BSL: In the Dog House

Mickey pool

Mickey. That’s the name of my most recent foster dog from Companion Animal Alliance. This dog has the gentlest soul you will ever find, tolerating just about anything. He is housebroken, loves to cuddle with cats, and is about as out-going as a pet rock. Mickey is the perfect dog for any family, right? Wrong. Mickey is shunned by most because, unfortunately for him, he came into this world as an American Pitbull Terrier- the dog breed once on the covers of our country’s war posters as symbol of pride that is now shamed, and even banned in some areas.

Having fostered multiple bully breeds from our local animal shelter of East Baton Rouge Parish, I know first hand that the vast majority of these so called “bullies” have incredible temperaments, most of them just as well-behaved, if not better, than your average, beloved Golden Retriever. It breaks my heart when, at adoption events, mothers tell their children to “not pet that pit-bull”, while my Mickey would have greeted them with only love and affection. My personal favorite is when people are playing with him and say, “This is such a great dog. What kind is he?”, and then shudder at my response as if he has suddenly morphed into a vicious monster right in front of them. I encourage anyone who has not met a “bully” to take a trip to their local shelter, mine being Companion Animal Alliance, in order to formulate a first-hand opinion, rather than living in the façade that all pit-bulls are a danger to society.

Upon hearing the horror stories associated with “bully breeds”, many citizens develop a powerful disgust and fear of these dogs. Breed specific legislation (BSL), is the attempt to use laws to regulate and restrict dog ownership, focusing on banning a number of different breeds, mainly American Pit Bull Terriers- type dogs. In order to do this, breed specific legislation targets and eliminates specific breeds as a whole, using a system based simply on how similar a certain dog looks to a banned breed.  BSL has been discussed in many areas in Louisiana, such as my hometown of Terrebonne, LA, and has also already gone into effect in certain parishes, such as St. Mary’s parish. What supporters of BSL fail to recognize, however, is that dog attacks are the result of multiple factors, not breed culpability, and there are alternative and more effective ways to decrease the number of dog attacks and amount of dog fighting in an area rather than simply banning and discriminating against entire breeds.

If I were to live in a parish enforcing BSL, my Mickey would be taken from me simply because of his larger-than-most head and wide-set jawline. This is absurd. Many well-known organizations, such as the American Kennel Club and the Obama administration, have stated their disapproval of BSL, rather, supporting the enactment and enforcement of breed neutral, dangerous-dog laws that identify dangerous animals based on behavior. There are precautions all dog owners should take to lower the risk of one’s dog becoming aggressive, such as socialization, limiting territory, supervision around children (about 80% of fatal attacks occur when the child has been left unsupervised), and fencing one’s yard rather than tethering (chaining a dog which limits its movements and makes it significantly more likely to become aggressive). As an animal-science undergrad, this is basic “dog ownership 101” type information, that many owners fail to recognize, as it is not certain dog-breeds themselves that are dangerous, but rather, other adverse factors which create dangerous dogs. Unfortunately, there are no current regulations prohibiting tethering in East Baton Rouge Parish.

We must push for these stronger animal control laws, which could include leash laws, tethering- prohibiting laws, mandatory spay/neuter laws for animal shelters, increasing penalties for violations, and targeting habitually irresponsible dog owners. Mickey and all other “bully breeds” should not have to suffer for lack of responsible dog ownership in southern LA. No sensible person wants dog fighting and canine attacks to occur in areas close to home; however, discriminatory laws based on breed rather than temperament is unjust, and quite frankly, an ineffective way of dealing with the issue at hand. We must push for suggestions and regulations that pertain to all dogs, because dog attacks are the result of multiple factors, not just a simple breakdown of breed culpability!

Mickey

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