I was hoping to start my blog on a different note. I wanted to be witty, funny, and educational. However, I find myself in a personal struggle today. If you haven’t had the pleasure of a conversation with me regarding animal control laws, I am often on the side of the law. But today, like many others, I cannot help but be saddened by the events in Belfast, Ireland. I try to stay on top of what’s trending in the dog world so I did a little research about Lennox, the law behind his sad story, and breed discrimination.
For those of you who don’t know, Lennox is an American Bull Dog/Lab X in Belfast, Ireland who has been in a shelter since August 2010 because he resembles a “pit bull like” breed. A neighbor reported a noise complaint and the local ACO deemed him so. Lennox had no other incidents with behavior issues in the past. In 1991, Belfast authorities passed breed specific legislation (BSL) entitled the Dangerous Dogs Act charging all “pit bull type” dogs to be relocated or destroyed by November of that year. Lennox was 5 years old and had been
registered with certification of his breed type when he was incarcerated. His family lost a two year battle with the legislatures this morning at 2 a.m. EST when, despite the efforts of experts and protestors world-wide and, even, celebrity dog trainer Victoria Stillwell (best known in the US for Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog”) Belfast City Counsel chose to euthanize the dog.
The subject has caused such outcry and had me in tears this morning when I read that my hopes of a movie ending had been crushed and Lennox had not been saved in the wee hours of the night. But this topic is not new to lovers of certain breeds and they are faced with stereotypes every day. For that alone, I know I will receive a lot of criticism from those who don’t read this whole blog when I say
this: laws are created for a reason and with the betterment and safety of the
peoples they govern interest in mind.
I am not saying they are always right or fair but there is always more to it than people being ignorant. I have not had the good fortune of living outside of the United States of America, so I can only speak from my perception of our authorities. For decades, breeds have been ostracized for being “bad” breeds. The reasons why you hear about these breeds more than anything else… OVER POPULATION AND DAMAGE CONTROL.
Over population – A breed becomes popular because it’s “cool” and uneducated or irresponsible people breed it incessantly. This does a number of things. People who are not experienced with breeding tend to produce a number of litters because they love their dog. They do not always know what characteristics to look for in improving the breed or what they need to “breed out” of the dog. In turn, uneducated breeders do not know how to educate the people who adopt their puppies because they do not know enough about the breed themselves. As an example, I’m going to use a breed that many forget had a bad wrap for a little while, COCKER SPANIELS. That’s right, Lady from Lady and the Tramp, used to be labeled as nasty little ferocious dogs. They are not even supposed to be fierce
protectors, but my best friend’s mom growing up bred these dogs and she took
the time one day to educate me on Rage and how it came from poor breeding
because of the breed’s popularity. Everyone wants the popular dog!
Damage Control – No matter which way you spin it, if a large dog originally bred to protect or battle with larger beasts bites a person, it leaves a bigger mark than a Chihuahua or Shih Tzu. There is no way arguing the fact that a German Shepard, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, or Pit Bull (along with many other breeds) have the ability to kill an infant without a struggle.
Yes, bad dogs tend to be created by bad or ignorant people. But here’s where
society starts to wince at me because I am a dog lover… as much as we would
like to, we cannot euthanize stupid people for being ignorant. Too often, these
“pit bull” type breeds are being used. No, this is not their fault but, yes, it creates a dangerous animal. What’s worse is the people who create the dangerous animal then turns around and sets it loose on the public. THIS is why breed ban laws are put in place.
In the past 20 years, you have seen more conversations regarding breed bans. In 1984, Tijeras, N.M., was the first in the USA to enact a ban, which targeted Pit Bulls. As more of these bans were passed, the insurance companies followed suit; so make sure you check with your insurance company before adopting a dog because you can lose your insurance if something happens, even if you have an
intruder. (Check out the Top 10 Banned Breeds: http://listverse.com/2011/08/23/top-10-banned-dog-breeds/).
So with all that being said, does Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) make sense in the eyes of the law? Well I suppose that depends on your stance on gun control. Yup, that’s right people, I equated owning a dog to owning a gun. Do you know why? In the eyes of the law, no matter how many rights are allotted to animals against cruelty, your dog is simply a belonging and has the potential to be a weapon. Don’t believe me? How many of you are happy that your dog is a deterrent to intruders and weirdos? How many of you would be happy if your dog
attacked someone who was attacking or threatening you? It gets confusing for us because there are emotions involved in our relationship with our dogs but at the end of the day, legally, they are a possession and they are hence governed as such. Gun laws are put in place to keep people safe from bad and ignorant people and so are breed banning laws.
Do I believe in BSL? No. I believe in education and alternative resolutions. Being a fanatic is a great way to get people’s attention but they will stop listening if you don’t give them a reason to believe you. The hardest part is getting the attention of the people who just keep going without turning their heads to the problem. I would love to see a movement from the fanatics trying to take out the people who are ignorantly breeding like people are trying to take out pet stores that sell puppies.
I am sad for Lennox. He was a victim of ignorance and bull headedness. His family was not even allowed to visit with him. From what I have read, he was a very sweet dog that got caught in the middle of a very bitter battle. With the entire English speaking world (and some) backing him and the many alternative options given to the local government, his was an unnecessary death to prove a point.
My heart goes out to his family. I cannot imagine losing my dog to a
stereotype after being “authorized” ownership for 5 years prior. That is 5 years of memories, of him making them laugh and snuggles when they needed encouragement. He won’t be able to lick their tears anymore but maybe conversations and education will be the good thing that is borne of this tragedy.
I hope that my first blog isn’t too controversial to keep you from reading more or to keep it from being published. My real hope is, if you don’t agree with me, that I at least got you to look at something from the other side or maybe opened a conversation. I look forward to hearing what you think. See you at the dog park!