You Can End BDL

July 23, 2012  

Sometimes, all it takes is one person to stand up and speak out against breed-discriminatory legislation

By Kirstyn Northrop Cobb

We all have it. That maternal instinct to protect our babies. And for those of us with furry babies who are discriminated against because of the way they look, well, that instinct can lead to a major passion. If you have a pit bull type dog, you know what it’s like, and after a while, it almost becomes second nature. You know that your little buddy is a sweetie, but you also know that not everyone sees it that way. Dealing with individual people who don’t like your pit bull friend you can deal with, you’re used to it, but laws, that’s a bit different. So, we adjust. We accept that there are some places where we cannot live. But does it have to be that way?

I live in a small town along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. In 2002, they enacted a pit bull ban. Thankfully, I live four houses outside of town limits. So, per the law, my babies were safe, by four houses. So, it didn’t really affect me, or my Gussie. That being said, to take him to the beach or to walk him along the boardwalk was illegal. Did I really obey these laws? No. I fully admit that later in the evening, I would take him for walks along the boardwalk, when I knew that no one would be out. Throughout the years, I would get bolder. We would go to the beach during the day on days that I knew it was not likely to be populated. There were times when people would notice. I was asked (not very nicely) to leave by some people. But this was my baby, and I’m protective, and if my Gussie wants to swim, well, I’m going to take him swimming. Besides, technically, we lived outside of the town limits.

But wait? Why was I just accepting this? Why was I sneaking around? My dog is neutered. My dog is on a leash. I am a responsible dog owner. So, why was I being punished? And how can I be so opposed to breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL) in other areas, but ignore it in my own back yard? Nope, this just wasn’t going to work. So, I wrote a letter to the town council. What could it hurt? My letter was not crazy or emotional. I just stated the facts. BDL is expensive to enforce, and it has no effect on public safety. Any dog can be an issue, regardless of how the dog looks or what breed it is. That’s why dangerous dog laws that hold owners responsible are more effective. It’s also not possible to determine a breed of dog by appearance alone, so they could be punishing Golden Retriever mixes and Beagle mixes. It is also unfair to punish responsible owners and tear families apart because a dog looks a certain way.

My letter was not only accepted, but very effective. I was put on the agenda to speak at the next town meeting. Time to get down to business. Because this is a small town, I thought that it would be best to handle this quietly, so as not to draw a lot of attention to the town and potentially make the council defensive and less likely to work with me. If things did not go well, then I would get loud and start up with petitions and social media outlets. But until then, best to be calm and friendly. So, I reached out to some people in the animal welfare world. Ledy VanKavage wrote a wonderful letter to the town council. I also reached out to the folks at Animal Farm Foundation, and they send visual tools. But, as it turns out, all I needed was my initial letter.

Before I even had the chance to make my presentation, the laws were rewritten. It turns out that no one had thought to challenge them before. The town council that was there now was a whole new town council, and one of them owned a type of dog that has been known to be discriminated against, and he knew exactly where I was coming from. Really, the law was only really on the books because it just was. It turns out that all they needed was motivation to change it.

So, for those of you out there just “accepting” that things are the way that they are, don’t. Sometimes, all it takes is that one person to stand up and say something. That one person could be you!

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6 Responses to “You Can End BDL”
  1. ChefDavidEdelsteinM says:

    Before watching… Take a good long hard look in the mirror!

  2. Fantastic story! Gives me hope that other small towns have these laws just because they were there before and no one has thought to change them.

  3. jmangrum says:

    This is awesome! Maybe one day we can stop this racism and see pit bulls for what they are, just a little one looking for love and nothing else

  4. jmangrum says:

    My town may not be affected by this, however alot of people’s are, and this is why its important to stand up anywhere and everywhere, because we have one common mission, to keep our loved ones without someone coming out and taking them for us. We will have their backs, and maybe some day if this hits us, they will have ours. Working together this can all just be history one day