The Good Fight

August 9, 2012  

StubbyDog speaks with Jodi Preis about fighting breed-discriminatory legislation

By Micaela Myers, originally posted on July 11, 2011

(Photos by Melissa Lipani)

In celebration of independence, StubbyDog is spending the month of July focusing on the subject of fighting breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL), also called breed-specific legislation (BSL). As part of our comprehensive coverage, StubbyDog chatted with Jodi Preis, founder of Bless the Bullys and National Pit Bull Awareness Day, and moderator of the FightBSL listserv for a Q and A about her work and how citizens can help fight BDL.

StubbyDog: How did you get involved personally with the fight against BDL?

Jodi Preis: In 2005, the town of Hohenwald, Tenn. proposed a ban on pit bulls. Up until that time, I knew that BDL existed, but I didn’t know much more than that, let alone how you fight it. Even though I didn’t know where Hohenwald was, it was unfathomable to me that you could take someone’s loved, well behaved and well cared for family pet away simply because of the way he or she looked. I wanted to prevent (or at least try to prevent) that ordinance from passing, but I was clueless on what to do or where to start. I did a lot of reading on the Internet and reached out to people who maintained BDL websites, and they guided me through the process.

Sitting in the conference room when the city council took the vote on the ordinance, and the “no” votes won, was such an incredible rush. Several people addressed the council, and together we made a difference. It was an amazing feeling of accomplishment. It didn’t matter that the ordinance wouldn’t have affected my dogs or me – it would have affected responsible dog owners and good dogs, and that was (and is) just unacceptable.

SD: Can you tell us about the listserv you manage? How did it get started and how does it work?

JP: I started the Yahoo group FightBSL after my experience in Hohenwald. I wanted to keep track of breed-discriminatory legislation across the country, and I found most of the listservs at that time were a mix of several different animal law related issues. I wanted to create a list that was solely about BDL. Not that the other issues aren’t important, but for me personally, I think it’s too difficult to fight every single animal law related battle and be able to do it well. Choose your battle, learn all you can about it, and throw your heart into the fight.

The number one priority of FightBSL is to distribute alerts and news related to breed-discriminatory legislation, as well as the incidents that give rise to BDL. It’s not a lighthearted chat area … it can be pretty overwhelming, but its information that needs to get out so people can act on it. The list has several members who I consider experts, and it’s a great place to learn from them and stay updated on BDL across the country.

SD: For people that want to get involved in fighting BDL, what can they do (i.e. write letters to the officials listed on the listserv posts)?

JP: I think the question we most often hear is, “Should I write a letter even if I don’t live there?” The answer is yes. It’s really important to put yourself in the shoes of the people the proposed legislation would affect. If it were your town being targeted, you would welcome the united efforts of other dog owners behind you. One of the key things to remember is that regardless of whether it’s your town or not, breed-discriminatory ordinances do not create safer communities, and community safety is a concern to us all. In addition, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be polite and respectful in all your communication with officials.

The website defendingdog.com has talking points, tips for appearance at council meetings as well as other useful information.

But you can also fight BDL before it becomes an issue in your town. Advocate for responsible dog ownership and enforcement of current laws on the books; volunteer with a shelter, humane society, breed club or responsible dog owners’ group to offer educational programs to the community; and most importantly, be a good role model and make your dog a good canine citizen.

SD: Do you have any advice for people fighting BDL in their own community?

JP: Open up the lines of communication between you and your city officials. Be polite and respectful. Offer assistance in developing an ordinance that targets irresponsible dog owners rather than breeds of dogs. Offer relevant statistics (i.e., if your town has 5,000 residents, don’t talk about costs or offer alternative ordinances for a city that has 100,000 residents). Talk to city officials and animal control to try to find out what the core problem is and tackle it with them.

If you live in a town that has BDL, try to get the issue on the city council agenda and see if they are willing to open up discussions and the possibility of repeal. You’ll never know unless you try.

SD: For people traveling with their pit bulls, is it risky to travel through areas with BDL?

JP: The laws are different everywhere, so its best to map out where you are traveling and where you plan to stop. Some cities with BDL allow you to travel through with a “pit bull,” and some don’t. Planning out your route is a little extra effort, but it’s always best to be safe than sorry.

SD: Lastly, for people that would like to see which areas are currently impacted by BDL, what are some good websites or resources?

JP: rott-n-chatter.com and understand-a-bull.com

(Jodi Preis and her dogs – Photo courtesy of Jodi Preis)

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Comments

3 Responses to “The Good Fight”
  1. Anne says:

    Once again, thank you, Stubby Dog, for this important interview. I’m forwarding the link to key people I know who’ve suggested BDL as a solution to recent dog attacks in the San Diego area.

  2. StubbyDog says:

    @Anne Thank you Anne, we hope it’s helpful in fighting BDL.

  3. Love the last picture, their ears are the best!