I LOVE pit bulls and I HATE discrimination, so I’m sure you can easily figure out where I stand when it comes to breed-specific legislation (also known as BSL).  Since last March, I have had the pleasure of working with more pibbles than I can count, day in and day out at the animal shelters that I have volunteered with.  My love affair started during my time at BARCS and continues today at Charleston Animal Society.  Someday, when I have more free time, my goal is to start a bully breed rescue here in Charleston.  I do not tolerate discrimination against anyone or anything.  I am passionate about responsible pet ownership.  I will voice my opinion and stand my ground when it comes to the treatment of animals in general and dogs in particular.  I consider myself voice for the animals and I will always stand up for them.  Especially my beloved pibbles.

This is Harvey, an amazing dog who was brought into BARCS last year by Animal Control. He was found in the basement of an abandoned building, malnourished, neglected, and with a severely embedded collar. His skin had been eaten away by the fleas that covered his body. This beautiful boy is the poster child of resilience and is thriving with his foster family in Baltimore. He looks fantastic, gets along well with other dogs, and is still searching for his forever home.

With that said, I’ve wanted to put together a blog post for a while now about my views on BSL.  In light of the tragic ending to Lennox‘s story in Northern Ireland, I think now is a great opportunity to get on my soap box and educate those of you who may not be familiar with BSL.

Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is legislation that bans or restricts certain types of dogs based on their appearance.  Proponents of BSL justify these laws by saying that they are enacted to protect the public from “dangerous dogs” and if you’ve ever tried to rent an apartment before and you own a dog, you probably know what I’m talking about.  Most pet-friendly rental companies will not rent to someone who owns a dog that they consider to be a “dangerous or aggressive breed” – usually this includes breeds like German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, pit bulls, etc.  Most rental companies will not even consider this on a case-by-case basis – it is a sweeping “no” if your dog falls into that category or even just looks like one of those breeds of dog.  Some rental companies will consider it on a case-by-case basis, which is a step in the right direction, but most won’t.

BSL tears families apart.  People are faced with the choice of having a place to live or losing their beloved pet.  Often times, the pet loses out and they wind up at the local animal shelter.  BSL is not helping the over-population in local animal shelter.  In fact, it’s contributing to the problem.  Good, responsible pet owners are forced to give up their pet and leave them at the shelter.  Guess what happens to 60-70% of the animals in an open intake/high kill shelter?  They are euthanized.  Why?  For space.  Dogs that could have otherwise lived a full, beautiful life with their family are killed because they are not allowed to live with their families simply because of the way they look.

This beautiful boy is Black, LB’s original namesake (although LB is now known as Beckham). Every shelter volunteer has a dog like this. A dog they can’t save. Black is MY dog. I will always carry him in my heart. Black was an amazing dog, super laid back, very happy, bomb-proof really. A victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and there was nothing I could do to save his precious life. I fight against BSL in his honor.

BSL doesn’t just apply to rental properties.  In some places, pit bull type dogs are banned completely – no questions asked.  Places like Prince Georges County in Maryland, Miami-Dade County in Florida, and Denver Colorado.   In these areas, animal control will actively seek out these dogs and if they are found, they are immediately destroyed.  Again, families are forced to either move to another area (leaving their jobs and friends behind) or risk having their beloved pet killed for looking a certain way.  No one should have to make that choice.

I can’t help but draw the conclusion that this all feels a little reminiscent of the Holocaust, which was the systematic genocide of human beings during World War II that everyone agrees was a disgusting atrocity.  Genocide of any species is deplorable – human or canine – so why do BSL laws continue to exist?  Why do we give our government the power to play God?  What makes them the experts on what a “dangerous breed” is and why do we give them the power to determine the consequences?

BSL is slowly permeating throughout the US.  The media doesn’t do much to dispel the myth about pit bull type dogs.  Pit bull type dogs are villianized in the media with little to no coverage when they do something good, like rescue their family from a fire or save their owner from being hit by a train.  That news isn’t sensational enough to garner media coverage, I guess.  News like this just might make people see that pit bulls are just like any other dog and not dangerous monsters.  We can’t have that now, can we?

Did you know that there is no such thing as a pit bull breed? The term pit bull encompasses several different breeds, mainly the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Often times American Bulldogs, Dogo Argentinos, Bull Mastiffs, Boxers, Cane Corsos, Presa Canarios, Bull Terriers and several other breeds of dog get lumped into this category as well just based on their appearances.

In doing some research for this blog post, I found a really great website about BSL.  They have a list of reasons why BSL doesn’t work and I thought I would list them here.  I couldn’t really say it any better myself, so thank you Stop BSL for compiling this list of reasons and links to more information on the topic.

Reasons Why BSL Doesn’t Work (from www.stopbsl.org):

Unfortunately, these types of discrimination laws will continue to exist until we all take a stand.  Dogs do not have a voice in this matter and the only chance they have is through us.  Don’t sit back and watch things unfold.  DO something.  Our dogs deserve to be treated individually and not judged as a whole based on rumors, myths, and misconceptions.  Breed-specific legislation should not be tolerated, no matter the targeted breed.  Just like humans, dogs are individuals with different personalities and temperaments.  Let’s judge a book by its contents, not by its cover.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”  -Mahatma Gandhi

Lennox, you did not die in vain.  You inspire us to fight harder against BSL and ignorance.  We love you and will continue to educate and fight for you and the millions of other dogs just like you.