Monday, March 26, 2012

The BSL Band-Aid

I'm lazy - I'll admit it.  I'm not sure if I've always been lazy (or if not, when I became lazy), but I know that much of my life has followed the rule of doing the least amount of work to get by and be comfortable.  Comfortable.  Always seemed like a decent it's slowly making it's way onto my list of unmentionables [including, but not limited to: boring, easy, stagnant, static, and fair].  This list has been developed just recently as I continue the journey on my way to adult-hood and realize that boring, comfortable me doesn't accomplish much other than lying on the couch with the dogs and depleting the apartment's supply of chocolate. 

 [lazy bum]

I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on myself.  I do manage to be productive and get things done from time to time.  And as I continue to grow up, I keep realizing just how important it is to put in the hard work to do things right the first time around. From little things like buying a nice pair of shoes that will last through years of wear and tear instead of getting the cheap pair year after year, to spending the time and money training Bruce Wayne and Alfred so they don't end up back in a shelter years down the road.  Luckily I have found a terrific network of friends to help keep me on track, since most main-stream avenues, from pop-culture to politics, seem to reward taking the easy way out.  Americans everywhere are dying for a quick-fix to all of life's problems and, until recently, I was not all that different.

Thanks to having a big, block-headed, Fredbaby in my life, I am always on the move learning new ways to make living with a special-needs dog a lot of fun.  It's because of Alfred that I've started this blog, joined the Chicago SociaBulls dog walking club, and become more involved in rescue.  If not for the Alfmonster I wouldn't know much about Breed Specific Legislation, and most likely wouldn't feel compelled to do much about it.  Because that would've been the easy thing to do.

What exactly is Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)?  In my opinion, it's not much different than racism in humans.  Basically, certain breeds of dog are discriminated against (and often destroyed) solely based on the way they look.  There are no temperament tests involved; no consideration of who owns the dog; no sound logic behind it really.  Yet legislators seem to think they've solved the problem of vicious dog attacks - easy as that.

Some of our favorite pooches wouldn't survive anti-"pit bull" BSL.
[Zoe from Two Kitties One Pittie, Fifty the Two-legged Pit Bull, Billy from In Black & White]

You might notice that the three dogs posted above look completely different, yet could all be classified as "pit-bull type" dogs.  Sure, they share similar attributes, but the reality is that almost any dog breed in the US (even those recognized by organizations such as the AKC) was, at one time in history, a mix of two or more different types of dog.  What do you get when you cross a Scottish Retriever and a Tweed Water Spaniel (now extinct)?  An Irish Setter, Bloodhound, St. John's Water Dog (evolved into the Labrador Retriever), and what eventually became the Golden Retriever - and all in the same litter!  Can you imagine a city, state, or country specifically restricting the ownership of "retriever-type" dogs?  I bet more than half the dogs in the US could be considered "retriever-type" dogs based on their looks alone.  Can you imagine the police coming into this home and destroying this family's dog because sometimes Golden Retrievers bite people???

Probably not.  So why should this be any different?

Because pit bulls are perceived as being more dangerous.  There are a lot of different statistics available to back up both sides of this argument, but when it comes down to it, BSL is like putting a band-aid on a deep puncture wound.  The root of the problem isn't the dog itself, but irresponsible pet ownership and inappropriate human-dog interactions.  While the number of dog bite fatalities is still very low (approximately 0.0002% of all dog bites in the US result in death), almost every dog involved in a fatal bite was not properly leashed or contained on the owner's property, nor were the dogs spayed or neutered. And  unfortunately, pit bulls often find themselves in the hands of irresponsible dog owners.  Hardly the fault of the dogs themselves. [Clearly we all know plenty of wonderfully responsible pit bull owners, which is why we love them so much!]

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides an excellent resource for preventing dog bites on their website and states: 

  "Many practical alternatives to breed-specific policies exist and 
hold promise for preventing dog bites."

Their main focus is on educating the public and raising awareness of general safety rules when it comes to interacting with dogs.  The third full week in May is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Postal Service, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  We will be posting to help spread the word and educate our readers during that week, and hope you will too!  With more knowledgable pet owners in the US and around the world, perhaps the Prohibition of Pit Bulls will someday come to and end and all breeds can be treated equally when it comes to choosing the right pet for your family.  

It's not going to be easy, but the best things in life never are...


  1. This is a really good post! It's also very sad that people who have never met a pit bull type dog discriminate against them. One of my own family members, a person who loves dogs, made a discriminating statement against them just the other day. This really ticked me off because she hasn't ever met a pit bull, never mind one that has bitten anyone. Of course I imediatly shake my head not & give feed back of pit bulls who have come out of abused situations whom are family members now (ie: the Victory dogs). It also makes me sad when someone clearly owns a pit bull type dog will say that there breed is not pit bull but something else based on one characteristic. I say take the dog for what they are. We as owners make the dog NOT the breed.

    1. "It also makes me sad when someone clearly owns a pit bull type dog will say that there breed is not pit bull but something else based on one characteristic."

      Haha, I'm sure people think this about me when they ask what my dogs are, and I say Badger is a Cocker Spaniel/Border Collie mix and Mushroom is a Lab/terrier mix. I mostly just don't want to face strangers' judgement and have that turn a pleasant walk sour. Hopefully I'll have the guts to come out of the pitbull closet eventually.

    2. There is no real good way for us to know what our mutts are; even DNA tests aren't 100% conclusive. I now label Alfred as a "pit bull-type" because I've accepted that there's nothing wrong with that (although I'm not sure he's the best breed ambassador...), but it's entirely possible that he may be part boxer, bulldog, or any other number of breeds. Most importantly, whatever breed he may be, he's still my dog and I love him a bunch. :)

  2. The issue of BSL is so overwhelming to me. Your decisions to get involved and be an advocate for the breed and your dogs is a wonderful one. My love for my dogs and desire to protect them is what led me to rescue efforts as well.

    1. Emily, it is totally overwhelming. I found myself re-writing this post 10 times because I kept going off on tangents trying to prove how ridiculous the whole thing is. The crazy thing is, I think Alfred would be a TERRIBLE advocate for any breed, but it's not his pit bull-ness that makes him that's just that he's a spaz. :)

  3. What a great post (and thanks for sharing a Zoe photo - made my day!!!). As someone who has been bitten in the face by twice by two different Cocker Spaniels AND had a Golden Retriever lunge at my face, I take dog bites seriously. (I had bad luck as a kid! Only one of those bites was my fault - I woke our sleeping dog and startled her). However, BSL is clearly not the solution! Thanks for the post!