We lost the battle yesterday. We did not defeat the uneducated and fearful voters in Dade County, We staged a valiant effort through emails and social networking, but we lost this battle.
We have not, however, lost the war.
On my main page I make the statement, "only through education and legislation will we stop the needless killing of homeless animals." I still believe this to be true.
Miami, for some reason, has always marched to the tune of its' own drummer. They proved it again yesterday and so the war continues.
This state of my father and forefathers has always had a huge disparity in educated and illiterate, wealthy and poor, rural and urban. It is painfully obvious we need a lot more education on dog behavior to be carried to the masses. The ones who actually believe most newspaper headlines and think of pitbulls as raging, killing machines, designed only to attack women and children while killing other dogs and small animals. The disparagement of the breed continues to run rampant among newspapers, not only from the undeducated editors but to the reporters who tell the story. The old adage, "If it bleeds, it leads,"~Marshall McLuhan, still holds true today much like it did during the days of Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hurst and yellow journalism.
Twenty three years ago a child was mauled by a dog in Miami. She was eight years old. The dog was unleashed and attacked her while she was in her driveway. This was a tragic accident but could have been caused by any other large breed dog. What happened to the owner? Why was the dog running loose? This is what preempted the ban in Dade County. People have not forgotten.
In April, a two month old child was attacked and killed by a family dog. The dog was a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. In Nevada, a Mastiff/Ridgeback killed a one year old at his birthday party and in Virginia a Jack Russell terrier mauled a 20 day old infant. Three tragedies in one month. Should we ban Labradors and Golden Retrievers? What about JRTs. Do you own a Mastiff or a Ridgeback? Did you even read about this in any Florida newspaper? These dogs were NOT pitbulls.
Holding owners responsible for their dogs is one step we need to take. Educating parents and children is another. For some reason, these two simple steps have fallen by the wayside in the last thirty years. It is much easier to blame an animal than to hold parents and pet owners accountable.
Two stories come to mind which actually happened to me. These illustrate the state of personal responsibility.
Several years ago when I was going through a divorce, my husband and I owned two beautiful, purebred Rottweilers. It was decided that I would take both dogs. My ex-husband was very sick at the time with lung cancer and had no strength to control the dogs. Before the house was sold, he was living in it with the two dogs. He decided to take them both for a walk at the same time. As they were walking down the road, an older gentleman walked to closely to John and my female nipped him on his calf as he was walking by. I am sure she thought she needed to protect her master but she did leave marks on the gentleman's leg. He reported to the police department and the next thing I knew, I received a call about the dogs.
Manatee County Animal Services came to my house to retrieve both animals. (The man could not distinguish between the animals so both had to be quarantined for ten days.) I had to load my dogs in the truck, pay the county for ten days of quarantine, and provide the county with all their veterinary paperwork.
After the ten day period, I went to pick up my babies. The employees at animal control could not believe either one of my dogs had bitten someone because they were such gentle, loving creatures. I believe Jessie thought she was protecting John. I believe she knew he was sick and thought the old man walking was a threat to him. I did the responsible thing, paid for it and then boarded the dogs until I could move into my house in Sarasota, There was never another incident, it didn't make the papers and the dogs lived long after that.
When I was volunteering at the humane society and working with shelter dogs, the local television station sent a very young reporter out to do a story on our training program. I was working with a pitbull/English Bulldog mix named Munson. Many of the dogs we were working with were pitbull mixes. This young reporter was absolutely petrified of all of the dogs. I am talking shaking in her shoes, don't let that dog near me scared. All because of their breed. She had never been around dogs in general and had read so many horror stories about pitbulls she was scared. Now why would a television station send a reporter who is scared of dogs to do a story on them? Do you think some of her bias against the breed might show through?
I, being the person I am, introduced her to each of the animals she would be speaking about. I managed to get her to actually pet Munson and her story was done with no bias at all. It brought the agency many new volunteers and as far as I know, all the dogs featured found good homes and are still living today. That is education. It could have gone the other way.
Please continue to try and educate people and especially children. Make sure your county holds owners responsible, not dogs. Vote on animal issues. Let your representatives know how you feel. Don't become angry with people who don't agree with you. Speak in a calm, controlled manner and attempt to educate. Discuss with facts, not beliefs. We must continue to fight against BSL in a reasonable, educated manner even when we are seething inside.