I've now spent the past couple of days reading and researching for my intended post. What's taken so long? One thing leads to another and I've found myself very disturbed at what I've learned about dog breed discrimination, related legislation, and our current cultural bias of blaming the dog and/or the dog breed, rather than the dog owner.
You say you're not worried about dog breed discrimination because you don't own a Pit Bull.
I don't have a Pit Bull (yet), but I'm plenty worried about breed discrimination.
Please forgive me for butchering Martin Niemoller's quotation:
First they came for the Doberman Pinschers
and I didn't speak out because my dog was not a Doberman.
Then they came for the Rottweilers
and I didn't speak out because my dog was not a Rottweiler.
Then they came for the Pit Bulls
and I didn't speak out because my dog wasn't a Pit Bull.
Then they came for my dogs...
Tucker: Does this look like a dangerous, vicious dog to you?
Tucker was a mutt. There was probably some Lab in there. However, according to our vets in both Virginia and Missouri, there was definitely some Chow.
That would have been a problem.
In fact, all of the insurance companies we called had rules about dogs. In fact, some weren't keen on the size of ours.
All of the Talking Dogs are on a list somewhere as banned or restricted.
These days it seems Pit Bulls are the first dog breed mentioned in any discussion of "dangerous dogs" or dog breed discrimination. However, according to Stubby Dog, many insurance companies, cities and counties also target Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinchers, American Bull Dogs, Bull Terriers, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, mixes of those dog breeds, as well as other large breeds.
Over the years many of our dogs have been mutts that we (and our vets) have made guesses in terms of breed. Those breeds include: Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Border Collie, Golden Retriever and Chow. Most were large dogs.
Not a one was a dangerous dog.
I've been bitten by two dogs in my life. One was my own Beagle. I was a kid and I did something stupid. I deserved that bite. I learned from from that bite. And so did my mother. The other bite was also when I was a child: an aunt's rescued Cocker Spaniel who was one cranky dog and probably shouldn't have been around children.
Both times I was bitten, it was a case of a dog owner not being a responsible dog owner. Neither dog breed appears on the lists of dog breeds frequently targeted by breed discrimination legislation.
Micaela Myers, writing for Stubby Dog, an organization dedicated to changing public perceptions of Pit Bulls, defines BDL:
Breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL) refers to laws that target dogs based on how they look rather than their actions. Hundreds of U.S. cities have already enacted BDL, and more cities adopt it every year. Many cities and counties—plus Marine Corps and Army bases—have banned select breeds altogether. Other cities enact BDL that automatically labels dogs of certain breeds as “vicious” or “dangerous” regardless of their behavior. These laws may require owners of the targeted breeds to follow strict guidelines, such as sterilization, proof of liability insurance, housing of the dog in a cage with a roof and floor, and muzzling the dog when on a leash.Amy Burkert of Go Pet Friendly notes that across the US, municipalities have placed bans or restrictions on more than 100 breeds of dogs. Penalties range from fines to your dog being seized and euthanized. In fact, Burkert began making a a list of all the affected dog breeds, but gave up when it passed 100 affected dog breeds. She notes that some of the BDL laws have such broad language that they include dogs that look like the targeted breeds.
Dog breed discrimination is an issue of huge importance to any and all dog owners. Just because you don't own a dog on any of these targeted lists, doesn't mean that your favorite dog breed or mutt isn't already affected or won't be in the future.
What you can do:
- Become aware of the laws governing your home city or county and make sure that you are in compliance.
- When you're traveling, make sure your dogs are safe by knowing about breed restrictions where you're traveling to or through.
- Take action when breed specific legislation is proposed in your city or state. Attend public meetings and speak out. Write letters to your elected officials and local newspaper.
- Take every opportunity to help promote awareness of the positive attributes of your particular dog breed.
- Make sure that you are a responsible dog owner and that your own dogs are well trained and behaved.