Thursday, December 18, 2014

Breed-specific legislation

2/12/2014

Let me tell you Lennox’s story.

Born in Belfast, Ireland, Lennox spent two painful years locked away from his family who fought hard for him every step of the way. He was a pit bull-type dog who was the “bestest friend” of Brooke Barnes, the 11-year-old special needs daughter of the family who owned him. Lennox was condemned to die, not because he had done anything to anyone, but simply because he looked a certain way. Wardens invaded the Barnes’ family home, measured Lennox’s snout and legs with a dressmaker’s tape, and determined that he was a dangerous pit bull type dog.

Let me tell you Lennox’s story.

Born in Belfast, Ireland, Lennox spent two painful years locked away from his family who fought hard for him every step of the way. He was a pit bull-type dog who was the “bestest friend” of Brooke Barnes, the 11-year-old special needs daughter of the family who owned him. Lennox was condemned to die, not because he had done anything to anyone, but simply because he looked a certain way. Wardens invaded the Barnes’ family home, measured Lennox’s snout and legs with a dressmaker’s tape, and determined that he was a dangerous pit bull type dog.

Over the next two years, while a legal battle that became international news was waged to free Lennox, the Belfast City Council ignored expert opinions that Lennox was not a dangerous dog; ignored proof that he had never bitten anyone or shown any signs of aggression. The world saw heartbreaking pictures of this unfortunate but beloved family pet in captivity with bald patches on him where hair had fallen off because of extreme stress. The wardens who pronounced Lennox to be dangerous were photographed with him, with their arms around him while he licked their faces.

Those who own pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs are accustomed to dealing with a strong stigma against their dogs. While there are indeed stories online that deal with bites caused by pit bulls, as well as other breeds, there are just as many stories, if not even more, that tell us of the good pit bull dogs have done — testimonies by owners who tell us that their dogs are loving and loyal, harmless and valued family members. Pit bulls do not possess any specific genes that give them a propensity to bite, nor are they inherently vicious. Since pit bull-type dogs are not incriminated in controlled studies, it is difficult to endorse the targeting of pit bulls as a basis for dog bite prevention.

Research, including that conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association, has concluded that there is no evidence to prove that one breed of dog is more dangerous than another. Furthermore, the Humane Society of the United States affirms that there is no evidence that breed-specific legislation has ever been successful in preventing dog bites. The National Animal Control Association Guideline Statement makes clear that: “Dangerous and/or vicious animals should be labeled as such as a result of their actions or behavior and not because of their breed.” American Bar Association, animal rescue groups, the Centers for Disease Controland Preventation have all determined that breed-specific legislation is ineffective. Seventeen states have eliminated breed-specific legislation; six states — Missouri, Maryland, Utah, South Dakota, Washington, and Vermont — currently are considering lifting their bans.

• Tulsa, July 2008 — A baby boy left unattended in a swing was mauled and killed by a 6-month-old Lab, the breed most commonly known to be one of the most family and child friendly breeds, and which has never been a target of breed-specific legislation.

• Then Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 8, 2014 — A baby girl was killed by Shiba Inus, a small dog not known to cause harm.

Incidents such as these prove that any dog bite can result in a tragedy. Yet, it is the pit bull breed that faces discrimination.

Consider Lennox’s fate once again: Lennox was destroyed in July 2012. A living, breathing being that now is no more than a statistic. He had never bitten anyone nor done anything wrong. They killed the best friend of an 11-year-old girl with disabilities for no reason other than the fact that they “believed” he was dangerous.

No mercy for Lennox. No mercy for Brooke nor the Barnes family.

They did not even have the decency to let the family be there with him when they murdered him, or hand his body back to them.

Lennox’s story proves beyond any doubt that breed-specific legislation is evil; it does not work; it kills innocent family pets. It stands testimony to the fact that regulations targeting a certain breed of dogs does not work. It is expensive to enforce and kills innocent family pets, not based on their actions but on their looks.

— Sayanti Ganguly Puckett, Ottawa

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