Monday, October 15, 2012

Be the Change for Animals 2012: Dog Breed Discrimination

 This is not the blog post I intended to write for Blog the Change for Animals.   I'd planned to write about Pit Bulls and breed discrimination, because I could so easily tie it in to National Pit Bull Awareness Month.  Also because I am beginning to succumb to an almost overwhelming desire to add a pittie or Pit Bull mix dog to our our family.  When I feature adoptable dogs here on the blog, 9 times of out ten it is a Pit Bull type dog that grabs my attention.  

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?

 It's not that I didn't know about breed discrimination.  The last time we shopped homeowners insurance was shortly after Tucker passed away.  That was probably a good thing because we would have had to lie, been denied by the company we liked, or continued to shop around.

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.

It reminded me of years ago when I was apartment hunting for a place for me and my dog, Benji, to live in Kansas City.   I no longer remember how many landlords turned me down.  Not because I had a dog.  Benji was a mutt.  A large Doberman / German Shepherd mixed breed dog.  In those days, both of those dog breeds, along with Rottweilers, were looked upon with fear and loathing.

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.
Be the Change for Animals ( - where everyday advocates band together to make the world a better place for animals.  The goal of BtC4Animals is to ignite and accelerate the change that we can make as individuals.  They highlight one cause per week and provide information on how readers can help.  Blog the Change takes place quarterly. 


  1. Great post! Breed discrimination definitely affects more than pit bull owners. We experience it as we travel with our German Shepherd, Buster. There are some campgrounds that won't allow us to stay because he's on their restricted breed list. This is a serious issue that people should take more seriously!

    1. Thanks, Amy! The more research I've done, the more concerned I've become. I've also begun to wonder what this will eventually do to the gene pool. This is so much more than a Pit Bull issue and I wish more dog owners were aware!

  2. Thank you for writing on such a vital topic and one that is very close to my heart. My dog isn't a pit bull but then, we don't really know what she is. I am always aware that she could be seen by some as a "dangerous breed" even if she is just a good ol' Heinz 57. Legislation that addresses appearance rather than behaviour or human responsibility is not solving a problem or doing anyone any favours.

    1. You are absolutely right, Kristine! Any dog could potentially be identified as a "dangerous dog."

  3. This topic gets under the skin of us all at BTC4animals. It was one of the very first causes we hosted.

    As 1 of 5 people running a local dog rescue, too, we often face ill public perception more than I can stomach. These unfair perceptions degrade the true nature of the beautiful dogs we have in our care. Baseless, they are rooted in a repetitive and sensationalist media slant rather than true journalism about actual circumstances surrounding dog bites. It's just easier to name a breed than to learn about often human induced dog behavior.

    Thanks so much for Blogging the Change!

    Kim Clune

    1. Thank you, Kim. I feel a little like Rip Van Winkle. Though certainly aware of breed discrimination, I really did not realize how it is becoming the norm. No thanks to the media.

  4. We travel a lot with our dogs, and haven't run into trouble yet, but with two of them being German Shepherds, I know it could happen. Since one of them will be a Search and Rescue dog soon, I hope none of those places ever has need of his services. It will be too bad for them!

    1. Isn't ironic that some of the dog breeds that make the best search and rescue dog, as well as therapy dogs, are on so many of the banned and restricted lists?!

  5. I can't believe so much breed discrimination goes on! I had no idea insurance companies did this! Great post!

  6. This is a topic near and dear to my heart! I'm very glad that you posted about it.

    My insurance company, while it covers Elka, charges us $40 or so more a year for having a breed on "the list". I'm thinking of looking into State Farm for my homeowner's and auto insurance, as State Farm does not discriminate or charge more based on breed.

    1. Since we also need farm insurance and we live in a very rural area (far from fire fighting resources), our options were limited. Most refused to issue us a policy as long as we had such large dogs!

  7. This post really touched me today. Breed discrimination is insidious and seems to be increasing. I think that sharing the positive is key - I actually had a conversation with an elderly neighbor the other day while walking Tavish and she started talking about Pit Bulls as dangerous dogs. I made sure to keep talking about some of the wonderful Pit Bulls I know. As with anything we feel passionately about, it's important to speak up against misconceptions. Wonderful post.

    Be the Change for Animals
    I Still Want More Puppies

    1. Excellent, A.J. I think the more all of us quietly talk up the truth, the better!

  8. It's unfortunate that insurance companies are even allowed to discriminate - and frustrating. The media really plays a huge role in all of the misinformation and sensationalizing. Great post!

  9. Thanks for your post! Breed discrimination is terrible and it hits really close to home for me. I used to live in MIami where they have a Pitbull ban, and after working at the SPCA that I am at's hard for me to go back. I've gotten SO attached to so many beautiful pitbulls here and I just don't understand how ignorant some people can be. It's frustrating and even here at my job now, getting some pitties and pit mixes (or other targeted breeds) adopted out is tough because many apartment complexes, insurances, and landlords just won't allow them. Will it ever end? :(

    1. I believe it can only end if dog owners become aware of all the bans and restrictions and begin to speak up.

  10. Well it's easy to see how your topic ended up as it did for this post - our poor pitties are really getting unfair and inaccurate reputations these days. BSL/BDL is just plain wrong, and downright silly! Sure hope people come to their senses about it very, very soon!

    1. Does anyone want to be treated equally to approx 1.31 million Canadians in the Province of Ontario, Residental Tenants? See:

      Residential Tenancies Act, 2006
      S.O. 2006, CHAPTER 17

      “No pet” provisions void

      14. A provision in a tenancy agreement prohibiting the presence of animals in or about the residential complex is void. 2006, c. 17, s. 14.

      It seems reasonable and fair to me that all Canadian and American tenants across the nation who have pets as part of their family (human(s) + pet(s)= family) have the same rights. Shall we start the change process (petition?) here and now Carpe Diem (seize the moment) while Prime Minister Harper who "get's it" being a cat (pet lover) having 3 living with him as part of his family at 24 Sussex the most prestigeous address in all of Canada and President Obama and his family living in the White House (both temporary residences) also gets it also being a pet lover and both President Obama and Prime Minister Harper will probably want to leave a legacy like this for their children and grandchildren, etc...


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