breed discrimination

To Err Is Human

Humans are exceptionally complex beings. The same can also be said for other species who we coexist together on this planet, especially those we share our homes with, such as dogs and other pets. In its simplest form, like us, they are not only in the world, but aware and conscious of it. They are sentient individuals who depend on the same basic principles for survival as we do – air to breathe, food to eat, and water to drink.  Also like us, they desire shelter, companionship, freedom of movement, and the avoidance of pain.

But, too often, we attempt to simplify and compartmentalize individuals by broad, sweeping generalizations, regularly by stereotyping by appearance or physical traits. We do this naturally to be more efficient in life by fitting everything into neat, little boxes, to help satisfy our intuition to quickly analyze, and possibly predict our world around us, to avoid a potential threat to our well-being. These mental shortcuts we learn from family, friends, peers and other influences, such as the media, are a result of how we process and communicate “knowledge”, especially those with negative associations – whether we are directly or indirectly affected by them.

There are many examples that can be found where an accident is not a matter of life and death. We chalk it up to “To Err Is Human”, which is used to exonerate any fault or blame, and say – “No harm, no foul”. But, what about cases where zero error in judgement is imperative and expected, and comes with a price if an when it does occur?

Laws like Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) – or breed discrimination (BDL) to be more accurate, which target certain breeds or types of dogs as inherently vicious at birth, are found in all 3 types of developed human settlements – urban, rural and suburban environments. They can include one or more targeted breeds of canine, which almost always includes at least “Pit Bull” dogs. Here in the United States, these laws can be enforced as a restriction (i.e…liability insurance, public muzzling, among others) or a ban, and be implemented at the top branch of government (Federal – entire country), state, or municipality (local – county, city, town, etc.).

In other countries, it can be implemented in a region of land independently governed called a Province, as is the case with Ontario, Canada; or in places like the United Kingdom, which incorporates 4 separate countries – England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, among other examples around the world.

Branched off of the actual laws, there’s also policy that has discriminated towards one or more breeds/types of dog, including the insurance (home and rental) and housing industries, as well as animal boarding, as well as other policies. These laws enacted by government are oftentimes used as a tool by law enforcement and humane agencies, directed at specific classes of people (social or racial prejudice), due to the way laws work where you cannot discriminate on a protected class, but dog owners aren’t a protected class.

There’s internet memes that have become running jokes about the inability to accurately identify dogs via visual identification alone. These images display half a dozen or so images of various items and all are labeled ‘Pit Bull” beneath them to comically show the plight of the cause.

The chore to enforce and carry out the laws are often bestowed upon the the local municipality’s Animal Control Department, which frequently produces subjective identification practices, and otherwise innocent dogs (if for not the law) are impacted – at times with the loss of their life. None of this, mind you, is due to how the individual dog behaved, which is something we all hope to be defined by – what we do, say and how we act.

Although the following scenario presented below humorously characterizes the failure of enforcement and makes a case against the laws and policies which identify dogs as vicious due to breed (or type), the real life situations of people and their family members affected are anything but funny. They’re downright scary.

This morning, I drove to the local grocery store to pick up a few items needed to make breakfast for me and my three dogs. It’s an every weekend ritual we do…after all, we are creatures of habit. First, I went to the produce section and grabbed some bananas, then ventured to the bread and dairy aisles to grab English muffins and butter spread. On towards the checkout registers I then went.

Passing through, I stopped at a rack that had an assortment of pet related items, like the dog bowls with photographs of breed specific dogs to attract those who adore certain breeds below.

First, there was one with PUG on the side, and a photo of a typical looking Pug inside.
Next, BICHON, with a typical Bichon Frise…
LAB, with a typical black Labrador Retriever puppy…
A BOXER with a typical Boxer…
Then, AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD, with a typi-…{abrupt record scratch sound}, Say what?!?

Now, I understand that this can also go against me, because I am looking at a photo of a dog and also visually identifying the breed, but I’d like to think in no way would someone say this dog inside the bowl conforms to an Australian Shepherd (see AKCs photo).

Clearly this was a human error at the manufacturing plant these bowls are mass produced at. Nobody got harmed. We can all have a good chuckle at the expense of them. There’s always tomorrow to correct this mistake.

With this, there’s a strong argument that can be made which shows the very reason these laws and policies are inept – human error. On top of that, animal control departments serve primarily one function – to keep the city safe from potentially dangerous dogs and other animals. Nowhere in their job description does it give them formal training to identify dogs by breed, and nowhere in their job description is it needed.

If we are to truly protect our communities from dangerous dogs, we need generic, breed-neutral, dog laws, so the focus doesn’t get sidetracked on the actual problem. Our first initiative at WOOFobia is focusing the attention on removing any law or policy that singles out a type of dog in places around the world, and helping to ensure all dogs are judged on a level playing field to secure the Human-Canine Bond. Because killing innocent family dogs is something that does not deserve forgiveness.

We invite you to help join us in this fight. To collaborate and volunteer, Contact Us HERE!

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