breed discrimination

To Err Is Human

Humans are exceptionally complex beings. The same can also be said for other species who we coexist together with on this planet, especially those we share our homes with, such as dogs. 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 and 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/types 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, special containment, among others) or an outright ban, and can be implemented at every level of government – Federal (i.e. Military bans), the State, or local municipality (county, city, town, etc.).

In other countries, it can be implemented in a region of land independently governed – i.e. 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, to name a world example. Branched off of the actual laws (as in, legislation), there is also policy that can and has discriminated towards one or more breeds/types of dog, including the insurance (home and rental) and housing industries, as well as animal boarding/grooming corporate 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 even racial, prejudice), due to the way laws work where you cannot draft legislation that discriminates against a protected class…Dog owners are not 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 not for the subjective law) are impacted – at times even with the loss of their own life. None of this, mind you, is due to how that individual dog actually behaved, but simply because their physical appearance resembles that of a targeted dog – We should all hope to be defined by only 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/type, the real life situations of families and their pets affected are anything but funny. They’re downright scary.

This morning, I drove to the local grocery store near me – Giant Eagle in Parma, Ohio (the city of Parma has a ban of “pit bull” dogs since the 80’s) to pick up a few items needed to make breakfast for me and my three dogs. It’s an every weekend ritual we do. 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. And then, 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 below with photographs of breed specific dogs to attract those who adore those certain breeds.

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

Clearly this was 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.

But, through this, there’s a strong argument that can be made which shows the very reason these laws and policies are inept – human error. Additionally, animal control departments serve primarily one function – to keep the city safe from potentially dangerous dogs and other animals.

If we are to truly be serious and want to protect our communities from dangerous dogs, we need general, breed-neutral dog laws, with an emphasis on behavior, so the focus doesn’t get sidetracked from the actual problem.

Our first widespread initiative at WOOFobia is focusing the attention on removing any law or policy that singles-out any dog by looks alone, in any place around the world, to help ensure all dogs are judged on a level playing field, and to secure and celebrate the all-important Human-Canine Bond. Because, killing innocent family dogs who have done no wrong, is something that does not deserve forgiveness, and should be placed in the history books with all other forms of discrimination and intolerance.

There just is no rational or logical reason for the law – short of fear-based propaganda. We invite you to join us in this fight. To collaborate and/or volunteer, Contact Us HERE!

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