Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ban Stupid People, Not Dogs

This banner caught my attention while visiting the website for Measles's Animal Haven which is a no kill American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) specific rescue based in Dublin, OH and operated by my friend, Robin Laux. Robin and I met while volunteering with Citizens for Humane Action a few years back. I can remember sharing in her frustration when a Pit Bull would be brought into the shelter. For these dogs, survival was always a crap shoot. CHA had a policy to only have 2-3 members of the breed in the shelter at any given time. (Most shelters won't even consider placing a Pit Bull on the adoption floor due to Breed Specific Legislation and the prevalence of underground dog fighting rings in Ohio.) If the shelter was maxed out on it's policy, the surrendered Pit Bull, regardless of it's temperament and history, would be sent to the Franklin County Animal Shelter and kept for three days to be claimed by the owner. In the end, if no one came for the dog, it was exterminated.

Coupled by recent years of biased press coverage, Pit Bulls have been branded with a stigma of aggression, mistrust, and even unpredictability. In turn, the public perception of the breed has shifted from these dogs once being admired as loyal family companions to now being demonized as dangerous predators.

By design, American Pit Bull Terriers are fast, energetic, agile, strong and extremely intelligent. They are also very loyal and have an inherent love of humans. The vast majority are eager to please their master. But, like other dogs, this breed reflects the behaviors which are conditioned by their human owners. While Pit Bulls do have a tendency to develop aggression towards other dogs (especially males), this trait can be easily overcome with proper care and socialization. Unfortunately, due to many violent and sick individuals (like Baltimore Ravens QB Michael Vic) the dogs are often exploited for the entertainment or personal monetary gain.

What's the point?
In my mind, singling out an entire breed of any animal as being "inherently dangerous to society", regardless of the individual dogs' present or past behavior is unreasonable to both the breed and humans. Moreover, it provides absolutely no benefit to the community. The AKC's position on the issue sums it up:

The American Kennel Club (AKC) strongly supports dangerous dog control. Dog control legislation must be reasonable, non-discriminatory and enforceable as detailed in the AKC Position Statement.

To provide communities with the most effective dangerous dog control possible, laws must not be breed specific. Instead of holding all dog owners accountable for their behavior, breed specific laws place restrictions only on the owners of certain breeds of dogs. If specific breeds are banned, owners of these breeds intent on using their dogs for malicious purposes, such as dog fighting or criminal activities, will simply change to another breed of dog and continue to jeopardize public safety.

Strongly enforced dog control laws such as leash laws, generic guidelines for dealing with dangerous dogs and increased public education efforts to promote responsible dog ownership are all positive ways to protect communities from dangerous dogs. Increasing public education efforts is significant because it helps address the root cause of the problem --- irresponsible dog owners.

Working for change.
Through education, Robin and her foster families at Measles's Animal Haven are attempting to change peoples attitudes and behaviors towards Pit Bulls. As a result of their efforts, many of these very deserving dogs have found good homes with responsible dog owners. I commend Robin for her compassion and courage to fight the odds....and whole heatedly agree: Ban Stupid People, Not Dogs!

Have you ever considered opening your home to a Pit Bull? If so, email Robin to learn more about the adoption process.

Not ready to adopt just yet? You can still help by making a donation.

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