Urge military to drop nationwide breed ban

Urge military to drop nationwide breed ban

Originally posted on www.nokillrevolution.blogspot.com on March 10, 2009

Breed-ban history

There are 300+ million people living in the United States, and 70+ million dogs live among us. Though some dogs suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of irresponsible caretakers, the vast majority of guardians love their dogs and regard them as part of their families. This is the case for many military families as well.

Each year, there are approximately 400,000+ tobacco-related deaths in the nation, and about 38,000 people die in auto accidents. Murder takes the lives of about 16,000 people per year as well. Conversely, there are about 25 fatal dog attacks in the entire country. Death by lightning strike is six times more likely to occur.

Needless to say, dangerous/vicious dogs are not an epidemic by any measure. What is a growing epidemic is the breed-specific bans and legislation that have resulted from irrational fears and what can only be characterized as modern media’s sensationalism and poor reporting of the details that surround these attacks as well as people’s general ignorance of dog behavior/bite prevention.

More often than not, breed is also wrongly reported in these newspaper/magazine/TV news sound bites, or only stories involving some breeds are reported. It’s almost a cliche now how quotes from the irresponsible owners in these stories make it sound like a half-starved, unsocialized dog tied up to a post on a 6-foot chain or locked in a basement was a “family dog” that inexplicably attacked.

Tragically, children and the elderly are most often the victims in these fatal dog attacks. It is an undeniable tragedy each and every time, and most of the attacks are attributable to known risk factors, such as reckless owners encouraging aggression toward humans, even among breeds with no natural disposition to this (i.e., pit bulls), and three out of four attacks are related to neglect/abuse as well as unaltered dogs.

Following one of these tragic attacks in communities, there has been a rising trend to enact breed-specific bans and legislation in an attempt to control or predict future attacks. It is usually the most popular strong dog of the decade that is either involved in the attacks or misidentified as such (i.e., a pit bull-type dog). Attacks by other breeds or mixes besides pit bulls these days are downplayed in the media as well or ignored or misreported as this type or appearance of dog.

Maybe some years ago, one could forgive or understand why this knee-jerk, discriminatory reaction occurred. We could say that very little research and data about fatal/severe dog attacks existed, so people and politicians passing laws didn’t know any better. We’ll give them the benefit of that doubt for breed bans passed in the early 1990s.

Now, fast forward to years later and to our present time … after actual research and data and books and online resources have emerged that overwhelmingly show that breed/appearance alone is not an indicator of viciousness … after all leading national animal and veterinary groups have released position statements against breed bans … after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stopped tracking breed in their dog bite reports after 1998 because they found the information to be a misreported, useless predictor/indicator … after breed bans in hundreds of communities have proven to be costly and ineffective and only offer a false sense of security while the usual dog bites and attacks by dogs of various breeds continue on … WELL, now we should know better than this.

Maybe the general public does not, but anyone responsible for passing laws or establishing policies that may hurt and affect tens of thousands of dogs and responsible owners and families should make it their responsibility to do their homework before taking any action. Already, breed bans alone have attributed to the death and misery of millions of innocent dogs. It’s akin to racial profiling and ethnic cleansing among humans; for the mistakes of few of their kind that they resemble in appearance, these dogs and their owners have paid a huge price and continue to do so. The bad guys/gals who ignore laws anyway just continue on with their business as usual, either using other strong breeds for bad purposes or ignoring laws and going into hiding with their illegal activities.

Military follows breed-ban bandwagon

By now, we should know better. Yet, the U.S. Army in January 2009 passed a nationwide breed ban on their posts and housing areas while many posts had already passed the ban the year before. This ban includes many big, strong breeds. But, the ban doesn’t stop there. I also includes any MIXES of these breeds.

Let’s take White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) as an example. I work there as a civilian, but I don’t live there. I work with some people who do live there now or used to, including my boss, who is a retired Lt. Col. She owns a malamute from our local malamute rescue, a white pit bull-type dog, and another cute, fluffy mutt. She has a husband (also retired military) and two teenage boys, and she is a loving, responsible mom and dog owner.

When she lived on the post housing last year when their breed ban was enacted, her dogs were “grandfathered” into the system and allowed to stay. If she and her family had been transferred and relocated to another post, she would have had to give up both her malamute and white pit mix though the dogs have had no history of viciousness or violence toward anyone. She would have been allowed to keep the fluffy mutt that doesn’t look like any powerful breed that suffers this breed prejudice. Lucky for her and her family, they now live in a house they purchased in Las Cruces.

In the next few years, tens of thousands of soldiers are moving to our area at both Fort Bliss and WSMR. How many of those families moving here have any pits or mixes, shepherds or mixes, danes or mixes, huskies or mixes, rotties or mixes, dobies or mixes, etc.? Who is going to make the determination of which can stay on these posts or not and determine these breeds and mixes, and where will all the rejects end up? If these families go to our local rescues and shelters to adopt, how will this limit their choices in dogs to adopt? What other options do these families have?

This breed ban is going to hit us hard here at home. It’s going to hit our shelters hard, too. However, it will not hit us even half as hard as it will the families forced to give up their dogs/family members during these stressful times or figure out somewhere else to live or who in their family might be able to care for the dogs until their tours of duty are completed. Maybe this will lead many to not re-enlist when that time comes, and the last thing our military needs is to lose soldiers because of this.

The last thing these families need is another sacrifice they have to make, especially for any soldiers returning from the war. Some of those young men have no other family than their dogs, or they are matched up with dogs from programs like Canines for Combat Wounded — to help them through post-traumatic stress disorder and to help curb the highest suicide rate among veterans following any war to date.

Alternatives to breed bans

Risks of dog bites and attacks will always exist as long as the human-canine bond exists. The smart, effective approaches to prevention are as follows:

-Enforcement of generic, non-breed-specific dangerous dog laws that target chronically irresponsible owners;
-Dog care and bite prevention education programs for adults/children;
-Restrict chaining and impose strict fines/penalties for abuse/neglect, including dog fighting; and
-Spay/neuter programs and incentives

Don’t take my word for it

Instead of repeat the vast amount of facts and information regarding this topic available online, here are some links to the best information about breed-specific legislation (BSL) on the Web:

Best Friends Animal Society’s Stop BSL Campaign

Animal Farm Foundation’s expert opinions on breed bans and legislation

Defending Dogs website

What you don’t hear in the news … pit bull heroes and lifesavers

Various organizations’ BSL position statements

“Troublemakers: What pit bulls can teach us about profiling”, by Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker, Feb. 6, 2006

What we can do

This is not the time to enact ill-advised breed bans that protect no one and hurt so many. The federal government and military have no business going down this dead-end road. We need to lend our voices to help reverse this nationwide trend in general, especially now that it has spread to military bases and posts.

Write or call these leaders and departments to inform them why breed bans don’t work, to encourage them to look at recent research/information, and to suggest alternatives that do help mitigate risks for bites and rare fatal attacks. Talk about the bad effects of these bans on the military’s morale and potential loss of soldiers that might result. It is imperative to not alienate or punish our military family units, which often include dogs of various breeds and mixes. Morale is important, and taking beloved pets from soldiers who have been fighting in the war in Iraq for so many years is unconscionable. Please contact all those you can.

President and First Lady Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee
(links from this site lead to contact and comment areas off each senators’ website)
Room SR-228
Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510-6050

U.S. Army Family and MWR Command (in charge of morale and welfare)
E-mail all comments to: mwrWebmaster@conus.army.mil

State Representatives and Senators
To search for yours in New Mexico: http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/legislatorsearch.aspx

Last words

I read many materials in preparation for this blog. Some words and sentiments are just too good not to share. I leave you with some profound, notable words that are not my own.

“…also, the ban against certain breeds irks me. I get to keep my animals but when I move somewhere else … my dog is banned, and why do we punish the breed and not the deed? Um, animal racism, don’t ya think?”–comment posted by soldier on an online forum

“The strongest connection of all, though, is between the trait of dog viciousness and certain kinds of owners. In about a quarter of fatal dog-bite cases, the dogs owners were previously involved in illegal fighting. The dogs that bite people are, in many cases, socially isolated, and they are vicious because the have owners who want a vicious dog. The junkyard German shepherd–which looks like it would rip your throat out–and the German shepherd guide dog are the same breed. But they are not the same dog because they have owners with different intentions.”– Malcolm Gladwell

“I just heard about the new policy … my problem with that is two-fold. First, why the hell would breeds be targeted? I have seen much more aggressiveness from chihuahuas … every dog has a different personality and temperament directly related to the way it was raised … Second, the ban caused many to give up their banned dogs to the animal shelter, which is filing up fast. How can one be made to give up their pet? I have three and would never do that. They are my family and to ask me to give them up is just crazy.”–comment posted by soldier on an online forum

“Singling out and publicly demonizing certain breeds as dangerous is unfair, discriminatory, and does an immense disservice to those breeds and the people who care about them. Even more chilling, breed-specific legislation encourages the faulty public perception of other breeds being inherently safe. This can lead misguided individuals to engage in unsafe conduct with other breeds that can result in injury or death by individual representatives of those breeds mistakenly perceived as safe.”–Association of Pet Dog Trainers

“A fatal dog attack is not just a dog bite by a big or aggressive dog. It is usually a perfect storm of bad human-canine interactions–the wrong dog, the wrong background, the wrong history in the hands of the wrong person in the wrong environmental situation. I’ve been involved in many legal cases involving fatal dog attacks, and, certainly, it’s my impression that these are generally cases where everyone is to blame. You’ve got the unsupervised three-year-old child wandering in the neighborhood killed by a starved, abused dog owned by the dogfighting boyfriend of some woman who doesn’t know where her child is. It’s not old Shep by the fire who suddenly goes bonkers. Usually there are all kinds of other warning signs.”–Randall Lockwood, a senior vice-president of the ASPCA

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