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Blog the Change: Dog Breed Discrimination

Blog the ChangeOnce a quarter we participate in the blogging event known as Blog the Change – it’s an opportunity to write about a cause that we are passionate about, to raise awareness and hopefully inspire others to join us in making the world a better place for animals. My topic was all planned, until Talking Dogs Blog’s post on dog breed discrimination popped up in my Facebook feed this morning.

Just reading Sue’s story re-ignited my fire for this fight! Breed discrimination is not only unfair and unjust … it’s ineffective. What’s worse – it equates to a death sentence for many wonderful dogs who could otherwise live happy, loving lives. And for those of us who travel with our dogs, breed discrimination laws can be downright dangerous.

Breed Discrimination: Pet Travel

The effects of Breed Discrimination Laws range from annoying to killer – literally. We’ve been subjected to the annoying end of the spectrum – campgrounds that won’t allow us to stay because of policies imposed by their insurance companies restricting German Shepherds. It’s irritating, but if they don’t like Buster, I don’t want  to spend my time or money there, anyway.

Buster in Newport, RI In other places it’s a lot worse. Denver, Colorado will confiscate a pit bull from your possession and execute it – even if it has never hurt anyone. The province of Ontario, Canada operates much the same way – though a dedicated group of people is working to change that law.

Impacted Breeds

So, what breeds of dogs are affected by these laws? We find the most discriminated against breeds are the Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and German Shepherds, but Akitas, American Bulldogs, Chows, Huskies, Mastiffs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Shar-Pei are also targeted. At one time I started a list of all the breeds subject to restrictions or bans … but I gave up when the list grew longer than 100 breeds. To make matters worse, some of these laws have very broad language that include mixes of the targeted breeds and even dogs that LOOK LIKE the targeted breeds!

Types of Restrictions

If you have an affected breed – or a dog that looks like one – what kinds of restrictions should you expect? Some jurisdictions require owners to carry proof of liability insurance, others say restricted breeds must be muzzled when in public, and some cities, states and provinces have gone so far as to ban dogs of certain breeds from living within their borders. Penalties for violating these restrictions range from fines, to jail, to the confiscation and execution of the dog.

What Can You Do?

  • Follow local initiatives that will affect breed specific laws in your jurisdiction – and get involved! Show up at town meetings and voice your opinion for those beings that can’t speak for themselves.
  • Communicate your views on breed specific laws to your elected officials – and let them know you’ll keep an eye on their record and vote accordingly!
  • Teach your children to be cautious around all unfamiliar dogs – don’t make them afraid of a particular breed.
  • Politely fight the misinformation spewed about affected breeds by re-educating people to remove the bias against any one breed.
  • If you own and love a dog affected by these laws, be sure he’s trained properly so he can be an ambassador for his breed. Sometimes meeting a good example of the breed is what it takes to change a person’s mind.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Dog from Breed Discrimination Laws

Lastly, keep your pet safe while you’re traveling. Here are some steps you can take to avoid any possible conflicts while you’re on the road:

  • Check the following websites for maps of the localities with Breed Discrimination Laws to determine which breeds are restricted:
  • If you will be traveling to or through a jurisdiction with a breed discrimination law, call the local animal control office to get the most current information about the restrictions and requirements.
  • Remember that these websites may not be up to date as the laws are changing constantly, so plan for the unexpected. If your dog is an affected breed, or could be mistaken for one, always be prepared to comply with muzzle, leash, and proof of insurance requirements.
  • If your dog looks like one of the affected breeds, you might consider carrying DNA results from your vet proving your dog’s lineage.
  • If you find that you have inadvertently violated a breed discrimination law, be polite and do your best to bring yourself and your dog into compliance – even if that means immediately leaving the jurisdiction.

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
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Be the Change for Animals (BtC4animals.com) – where everyday advocates band together to make the world a better place for animals.  The goal of BtC4Animals is to ignite and accelerate the change that we can make as individuals.  They highlight one cause per week and provide information on how readers can help.  Blog the Change takes place quarterly.

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