When I first wrote about BlogPaws in Denver, I left out some crucial details in my haste to get something, anything written. So let’s start at the beginning…
BSL is the acronym for breed-specific legislation. BSL frequently targets pit bulls and dogs that resemble pit bulls. BSL laws range from restrictions on pit bull owners (like requiring additional liability insurance, or their pit bulls to be microchipped, to wear muzzles, or to be spayed/neutered) to outright breed bans whereby people are prevented from owning dogs with a certain appearance.While pit bulls are the most common targets, in some areas of the country the laws include German Shepherds, Dobermans, Akitas, Presa Canarios, even St. Bernards.
Breed-specific legislation should not be supported by responsible dog owners and definitely should not be supported by those of us who are deeply concerned with animal welfare.
Because here’s the thing: BSL doesn’t even work. Since we’re going to Denver, let’s use that city as an example. Denver’s BSL law started in 1989, had 2 brief non-enforcement periods, then resumed in 2005. Since 2005 Denver has killed 2,266 dogs identified – or, frequently, misidentified – as pit bulls. (Want to know how hard breed ID is? Take this test to see how you do!)
There is a huge cost associated with enacting and enforcing a breed ban. For example, Denver currently faces several lawsuits. The plaintiffs are disabled and had their service dogs seized – in one case, the dog wasn’t even a pit bull. And those aren’t the only lawsuits; there are at least 5 others that are costing taxpayers thousands of dollars, despite Denver’s $160 million budget shortfall.
Beyond the cost, BSL fails to improve public safety. Sadly, dog bites still occur. Here’s a quick run-down of some bites in Denver if you’re interested in further reading.
The reality is that BSL fails to protect public safety. It’s costly, inefficient, and ineffective. And it’s unethical. The bottom line? BSL punishes dogs instead of irresponsible owners. In fact, it gets bad owners off the hook. And the dogs are the ones who are suffering.
But I have to be totally honest: Until I adopted Emmett, my bully ambassador, I had never heard of breed-specific legislation. My Emmett is the sweetest dog you will ever meet – he loves absolutely everyone, he snuggles with anyone who makes eye contact with him, he’s a therapy dog who thrives in an environment filled with loud, noisy children who just need a little love. And he does love them. He waggles, cuddles, performs tricks, and gives high-fives until he can barely lift his arm. But I’m constantly questioned, “Is that a pit bull?” “Does he bite?” The worst one we ever got, “He’s a pit bull, right? So are you going to put him down when you have children?” While this discussion isn’t about me and it isn’t about Emmett, it’s about all the dogs like Emmett who are wonderful, one-of-a-kind dogs who want nothing more than to make people happy. And yet people want dogs like Emmett to be euthanized. Why? Because of how he looks? It’s unjust and intolerant.
I’m so happy we’re having this discussion. I’d love to know what you think about BSL, what your experiences have been, or – most especially – stories about bully ambassadors you’ve encountered!
I’m breaking this into two posts because, well, it got a little long. Tomorrow, I’m going to write about the ideas I have for how we – pet bloggers, dog lovers, animal advocates – can make sure that the voices of these dogs are heard, loud and clear, and how I think it ties in to BlogPaws West. But for today, I’m going to leave you with a little bully love with one of the best music videos ever!