Thursday, November 1, 2007

Suggested Letters to DC City Council Members

The below model letter is based on the letter suggested by the ASPCA.

RE: Targeting Dog Breeds Doesn't Work--Oppose Bill 17-89

Dear City Council Member __________________:
As a District of Columbia resident, I urge you to oppose Bill 17-89 ("Animal Protection Act Amendment of 2007"), which the D.C. City Council's Health Committee voted to approve despite the fact that it would threaten the safety of our community's dogs.

Specifically, this bill would authorize the District's mayor to label any breed of dog as potentially dangerous and create a list of such breeds. As a result, not only would anyone's family dog, if belonging to a listed breed, be at risk of seizure if deemed to "pose a threat to public safety"--a phrase that is undefined in the bill--but dog owners would also be required to comply with a host of regulations, including posting a "dangerous dog" sign on their homes and muzzling their dogs outdoors at all times.

Further, dog owners who fail to comply with these provisions would be subject to fines and imprisonment (thereby criminalizing even the simple act of walking a dog on a leash of standard, six-foot length). Although this is not stated explicitly, passage of this bill would authorize the seizure of any dog belonging to a listed breed as evidence of a criminal violation.

Again, I urge you to oppose Bill 17-89. There is no evidence that breed-specific laws reduce dog bites, while there is significant evidence that well-enforced, breed-neutral laws do. In fact, experts in the field have concluded that only breed-neutral laws can keep a community safe.

Here are some additional paragraphs others have sent in that you may want to add to your own letter:

I was was shocked and appalled to read about the breed-specific discrimination provision of the proposed Animal Protection Act Amendment of 2007, especially since that one provision (among some others) smacks more of animal cruelty than animal protection. My hope is that you oppose this bill until the abhorrent provisions are removed.

While I agree, sadly, that there are some dogs that by their individual upbringing must be classified as "dangerous" (only ONE of the 49 Michael Vick's dogs --- all pit bulls --- was so classified, after even PETA and the HSUS were wrong when they said they would probably all have to be put down), we are regressing to the dark ages of animal welfare by classifying all dogs within a specific breed as such. More than that, we would be overlooking and postponing solving the fundamental problem of responsible ownership of dogs, while individual innocent dogs suffer the cruel restrictions imposed on them by the discrimination provisions of the proposed Act.

I am also concerned about the administration of the Act, which I assume would be turned over to the Department of Health (DOH). The DOH's track record with regard to animal welfare is not only poor, but it is against their charter, which is to protect people from animals and not the other way around. What I have heard, the DOH has no one qualified on its staff to know the difference between a dangerous dog and simply dog acting as a dog, and dogs are suffering cruel death s every day because of this.

The city's time and money needs to be spent on getting to the issue of responsible ownership of dogs. The proposed provisions of the Act do not get to this at all. Indeed, they regress. Moreover, they will create a nightmare of an enforcement problem, which will take away still more precious resources while the real problems remain unresolved. Finally, the enforcement problems will cascade further once pit bulls (the obvious primary target) are declared dangerous, as the irresponsible owners turn to Rottweilers and then other large breeds. They might as well call this Act what it will turn into: "The Death Penalty for Large Breed Dogs Act."

I thought legislation such as is proposed is supposed to be based on science, analysis and thoughtful reflection. This act is not. It is based on someone's shooting from the hip, in this case, hitting innocent dogs and responsible pet owners. Moreover, it will create division in the community the likes of which we have not seen before among pet owners.

Becasue of the many charity events put on by its animal control contractor (The Washington Humane Society), the District likes to view itself as a humane city for animals. To be sure, the over-worked and under-staffed Humane Society has reduced the suffering of many animals, but under policies handed to it by the city. However, that single breed-specific provision in the proposed bill is just another example of where the city has yet to fully understand that it has a long way to go to catch up to the progressive cities and reduce --- and not increase --- animal suffering. ( The cruelest example is where the city's animal control contractor says that it has a "no kill" policy for animals evaluated as adoptable, but doesn't say that no put bull is ever evaluated for adoptability. As the result, tens of pit bulls --- puppies included --- are killed each day in the District of Columbia, just up the road from the nation's Capitol.)


1 comment:

Vallerie said...

Keep up the good work.