other solutions that would be more effective in helping to bring down the overall number of dog bites and maulings that take place in our country each year. If making communities safer is the goal, targeting one breed or a small group of breeds still leaves the community at risk to dozens of others breeds that, when owned by people interested in dog fighting or careless and indifferent owners, are just as capable of causing harm to both people and other animals.
So how did she do it? How did www.helpfido.net help defeat the proposed BSL?
1. By being willing to acknowledge that Bully breeds in particular are not the same as every other breed of dog. All breeds of dogs have certain traits; many of the dogs that fall under the “bully breed” classification have issues with dog aggression. Overlooking or denying this simple fact can cause your opposition to not take any of your other points and ideas seriously because you won’t appear to see their side of things. Unless you can show them you hear them and share their concerns you won’t be able to effectively communicate with them.
2. Educate and license owners of power breeds. Especially first-time dog owners. Licensing should not be construed as a bad thing but rather a positive, it shows the neighborhood that you are a responsible owner and are educated in handling your pet. It sets you apart from the dog owners who give the rest of us a bad name. Combining licensing and education can teach owners about training methods and early socialization to ensure the safety of their communities.
3. Help coordinate to bring animal services into your community. Work with city officials to promote free or low-cost spay/neuter services, vaccine clinics, microchip clinics, training classes and registration drives. Provide grant information to city officials to direct them to funding to offset the costs of providing such services.
4. When you contact councilmen and legislators do so using more facts than emotion, to make your points. Saying you own a friendly bully breed as a pet doesn’t address the larger concern that council people and legislators have for the dogs who are in the hands of irresponsible owners.
5. Support education for adults. More adults need to know that regardless of breed it is NEVER safe to leave any dog unattended with infants and small children. Dogs as large as the targeted BSL breeds and as small as a Pomeranian have caused serious injury and death to infants. The responsibility to keep kids safe is up to the adult who is supervising the interaction between both.
6. Bring dog safety education into the schools. Children need to know how to behave around dogs and how to interact with them safely. So many of the things kids are naturally inclined to do, such as running near a dog, can result in a dog giving chase as its prey drive is triggered, the child being knocked over, and the end result is a bite. Something as benign as a hug can result in a bite. Kids need to be told that dogs may perceive a hug as threatening, not loving. Any child may poke, pull on, hit, or do who knows what to a dog not meaning any harm, but the end result is a bite and a friendly but provoked pet being euthanized at Animal Control.
7. Demand stronger enforcement of leash laws and increased penalties. The fines can be funneled back into animal-related community programs. If a dog is under an owner’s control the odds of a bite go from very possible to highly unlikely.
8. Statistically kids who are unsupervised are more likely to suffer from being bitten than those who do have more parental or adult supervision. More after-school and community activities and programs for at-risk kids would help to reduce the number of bites, by getting them into adult-supervised programs that on a peripheral level offer a safety cushion against dog bites and other many other dangers.
9. Recognize and agree that the status quo is not acceptable and that rather than BSL, the more effective approach would be to hold owners responsible through dangerous dog laws which will more effectively target dogs of ALL breeds who endanger public safety by holding owners responsible for their pets’ actions.
10. Point out that visual breed identification will always be a flawed process. It is not always possible to tell the breed of a dog, especially mixed breeds by a visual ID process. In the process of enforcing “mixed breed” or dogs that “appear to be of” bully breed lineage, there will always be collateral damage. Dogs who contain no targeted breed DNA but because their head is a little “boxy” or their neck a little too “thick will be condemned to die or their owners forced to sell their homes to move to a community where they will be accepted and safe.