On Tuesday the 27th of September, the City of Montreal in Quebec, Canada grabbed their floatie, jumped into the tumultuous pool of desperation and decided to ban specific breeds of dogs. Only a few were named specifically in the legislation, and not surprisingly, they were the American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, The American Pit Bull Terrier; more importantly, they threw in that anything that bears any physical resemblance to one of these breeds will also be put under the umbrella of the listed restrictions.
As is typical in cities that pursue these bans, currently owned animals are usually granted a stay, and their owners are required to meet certain standards of care that involve documentation, alteration, and additional accessories while in public like muzzles and short leashes. Definitely doable for any responsible pet owner; most of those requirements like vaccination, registration, alteration, and microchipping should have already been fulfilled anyway. Teaching a dog to tolerate a muzzle and be walked on a leash is a far better option than euthanasia. The true antipathy of these determinations lies in what happens to the stray and unwanted pit bull type mixes that pour into shelters and rescues daily. The government has chosen to order immediate destruction of unowned animals that bear resemblance to any breed listed in their ban; no adoptions. One can only imagine the horrendous position this puts animal control officers and veterinarians in. You can only stretch “lab mix” so far.
Toronto passed a similar ban more than a decade ago, and likes to think that it was successful, which to a certain extent it was in regards to decreasing the population of registered and responsibly owned bully breeds, and documented bites by the breed. This success is arguable from many angles. It is reported that the instances of dog bites and attacks has actually risen since the ban was instilled, because it turns out that other types of dogs can actually bite. People couldn’t have pit bulls, so they got rottweilers and american bulldogs instead, so the percentages are changing. And the majority of the dogs that met the physical description (that’s the one and only attribute used by these bans, what the animal looks like) of an undesirable or restricted breed were simply shipped out of city limits, ironically to Quebec, whose largest metropolis has now decided they don’t want them either. Montreal is already making plans on where to ship their overflow of dogs to avoid this newly birthed “forced euthanasia”. Eventually it may even be here, because, you know, if there’s one thing that animal shelters in the US are lacking, it’s a robust population of unwanted bully breed mix dogs. Bully breed mixes are the most often irresponsibly owned and relinquished animals we come across. That is not a coincidence, and is also for a different post.
Of course Breed Specific Legislation is horrendous. No one hates it more than ACOs. Making something illegal doesn’t make it disappear, and doesn’t even come close to addressing any of the misguided fear and anger associated with dogs in general and the many BSL advocates that want specific breeds gone. I have no intention or desire with this post to get into that aspect of the fight against bully breed dogs, at least directly. What I do find consuming my thoughts and therefore want to take a moment to address are the zealots of these bully breeds themselves, the self proclaimed advocates, extremists, warriors of the breeds. The Lexus lemmings, the Facebook fanatics, the Gofundme guardians.
We all know the extreme bully breed advocates, the diehard supporters of the Mickeys, McLovins, Onions, the Kleos and Katos, and I’m here to say that BSL is the monster that they have helped create. Their aggressive rants, expensive law suits, and vicious hatred spewed at those who disagree with how dogs that display instability should be handled has done more harm than good to their supposed cause. Instead of focusing their efforts and resources on the thousands of unwanted dogs that are exceptional examples of the breed, they pour time, money, emotion, and valuable resources into desperate cases, fighting tooth and nail to save animals that have already proven to be troubled and dangerous. When another bad apple falls from the tree and makes the news (and every breed has bad apples, they say so themselves when trying to take focus off the dog in question), a tidal wave of angry advocates flood social media either justifying the dog’s behavior based on a presumed abusive past or outright blaming of the victim for somehow encouraging or inviting the incident to occur. By the tens of thousands, individuals who have never even been in the same room with the dog in question, (which is now famous because it is being held at a facility after attacking or killing someone/something), collectively gather their now professional opinions and swear by the dog’s social temperament, emotional health, and psychological stability. For good measure a substantial amount of the animal’s supporters also demean and criticize anyone who doesn’t agree with them in the process. Death threats fly. Personal attacks border on terroristic threats. Any attempt at an intelligent discussion involving facts and experiences is quickly derailed with expletives, screaming via caps lock, and a disturbing monologue of the torture they would inflict on you or your own personal animals if they knew where you lived. This is not advocacy. This is blind extremism; it is misguided, brash, counterproductive, and incredibly damaging to the face of the breed and our fight against breed discrimination as a whole.
And guess who is usually at the center of the bullseye…not the irresponsible owners, not the backyards breeders. Not the abusers, the dumpers, the fighters. No, it’s the officers, the agencies charged with cleaning up the mess, photographing the injuries, bagging the bodies, taking the reports, enforcing the laws, and holding the animal while awaiting the judge’s decision on what to do with it. Even though the overwhelming majority of us behind the badge are the animal’s greatest true advocates and work the absolute hardest to do right by them, the scapegoat of the bully movement losing ground is always animal control. Because we will step up to an animal, of ANY BREED, and say this isn’t right, this isn’t okay, this individual animal is not healthy nor safe, this individual animal needs to be relieved of his suffering and not shoved back into a society that refuses to acknowledge or chooses to ignore his condition. Only a true advocate can make this type of decision.
By forcing on others the idea that behaviors such as killing other animals and mauling children when they walk to close to a chew toy should be both expected and accepted by the general public, and that animals that display this propensity have a right to not only life but fame as breed ambassadors well, they are actually pushing people further from tolerance and directly into the welcoming arms of hatred for the animals they are trying to defend. When they repeatedly put public safety on the back burner and choose instead to celebrate the lives of animals that have clearly demonstrated their inability to react appropriately and safely in everyday situations, it’s time to reanalyze what’s really being accomplished. Minds are not being changed in the direction you think they are.
It’s time for some people to put down the Koolaid, stand up and say enough is enough. We cannot save them all, we have to look at the bigger picture instead of one tiny frame, and shoving another ticking time bomb down America’s throat is not going to do society or their perception of that animal’s breed any favors. If you can’t trust the experts to weed out the bad ones, it’s no wonder that society in some areas has decided to attempt elimination as a whole. You’ve had your chance over and over again to do the responsible thing by not only the individual animal but the breed it represents; over and over again you’ve blown it.
In the upcoming efforts to have the Montreal decisions overturned, let’s hope that the advocates put serious thought into sharing their opinions in an intelligent and constructive manner, and not simply continue down the road of denial and aggression that, in my opinion, has unfortunately helped bring many to this juncture in the first place.