On Pit Bull ‘Attacks,’ Naughty Cats and Other Topics

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The longer I live, the more I hate people.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

OK, that’s not entirely accurate. Let’s just say the longer I live, the less tolerance I have for human stupidity. And considering I that I never had much tolerance for that in the first place, that’s saying a lot.

So you’re probably wondering what triggered this little rant. Well, a few things to be honest. The first is a news story about a pit bull that recently “attacked” someone on a New York City subway. I put the word “attacked” in quotation marks because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. From what I can gather from the news accounts (which I would never rely upon to draw a conclusion) the owner claims the dog was provoked. Others dispute that. Authorities say the dog is a known menace.

Based on limited information, all I know is this: Something triggered that animal. Perhaps (and I stress perhaps) the person who got bitten did deliberately or inadvertently provoke the dog. Or perhaps the dog was simply stressed by being in a crowded, claustrophobic, noisy environment. Perhaps it was scared, or overstimulated by being in that subway car. I mean, let’s be honest. Riding the New York City subway is stressful for a human. Imagine how overwhelming it must be for any animal.

No, I am not making excuses. Frankly, I think the whole entire situation is inexcusable. I don’t care if it really is a “service animal” (which is another topic for another blog). That dog should never have been put in that situation. Ever. Period. End. Of. Story.

Allowing that to happen  was clearly a recipe for disaster. It was irresponsible. And it was sad. It was sad because that owner should have known better — and if he didn’t he never should have been allowed to have the dog in the first place. It was sad because human stupidity may very well cost that dog its life.

Bad cat, or stupid people?

But that’s not all that’s bugging me. I’m also annoyed about a recent Facebook conversation with one of my cousins. To sum it up, she made a post about the action she planned to take against a neighbor’s cat that had used her garden as its personal latrine. I believe she mentioned the use of a  “super-soaker”  at least once.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand why she’s upset — especially since she has young children and there is clearly a double-standard regarding dogs and cats in her community. However, the point I made when I joined the discussion is that the cat is just being a cat. I seriously doubt that it has any malicious intent. That being stated, I as I also told my cousin, the owners are being irresponsible idiots by letting the cat run around unsupervised. In other words, don’t blame the animal. Blame the people.

As pet owners or pet “parents,” we are responsible for our animals. As long as they are in our lives, we are responsible for all aspects their health and well-being. We’re responsible for keeping them out of trouble… and like it or not, we’re responsible for their behavior. After all, we’re the ones with the consciences, and ability to reason. Allegedly.

Paws up, don’t shoot!

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These days, much is made about fatal or near-fatal encounters between police officers and civilians — and rightly so. However, there are other stories that don’t get as much publicity. These are the stories about the lethal or near-lethal encounters between police officers and “dangerous” dogs.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Most — but not all — of these encounters tend to occur when the officer is on or approaching someone’s property.  Sadly, these stories usually end badly — for the dogs.

For example, as reported by Red Alert Politics, a Minnesota police officer recently shot two family pets, both of which are also emotional support animals.  The officer allegedly shot one of the dogs, a Staffordshire terrier, in the face, causing serious injuries.

“Jennifer LeMay, the dogs’ owner, released security footage of the shooting. The video shows an officer climbing over a seven-foot tall fence and entering the yard housing two Staffordshire terriers,” according to media accounts.

“The officer backpedaled and drew his gun as Circo ran towards him. The dog stopped about five feet in front of the man, then, wagging his tail, slowly approached the officer.  The officer shot the first dog in the face, which fell and fled, and then shot multiple times at the second dog, Rocko, which briefly ran into the camera footage.”

Police claim the dog “charged” at the officer, prompting the use of force.

LeMay emphatically refutes that claim, however.

“He was wagging his tail,” LeMay said about Ciroc. “My dog wasn’t even moving, lunging toward him or anything.”

“My dogs were doing their job on my property,” she continued. “We have a right to be safe in our yard.”

In a Facebook post following the incident, the Minneapolis police chief called for an investigation and said the department “will be implementing updated mandatory training specifically for officers identifying effective tools and tactical strategies with police and dog encounters.”

Meanwhile, the LeMay family is faced with thousands in veterinary bills stemming from the injuries to both dogs. LeMay is reportedly pursuing legal recourse.

But there is hope. Another article tells another story. In this case, the officer did the right thing.

According to the account, “Oklahoma police officer Storm Barrett responded to a call about two angry pit bulls who were running wild in a busy area of El Reno. Luckily, the former dog handler knew exactly what to do. Instead of trying to use force, Officer Barrett got up onto the hood of his cruiser. He pulled a bystander onto the car with him.”
Concerned that the dogs could harm children at a nearby school, Barrett distracted them until backup arrived.
“Both dogs were captured ten minutes later and returned to their owner – who was given a citation for allowing the dogs to get loose,” the report states.

Making a case against breed-specific legislation

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Not too long ago, I did a post about Sir Patrick Stewart and his pit bull, Ginger. As you may recall, Stewart and his wife are fostering the dog, but can’t adopt her because breed specific laws in the U.K. are preventing them from taking her there.

Their story, which is heartbreaking and heartwarming, made me think about breed specific laws here. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the harshest of these rules and regulations — while well-intentioned — are worthless.

What is breed-specific legislation?

Take me home! A dog up for adoption and an Adopt-a-Dog volunteer. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at the annual Puttin’ on the Dog show in Greenwich last September. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

According to the National Canine Research Council, breed-specific legislation (BSL) or breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL) is “a law or ordinance that prohibits or restricts the keeping of dogs of specific breeds, dogs presumed to be specific breeds, mixes of specific breeds, and/or dogs presumed to be mixes of one or more of those breeds.”

These rules and regulations include but are not limited to:

  • Complete bans
  • Mandatory spay/neuter
  • Muzzling
  • Liability insurance requirements
  • Mandatory micro-chipping and/or tattoos
  • Age requirements for those who own or walk certain types of dogs
  • Exclusion from some public places
  • Training requirements
  • Submission of photograph(s) and additional identifying information to the relevant authority/authorities.

Taking aim at ‘dangerous dogs’

Some of these laws are reasonable — and unfortunately, some are necessary. Those that promote responsible pet ownership, public education and awareness, can actually be effective.

But sadly, most of the harshest breed-specific laws are knee-jerk reactions to tragic incidents involving alleged dog “attacks.”

Because the victims are often children, the incidents resulting in permanent injuries or — in the most horrible circumstances — death, grab national headlines and there is a rush to judgment before all of the facts are known. Bowing to public pressure, ignorant but well-meaning lawmakers create sweeping laws that are designed to “protect” the public.

The reality is that these laws target entire groups of dogs based on the actions of a few. according to an article on onegreenplanet.org, the “dangerous dog” breeds often targeted by breed-specific laws are:

  • Pit bulls (not an actual breed)
  • American bulldogs
  • Mastiffs
  • Dalmatians
  • Chow Chows
  • German Shepherds
  • Doberman Pinscher

Other breeds also make the list, according to the article. In fact, the author maintains, some of these laws can even affect Chihuahuas. Personally, I find it sad, but not surprising. It seems these laws are designed any type of dog that has a tendency to bite.

That being stated, I’ve never been bitten by a Chihuahua. But I did get bitten by my ex-husband’s yellow Lab-cross.  And I still have the scar to prove it…

Collateral damage

The saddest part of this whole situation is that a lot of these laws have drastic, if unintended consequences.

Prospective adopters had lots of dogs to choose from at the annual Puttin on the Dog show in Greenwich last fall. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
Pick me! An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at Puttin’ on the Dog in Greenwich. September 2015. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Breed-specific laws create a huge burden for animal welfare and rescue groups in two significant ways. They force people to surrender or “dump” their dogs, and make those dogs harder to place. Trust me, I know. I volunteered with a rescue group for years (and still do, on a limited basis).

Worse yet, these laws result in needless, senseless, pointless deaths. Whole groups of dogs are slaughtered. Because they “look” dangerous. Because they belong to a breed prone to “aggressive tendencies.” Or for no reason, whatsoever.

Now here’s where I get really angry, and the post gets controversial.

What if we did this to people. What if we decided that a whole group of people was “dangerous” based on the actions of a few? And what if we decided to restrict where this entire “dangerous” race lived or made them wear identifying clothing, or worse yet, decided to wipe them off the face of the earth?

Oh, wait… humans have done something like that from time to time, haven’t we? Why not all that long ago, the President of the United States tried to prohibit entire groups of people from certain countries from coming here just because a few Muslim extremists from that part of the world have engaged in terrorism.

Look at the outrage that created.

I rest my case.