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Monday, March 4, 2013

B.S.L. is pure B.S.

For lack of time in actually writing a post this weekend, I decided to post a copy of the letter I sent to my city council and mayor.

Dear City Council Members,

I am writing today about the city’s ordinance 506.00, and specifically in reference to 506.03 which bans pit bull and pit bull breeds as well as pit bull mixes.  This ordinance specifically names three individual breeds, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and then goes on to state that “any dog of mixed breed which has the appearance and characteristics of such breeds” is also banned. This leaves identification of these breeds open to easily made mistakes. There are roughly twenty breeds of dog often erroneously identified as “pit bulls”. 

I personally know of a situation in which a man’s beagle was misidentified as a “pit bull”, and law enforcement required his owner to obtain genetic testing to prove that the dog was, in fact 100% beagle. Another instance that I have been made aware of occurred right here in Lakewood. A Boston terrier was misidentified by law enforcement as a “pit bull” puppy. This situation again required the owner to obtain expensive genetic testing to prove that his dog was actually a Boston terrier, and not a pit bull puppy. 

A simple Google search will quickly render dozens upon dozens of articles discussing the media misreporting a “pit bull attack”, or a victim identifying the attacking dog as “pit bull”, only to later find that the dog was actually a Labrador, a Rottweiler, a Bulldog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a Boxer, etc. One could easily site such breed mix ups ad infinitum.  A Mislabeled dog is an unnecessary cost to the constituents of Lakewood.

A broad definition of what a dangerous dog is, based upon appearance rather than behavior, is akin to racial profiling. Back in Nashville, where I lived prior to moving to this area two years ago, there was a very bad problem with Mexican gangs. Northern Mexican and Southern Mexican gangs were constantly fighting over territory. Nashville also has a very large Hispanic and Latino population consisting of good, hard working, law abiding people from many countries, not just Mexico. Due to the Mexican gangs being so very violent, should Nashville have outlawed all people of Hispanic or Latino heritage, or who appear to be predominantly Hispanic or Latino rather than arresting only those individuals who made trouble? Absolutely not. Yet, this is precisely what is being done with pit bull breeds.

Passage of this ordinance in Lakewood has not addressed the root cause of any vicious dog problem, and it is having a negative impact on responsible, law abiding dog owners.  It has been documented that there is little usefulness in using breed-specific legislation as an attempt to protect a community’s citizens from dog attacks or bites. The American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions has stated that breed-specific legislation has no merit and that targeting those individual dogs, of any breed, that commit acts of aggression will directly address the problem. (citing reports from CDC, 1997; CDC, 2003; AVMA, 2001)

In fact, temperament evaluations by the American Temperament Test Society have given American Pit Bull Terriers a very high passing rate of 90.6 percent. The average passing rate for the other 121 breeds of dogs represented in these tests was 77 percent. Based on this extensive testing conducted by professional dog temperament assessors, pit bulls are less likely to bite or attack than Golden Retrievers.

Obviously, I am strongly opposed to this ordinance banning pit bull and pit bull type dogs from Lakewood. I ask that you revisit and revise the city’s position on this discriminatory breed-specific legislation (506.00-506.03). 

A much better alternative to breed-specific legislation is to support reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern the ownership of dogs and to hold irresponsible dog owners to a higher social, legal, and financial accountability.
I am asking that you reverse this ordinance because any such law that is specific to breed does not address the real problem, irresponsible dog owners.
Many Lakewood residents, including dog owners like myself, have insightful, practical ideas to ensure that well-behaved, well socialized pets, of all breeds, are the norm for this city. Let’s work together to make Lakewood both safe and dog-friendly.
Are there any plans to speak with resident dog owners? I would like to be a part of the discussion group. 

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