Thursday, November 1, 2007

16 Reasons to Oppose 17-89

Proposed bill 17-89 gives the D.C. mayor the authority to declare any breed of dog "dangerous," but does not specify any guidelines for doing so.


While there may be certain good elements of animal protection in 17-89, unless the language on the breed-specific prohibitions and restrictions is removed entirely, the entire bill should be opposed for the following reasons:

1. This provision has absolutely nothing to do with purpose of the bill, animal protection. Indeed, it is an extreme form of animal cruelty as innocent dogs will be subjected to extreme measures and maybe even killed under this bill.

2. This provision represents an example of the most abhorrent kind of discrimination and denial of due process. (The human analog is so despicable it is unspeakable.)

3. There is no such thing as a breed of dog that is dangerous per se. There is absolutely no scientific basis anyone has come up with that proves that one breed of dog versus another is more dangerous than another.

4. This bill, with its abhorrent discriminatory provision, overlooks the real fundamental problem of truly dangerous dogs, that is, irresponsible owners. That is where the focus of this bill should be. The longer the city strays from that focus, the more animals will suffer in this city. The city has failed to solve this problem in the past, and is now trying to make up for that by extreme measures that will only worsen things and add to suffering.

5. This provision was sneaked into the professionally-drafted, well-intentioned animal protection bill behind the scenes, as the result of --- speculation has it --- the pet-project of a single city council member who has been trying unsuccessfully for years to ban pit-bull dogs and related mixes from the city . If this is correct, this simply would not be right or ethical.

6. The responsibility for administering this provision would be turned over to the Department of Health (DOH), which is responsible for protecting people from animals and not protecting animals from people. In fact, while the DOH's track record in human health matters is good, its' track record in animal welfare policy is not exactly known to be animal-friendly. How, therefore, can it be trusted with determining whole classes of dangerous dogs when it has already clearly shown that it cannot distinguish between a truly dangerous dog and a dog simply being a dog, as happened in a recent well-publicized case? It is not chartered or staffed to administer effective animal welfare and its contractor, the Washington Humane Society, is powerless to recommend change.* (As an example, recall the recent oppressive restrictions they tried to impose for establishing dogs parks in the city which, before they were overturned as the result of a pubic outcry, would have ruled out any dog parks.) The Department of Health is chartered for protecting human welfare and not animal welfare. We, the public, have to speak up for our animals, indeed, all animals.
* In fact, the irony of this provision is that the new head of the Humane Society herself has a pit bull dog.

7. If the experiences of other municipalities are any guide, this provision would be just the first step on a long slippery slope toward much more stringent and unwarranted animal control measures.

8. Enforcement of this provision of the bill alone would detract from other more important and more successful animal protection and control efforts.

9. This provision will create an enforcement nightmare as one breed preferred by the irresponsible dog-owners is replaced by another and then another. This has already happened and is the reason why the Pit bull is the breed preferred by irresponsible owners today. (Fortunately, it is also preferred by many, many others who are responsible, and that will save the day for this normally gentle breed.)

10. The oppressive specific-breed restriction in the bill is to all intents and purposes an outright ban on certain breeds of dogs from the city (we already know which breed will be first). Putting aside the ethics and reasonableness of this, the constitutionality of that kind of restriction is highly questionable. The city will without a doubt be called on to devote serious resources to defend this provision when the money could be used on other animal --- or human --- welfare matters. (As some know, regardless of which side you may take, this is already happening with another well-known ban imposed by the city.)

11. Passage of this bill will most likely result immediately in all Pit bull-type dogs being declared dangerous, providing the city with a clear conscious to kill all Pit bulls brought into the city pound without having to evade evaluating them for adoptability, as they now do.

12. Do not assume that just because this provision has survived in the bill so far that it must be correct and justified. Recall, if you will, that the City Council just recently found itself in the extremely embarrassing situation (the "emergency" sale of a city library to a developer without public input) where, because of a public outcry, it was forced to repeal legislation it had just passed weeks before. Fortunately, reason does prevail in the City Council, especially when the public, to whom the City Council is accountable, speaks up.

13. Because of the public outcry that is sure to come about if bill 1789 passes with this obnoxious provision in it, much time and effort has already been and will be spent on this by animal advocates and advocates of good government, all because of some back-room bargaining to satisfy one person's long but myopic and ill-founded quest to ban certain dogs (i.e., pit bulls) from the city by whatever means available. That time could have been spent and could be spent on other worthwhile efforts that would reduce animal and human suffering.

14. To the extent that the breed or breeds selected for the Mayor's list of dangerous dogs are housed mainly in specific areas of the city, if there are unique demographics to those areas, that would at best be unfair, at worst unconstitutional.

15. By the City Council's enacting only the authority for the Mayor to declare breeds "dangerous," this very adeptly passes responsibility (and blame) to the popular Mayor, who will then be the one who takes the heat on this. This is not responsible government.

16. Although the breed-specific provision in the bill authorizes the Mayor to declare specific breeds dangerous, it is well known in the city the individual city council members have more of a say in how agencies do their business than might be desirable for the public's interests.

For those who are not convinced about the harm and suffering that a provision such as is proposed will bring about, just look at what happened next door in Prince George's County, which banned one breed (pit bulls and related mixes) from the county, to see the heart-breaking stories of innocent, gentle dogs being forcibly removed from the homes of responsible people and then put to death. Let's not let this happen in our city. Not in the nation's capital.

If anyone can think of other reasons, please add them in a comment. Likewise, if someone sees any flaws in any of the above reasons, please feel free to comment on those too. Many thanks to those who have already commented in this regard. All your comments have already been included in the above.

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