On breed bans and emotion

Right now, in Saginaw, MI, breed-specific legislation is a hot topic. The city council is considering an ordinance that would ban pit bulls, Alaskan malamutes and huskies, rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, presa canarios, German shepherds, Great Danes, chow chows, and St. Bernards.

It’s wrong. We know it’s wrong. We know it’s ill-informed and reactionary. We know that breed bans do nothing to decrease the numbers of dog bites, and we know that breed bans are virtually unenforceable. And we know that these laws rip family pets from loving homes.

As responsible dog owners, it falls on us to keep an eye on these proposals and to write polite, respectful letters to our city councilmen and women. It’s our responsibility to stand up for our dogs.

In Saginaw, MI, though, the attention has turned from the debate to a threatening letter received by one of the city councilmen.

I understand that there is a debate raging as to whether or not the letter was actually threatening or if the councilman is using it to fan the BSL flames.

But it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that logical, clear-headed discourse will not happen now. The council members are soured, and rightfully so. Threats – whether overt or perceived – are serious business. And so that letter writer has turned the tables of debate away from the actual bill to the old standby of BSL proponents: “Those pit bull owners are as rabid as their dogs.”

I understand that emotions run high. This is a very emotional topic. I look at Emmett and Cooper, and I can not imagine anyone trying to take them away from me. And I can’t imagine any circumstance in which I would allow that to happen.

But that’s why it’s so, so important to be level-headed, to be polite, to be respectful.

I’m angry with this letter writer. That councilman – and likely the other council members – are no longer open to discussion. Any little window that was open for education or advocacy is now shut and probably locked.

We all need to take responsibility in our towns and cities. When this type of ban is discussed, we must write to city council members, governors, legislators. But it’s our responsibility, too, to focus on education. We need to be polite and kind or else we lose the battle for ourselves.

Okay. Rant over.

What do you think? Do you think the woman’s letter was right on or crossed the line?


  1. says

    You’re absolutely right – it centers on responsibility; to do what is right, to speak up and to inform…and to do so in a civil manner!

  2. says

    Sending threats is not the way to win an argument. It’s not logical nor does it get the other person on your side. The way to convince the government is with rational thought and presentation of facts.

    As you say, as a result of this letter the council will no longer discuss the matter with the public. Their opinions have been formed, right or wrong, and this letter-writer made sure they will never see the other point of view. Which is unfair to everybody else. Now all pit bull owners will be wrongly stereotyped as being of the same convictions of this one person, who compared dogs to human beings in such a brutal, inappropriate way.

    Now I am angry too.

    But really, St. Bernards???

  3. says

    Yes and no. The people in town hall are elected officials. Part of their resume should be to look through these kind of things. Although I agree we should not send letters like that it is too easy for an public official to hide behind. Looking at the breeds they want to ban, BSL just went from madness to psychosis. Something is absolutely wrong, but it is with the officials of Sanigaw.

  4. Sara says

    This is heartbreaking and a close hit to home! We live near ThreeRivers MI. I believe that they tried to get a state band on Pits a few years ago but was stopped in the earlier staged of the bill. All this is going to do is create a lot of heartbreak for families and their furbabies. In my house hold alone we have a chow mix who LOVES belly rubs, a chow beagle mix who is on the grouchy side (we take extra precautions with her when she is around new dogs, people or children), chow husky mix who is nice and loves to go to for car rides, a husky pitbull mix who LOVES everyone and a lab pitbull mix who loves dock jumping and fetching a ball (but is a slightly dog aggressive and we take extra precautions with him). If this passed where we lived it would destroy my WHOLE world! Punish the owner not the dog no matter what breed it is! We are responsible for our dogs actions because they learn from us (or previous owners). I will look into what I can do to help this NOT PASS! This is all based on total ignorance! I would love to march my dogs in there and let them see how friendly and loving they are! Yes they have their quirks but they are perfect in my eyes! <3 Love to all the doggy families no mater what breeds you are! <3

  5. says

    I totally agre that threats get us nowhere, but honestly, i didn’t see any threat in her letter..only a very upset person who is upset by ridiculous legislation.

    having said that your suggestions about how to appwoach ouw communities about it awe wight on
    smoochie kisses
    asta (who loves all doggies)

  6. EmilyS says

    well I don’t approve of threatening emails of any kind.
    OTOH, complaining about receiving such an email is just another excuse to stereotype pit bull owners. Denver city council moron Charlie Brown is pulling the same b.s.

  7. Maggie says

    Thanks, everyone, for weighing in. I love what Kristine said, “The way to convince the government is with rational thought and presentation of facts.”

    Even if her letter wouldn’t be perceived as a threat by most, and even if the councilman is hiding behind it, wouldn’t it be more effective to be having our conversation about the facts, instead of about one stupid letter?

  8. says

    From what I read, the letter was angry and lacking in eloquence, but it doesn’t sound like it was actually threatening. When I worked at a newspaper, we got letters like this all the time. The people writing them are usually well-meaning, sincere, and just slightly past the rest stop on the road to crazytown (my wording is joking, but I mean this for real– usually these people have diminished cognitive or psychological function. They are “not all there”). Politicians get letters from them all the time too, so I don’t buy for a second that this guy actually felt shocked or threatened. The politician is using the email to arouse sympathy for himself and paint all BSL opponents as violent nutbags.

    On a different note, it always amazes me when municipalities use the CDC stats, because the CDC itself states clearly that they can only list the breeds involved in the extremely rare dog bite fatalities (and even those are victim-reported, not confirmed). The CDC site states clearly that their list, “does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill, and thus is not appropriate for policy-making decisions related to the topic.” If they went by the research-based list of most aggressive dogs, they’d be banning daschunds, so clearly these policies are NOT about public safety and ALL about public relations.

  9. Maggie says

    Excellent point about the CDC stats, Skye. Thanks for bringing that up. Those facts make great evidence in a letter!

  10. says

    Certainly, it is completely unacceptable for threats to be sent to anyone over any disagreement. There are people out there with an agenda that are willing to do very nasty things to get what they want.

    How exactly do we know this letter wasn’t written by someone on the BSL side, knowing full well what the result would be and that it would help their cause? We have seen the extremest actions of groups like PETA before, what’s to say they don’t have a new tactic?

    If they didn’t before, they do now.

  11. says

    Interesting (and heartbreaking) idea, Amanda. I guess this just shows how hard we all need to work to educate, educate, educate!

  12. says

    I didn’t see the threat in that e-mail and I definitely can understand that woman’s emotion behind it. That being said, unfortunately it is not the way to handle such people and such ignorant types of decisions.
    This makes me so sick inside. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll even be here to see the day when animals have some rights so that this kind of craziness can’t even be spoken!

  13. Lisa says

    So someone wrote this guy an email comparing him to a KKK member, and his response is to call the police and publicly compare her to a mass murderer.

    You know who else made inflammatory statements like that to the press? Idi Amin, that’s who!

  14. JPT says

    I fully agree that communications between lawmakers and their constituents should be polite and rational, and I think that goes both ways. As anyone who wrote the councilmembers would know, Scharffe’s email replies were incredibly rude and antagonistic toward anyone who seemed to oppose the proposal. The people who are writing to the council to oppose this proposal feel that their families are under attack by the council–of course they’re emotional, and fearful, and they don’t have any training in this kind of communication. If Scharffe responds to their fears with a dismissive and insulting email, as he has been doing, I hardly think he can expect respectful discourse to suddenly occur. BOTH parties need to accept responsibility for their roles in an emotional debate. But I think calm, rational communication needs to start with lawmakers, because that is what they are paid to do: listen to the public respectfully and address the public’s concerns rationally.

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