Help End Breed Specific Legislation in Denver!

Guest post by Maggie Marton of Oh My Dog!

My dog Emmett is a therapy dog who adores children. Last month, on our first day at a new facility – a mental health hospital for children – we were led down a hallway to the activity room. A young girl sat on the floor sobbing to one of the counselors. Her face was red and splotchy, and black eyeliner ran down her cheeks. As we walked past, Emmett stopped in front of the girl. He gazed at her for a moment, leaned forward, and sniffed her face. Without a cue from me, he sprawled across her lap and licked her hand. The girl smiled through her tears, “He likes me!” She scratched his belly, rubbed his ears, talked about her dog at home, giggled as he gave her high five, and finally, she stopped crying.
Since that first day, Emmett has unfailingly selected to sit down next to the kid who needed him the most that day. I can’t explain how it happens, but his intuition is impeccable – and every day the counselors thank him for all that he does.

But here’s the thing: Emmett is a Staffordshire bull terrier mix. In many cities around the country, he’s called a “pit bull.” And in many cities, despite his record of service, he would be confiscated and put down simply because of his appearance.
Breed-specific legislation (BSL) exists in hundreds of communities. In most cases, “pit bulls” are targeted, but BSL frequently includes Rottweilers, German Shepherds, chow chows, even boxers and St. Bernards. The ordinances range from banning the dogs completely – and killing any dogs confiscated in their city – to requiring owners to have additional liability insurance coverage, six-foot-tall fences, muzzles on their dog, and more.
Usually BSL is enacted when a serious dog bite occurs. If a Doberman bites a child, what often happens is that city council members enact panic legislation that bans Dobermans instead of enforcing responsible dog ownership. It doesn’t make sense: Domestic dogs rely on us to teach them how to interact appropriately in our human world. We’re responsible for their care, their well-being, and their safety. If we breach that trust, then we need to be the ones responsible – not an entire breed of domestic dog.  
I can’t imagine an animal control officer coming to take Emmett away from me, and I can’t imagine Emmett being euthanized simply because he has a blocky head and brindle fur. So to stop the spread of this prejudicial legislation, I’ve created a campaign to combat BSL. I’m starting with Denver for several reasons: Between 2005 and 2007, the city confiscated and killed 1,667 family dogs, which is unacceptable to me. Plus, BSL is costly to enforce, and Denver has a $120 million deficit, so they should have the motivation to repeal this ineffective and expensive legislation. Further, the BlogPaws West conference is going to be held in Denver, and 300 or so pet bloggers can be a loud voice.
The animal-loving community is a strong, passionate group of people. I know that if we work together, we can end breed-specific legislation, not just in Denver, but nationwide. So please join me in the fight against BSL so that dogs like Emmett and all the other sweet dogs facing discrimination can have a chance at a happy life with a loving family. 
Maggie Marton is a freelance writer based in Bloomington, IN. Visit her online at www.maggiemarton.com or ohmydogblog.com.

8 thoughts on “Help End Breed Specific Legislation in Denver!

  1. Bravo!! Emmett is an ambassador for his breed and Maggie just may change the world!
    At GoPetFriendly, our lives revolve around helping people travel with their pets as we travel with our two dogs – Buster is a German Shepherd and Ty is a Shar-pei. Both breeds are banned in certain jurisdictions due to breed specific laws. These laws are unfair and ineffective. It's time to place the responsibility where it belongs – on the owners of aggressive dogs. Banning a breed is the racism of the dog world.

  2. Two things missing from a really excellent article. One – when children are bit, we also need to look at educating parents and the children. Too often the child has violated some basic rule that has caused the dog to act out. The first thing we need to eliminate is children being left unsupervised with any dogs and that's going to be the responsibility of the parent and the dog owner. I have to be very careful with my 3 boisterous, young grandsons because they have come to know that they can pull on the tails of Grandma's dogs, throw their arms around their big necks and put their faces right up into the big, blocky faces of all her pit bulls and all these dogs are going to do is keep smiling and wagging their tails. If they put their hands in the food bowls, the girls back up and wag, inviting them to take whatever the kids want – my dogs know they will always get what they need to eat and they are just so thrilled to have kids in the house they don't care if there is the occasional poke in the eye or ears being pulled. So, it's somewhat difficult to try and explain that if they reach into another dog's food dish, that dog is going to chew off their face! But, we have to make this clear to children to protect them and the innocent dogs that might get euthanized just because a child misbehaves.

    Also, I would really encourage you to reach out to those who have been fighting BSL and especially Denver for a long time and try to join forces. Believe me, I just want to see BSL defeated – I don't care who gets the credit or headlines, just get the job done. But, there is only so much money out there, there are only so many volunteers so it's best to work together. You can also benefit from finding what works and what doesn't. I suggest you contact Dr. Paula at Roverlution: http://www.roverlution.org/ she not only has a bunch of foot soldiers, but even attorneys and has made friends among the media. She's organized numerous Luv a Bully marches in cities throughout the US and it would be great to see you bring your folks and join in with these! Be sure to check out her poll at the bottom of her homepage – it's over 6,000, although help is needed to exceed 10,000. Also, Jodi Pries of Bless the Bullys – I can't praise her enough! http://www.blessthebullys.com/ As you investigate her website, you'll start to see that she has been fighting the good fight for ages and she will not back down! This is the founder of National Pit Bull Awareness Day and it would be great to add your folks to this number! Also, don't miss going to FaceBook and search for Chef David Edelstein – he's actually moving himself and his TEAM of 3 pitties from CA to Colorado to take the fight to them! He makes wonderful videos to educate folks about the evils of BSL – he's a great and dedicated fighter in this battle! I have an email list for pit bull advocacy – that's how I found out about you, so I'd like to keep in touch and I will keep folks informed of what you plan to do. The very best to you in your battle!

  3. Left a comment but it didn't take. Thank you for writing this, Maggie. And thank you, Shauna, for sharing resources. I am going to make sure everyone I know reads this post!

  4. Thanks, Michelle, for the opportunity to write for your fabulous blog! And thank you Shauna and Yvonne for your support and suggestions! Shauna, I've spoken with 1 of the 3 people you mentioned and will reach out to the other 2 ASAP! I sincerely appreciate the suggestions!!

  5. It's really all about the owners not the dogs that are ill behaved. Thank you for bringing continual awareness about BSL and as a result hopefully constructive and positive changes.

  6. The thing that bothers me most as a rescuer is that the shelter dogs that I foster are usually the best, housebroken, social, and after a legitimate socialization period are beyond most peoples expectation of good behavior when they agree to share their life with a dog. I hate to say this, but I have a foster Bull Terrier that I have bonded to very closely since February 2010. She was on her last day at LA County. She got adopted and the potential adopter turned out to be nuts after threatening the dog. The dog is about 9 years old, super sweet, and my friends tell me jokingly that I should keep her and get "rid" of my own two. I don't have to "get rid" of any of them as they all get along, all have a safe place to live, and all give me unconditional love and loyalty. I hate those words "get rid". That's what shelters do, euthanize and throw the carcasses into rendering piles to be composted into who knows what.

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