White House Rejects Prince George’s Breed Specific Dog Law!

Bo says NO! to BSL, so does his dad.

August 19, 2013: GREENBELT, MARYLAND — From the Top: The White House has issued an official response to dog breed bans exactly like the one in effect in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

This is the Official White House Response to Breed Discriminatory Laws:

“We don’t support breed-specific legislation — research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at twenty years of data about dog bites and human fatalities in the United States. They found that fatal attacks represent a very small proportion of dog bite injuries to people and that it’s virtually impossible to calculate bite rates for specific breeds.

The CDC also noted that the types of people who look to exploit dogs aren’t deterred by breed regulations — when their communities establish a ban, these people just seek out new, unregulated breeds. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they’re intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive.

For all those reasons, the CDC officially recommends against breed-specific legislation — which they call inappropriate. You can read more from them here.

As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think that’s a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners.”

Source: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/breed-specific-legislation-bad-idea

We agree!

Prince George’s is a suburb of Washington, D.C. With a population of almost 900,000 people, it is the second largest municipality with a breed ban in the United States. If The White House response was shouted from the roof of the West Wing, Prince George’s County officials would have heard it…we’re THAT close. We ask the County Council to re-examine and repeal this law when they reconvene in September.

17 states now prohibit dog breed specific dangerous dog laws, with proposals in the pipelines for similar laws in other states. Prince George’s County has determined its own 15-year breed ban costs hundreds of thousands of dollars each year with no measurable increase in public safety (Report of the Prince George’s County Vicious Animal Law Task Force, 2005).

Breed-specific measures such as the law in Prince George’s County, Maryland, often declare a particular dog as dangerous simply by its outward physical characteristics. However, a number of studies indicate that, not only does a dog’s breed or appearance not portend behavior, but also that as much as 75% of visual dog identifications of “pit bulls” by animal professionals are WRONG. The consequences of these mis-identifications in Prince George’s County are death or exile as hundreds and hundreds of beloved pets are seized from living rooms, often right out from under the embrace of young children, then killed by Prince George’s County government. Usually for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

boy braids and dog

According to Ledy VanKavage, American Bar Association, Past Committee Chair, “People love their pets, no matter what their appearance. This is America. Responsible pet owners should be allowed to own whatever breed they want. They should not have to live in fear of their pets being seized and killed simply because of their appearance.”

Harford animal shelter keeps their records a secret for now

7/18/2013 — After the Maryland Dog Federation sent a Maryland Public Information Act letter requesting information to help Harford county citizens find out where their hard earned animal care tax dollars go, county attorney Robert McCord has informed the federation that the shelter has prohibited him from releasing any animal intake and disposition numbers Humane Society of Harford County.

“…I will note that I have been advised by the attorney for the Humane Society that they have objected to the disclosure of any records…” Robert McCord, Harford County Attorney

Recently, the Humane Society of Harford County (HSHC), a private, 501(c)(3) organization contracted by county government to be THEIR shelter, killed an eighteen-year old, spayed, declawed cat only a few hours after it was brought into the shelter, seemingly ignoring a state and county law that required a 72-hour hold on stray cats to give owners some time to find their lost pets. Despite the fact the cat was placed in a carrier without incident and brought in by a neighbor who didn’t realize she belonged right next door, HSHC board president David Fang claimed the cat was “so feral” they needed to kill her for “safety concerns”. An animal is “feral” when it is born in and lives in the wild and does not accept direct human contact. While a feral cat might be spayed, feral cats are certainly NOT declawed, certainly not handleable enough for the neighbor to place it in a carrier, and are usually not eighteen years old! Basically, unaware of the difference between a feral cat and a frightened one, and ignoring the history that they DID have, the shelter killed a terrified, beloved lap cat within a few hours of its being brought in. It is their job to know the difference — it’s what the county pays them to do. Owner Bob Brooks, who was actively searching for his beloved pet Mistoffelees and unaware that his cat had already been killed by the shelter, is devastated and looking for real answers.

The Humane Society of Harford County — the shelter — acts as a government proxy, accepting all animals brought in to them from county animal control and from the public, disposes of the animals in accord with state and county laws (supposedly), accepts fines and penalties as determined by animal control and applicable laws, statutes, and regulations, takes ownership of stray and surrendered animals, and keeps revenue and fees associated with adoptions, surrenders, and animals returned to owner. In addition, Harford County pays HSHC a set amount annually through a Memorandum of Understanding to perform these animal sheltering services on behalf of the county. HSHC clearly acts in a quasi-government capacity in dealing with the county’s homeless pets. The citizens of Harford county surely expect and deserve to know how their county shelter handles animals, if it acts within the confines of the law, and how their tax dollars are spent.

Although the Maryland Dog Federation has received a refusal from the county to provide the information we’ve requested, we are still pursuing the data directly from the Harford County pound through letters emailed to Executive Director Mary Leavens and HSHC board member Charles Wellington and expect a response from HSHC within the time allowed by the Maryland Public Information Act. We can only guess why this organization, broadly funded by Harford county taxpayer dollars, would object to the county attorney releasing information and why county officials would not expect full and transparent disclosure from a publicly funded community partner.

Living in Sin and BSL

What does shacking up and German and Belgian Shepherd Dogs have in common?

In Virginia, both were prohibited until recently.

On July 1st, Virginia officially repealed its 136 year-old law that has remained on the books, largely unenforced in the “modern age”, that prohibited a man and a woman from living under the same roof without benefit of marriage…

Why repeal it? Because it no longer makes sense and society has moved on.

In 2001, Virginia officially repealed a then 63 year-old breed specific law, also largely unenforced in recent decades, that prohibited the new ownership or importation of German and Belgian Shepherd Dogs from a number of counties in the Commonwealth.

Yes, that’s right. German Shepherds were prohibited in Virginia.

German Shepherd dogs, their mixes, and dogs that look like german shepherds, are about the most popular kind of dog in the state. That makes BSL about as effective as the law against Cohabitation Without Benefit of Marriage. That is to say, not very effective at all. OK all you sinners and lawbreakers, you can come out now. Bring your dogs out too.

Why repeal breed specific laws? Because it no longer makes sense and society has moved on.

Seventy-some years ago the Virginia legislature thought it needed breed bans because of hysteria, overblown media reports, myths and mis-information. The hysteria, myths and mis-information have been refuted. My, how times change, huh? Meh, maybe not so much, especially not for Virginia’s neighbor, Maryland, who apparently hasn’t gotten the message yet.

The state of Virginia had enough of a bad taste for BSL 20 years ago that they passed a law prohibiting it. Today, 15 other states have laws that prohibit regulating dogs because of their breed. Rhode Island will be number 17 as soon as the governor signs it, and New Mexico has legislation in the pipeline that would make it number 18.

Why? Because it no longer makes sense and society has moved on.

Prince George’s Authorities Seize Service Dog Under BSL

Prince George’s County has gone TOO FAR this time, taking a service dog away from someone who needs her dog to get around and live a more normalized life…because of its breed.

Breed discriminatory legislation fails the Public Good because behavior cannot be predicted by what a dog looks like AND because it takes too many innocent Family Dogs who are of immeasurable benefit to their people whether a pet or a Service Dog, simply because of unfounded hysteria.

The Maryland Animal Law Center is working with the dog’s owner to challenge the county for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can read more from the MALC about this case below.

The Maryland Dog Federation is pleased to be a participant in this case in order to challenge other troubling aspects of the breed ban; that the law as enforced in Prince George’s County in particular does not give a dog owner sufficient Due Process, and that the law was enacted improperly. We are looking for additional plaintiffs…Are you a Prince George’s resident who has had his or her Family Dog taken away under the county breed ban? The more participants we have, the better. It’s possible that your situation, your loss, will be the one that clearly demonstrates the need to eliminate this ineffective, unfair law. Please contact us at marylanddogfederation@yahoo.com, or fill out our survey at http://bit.ly/PGBanSurvey

Let’s fight this once and for all!

girl and dog

With a canine population in the United States of over 70 million, and billions of dollars spent taking care of them, we are clearly a nation of dog lovers. Dogs are family members that provide immeasurable health benefits to us; some very special canines provide invaluable, life-saving assistance to those in our community who are differently abled and tackle challenges head-on every day. Taking a service dog from someone because of a breed ban is a special kind of mean, an above and beyond kind of mean. The exact kind of mean the federal courts have already ruled against when they determined the Americans with Disabilities Act trumps ANY breed specific law. Breed discrimination is bad enough when families are torn apart; it’s worse when it prevents someone from getting around safely and living their life.

Announcement From the Maryland Animal Law Center:

We are pleased to announce our upcoming challenges to the Prince George’s County “Pitbull” Ban. Federal regulations for service animals preempt the ban, and our case involves a mobility-impaired polio survivor whose service dog, a “pitbull”, was impounded simply because of her ‘breed’.

Gary Norman, Esq., of the Maryland Human Rights Commission will be Of-Counsel in this and future cases. Mr. Norman is blind and an established civil rights leader, specializing in issues affecting the ever-growing disabled population. Mr. Norman, accompanied by his Guide Dog, Pilot, and will argue the case in the courtroom, alongside a sighted attorney. The service animal challenge should carve out a large exception into the “ban”; and, we hope the other arguments, the law was not passed by correct procedures and that its enforcement doesn’t comply with Due Process, will nullify the ban altogether. Enforcement procedures in Prince George’s County are unique to that county, don’t exist elsewhere in the state or country, and defy all precedent. The arguments here are novel, and we hope they succeed.

Great dogs, if…

Four pals

Four pals

“Pit bulls” are great dogs…if you raise them right/treat them right” is a statement I see scrolling across my Facebook newsfeed at least a dozen times each and every day.  It’s a phatic expression, “thinklessly” repeated by people who really love their “pit bull” family dogs and know they have a great dog that the public seems to pick on too much. Dogs that are often in their second, third or even fourth homes.  Sometimes the dogs are believed to have endured hardship, even neglect or abuse in their prior situations, but most of the time no one really knows anything about their dog’s past life. Sometimes when a dog loses his or her home it’s through absolutely no fault of the dog’s – or the prior owner.  Frankly, there isn’t even a universally accepted definition of what a “pit bull” is.

I’ve never really believed that “pit bulls” are great dogs if you raise them right or treat them right.  Because that would conversely mean if they weren’t raised or treated right, they would be bad dogs.  I’ve seen some that weren’t raised right and I’ve seen some that were treated badly and downright neglected and even abused terribly.

They were great dogs in spite of it.

I have been a breed advocate for almost 20 years now and, no, I don’t believe it at all.

All dogs, not just “pit bulls”, can be raised wrong and treated wrong, even come from the most horrific of circumstances, and STILL go on to be a good family dog, sometimes with or without special intervention. It is no more accurate to say “pit bulls are bad dogs because…” than it is to say “pit bulls are good dogs if…”  Why?  Because concentrating on a dog’s looks or breed says nothing about the dog’s behavior.

What I do believe is that dogs are generally resilient, malleable, and forgiving.  Certainly they must be if they have gone from a wild canid to 700 varieties of bed hog!  Pit Bulls are assumed to have a “sad past” and a presumed reputation as ghetto dogs, status symbols, fighters.  But that’s all from mis-information, myth, and media hype.  The experts agree that each dog, “pit bull” or otherwise, is an individual that occupies a tiny place on a behavior continuum shared with all other domestic dogs (from independents to alphas to omegas, from love bugs to mushes, from lifes of the party to couch potatoes, from suspicious of people to body slammers to “only dogs” and everything inbetween).  Each dog, pit bull or Pomeranian or Heinz 57, has its own unique, ingratiating personalities and styles.

So, by all means, raise them right and treat them right. And stick up for them when necessary. But when you look into the adoring eyes of your “pit bull” mix, whose past you truly know nothing about, whose true ancestry you may never know, remember she is a good dog despite her upbringing or prior treatment.  She’s a good dog simply because she is living in the moment and wants to know how to live peaceably in your world.  Dogs are WTAIWTA*.

I understand how easy it is to respond personally to the negative media reports.  But think about this:  when another type of dog bites someone (if it even makes the news), I don’t seen the same communal guilt from owners of “that” breed as when an alleged “pit bull” bites someone.  I know why…because if a “Labrador” bites, no one cares.  If a “pit bull” even jumps on someone, legislators start getting all tingly. Let’s change OUR response in an effort to change THEIRS.

Sometimes when a dog hurts someone, it’s minor. Sometimes, the person who was hurt did a very stupid thing. Sometimes, it’s a lack of enforcement of already established laws. Sometimes, it’s a perfect storm of events that could have been prevented if only someone realized in time what was happening.  Sometimes an owner was truly, truly reckless.  Sometimes, it was really just an accident.  Any dog CAN bite, few ever do, and only a few of those cause serious injury.

It wasn’t my dog. I wasn’t there.  Repeat after me.  Go ahead, say it out loud.  “It wasn’t my dog.  I wasn’t there.”  Actually feels pretty good.

Instead of communally reacting to every incident across the nation with “it’s not the dog it’s the owner”, or “it’s how they are trained/raised”, let’s just respond with something like, “every dog is an individual, every incident is discrete.  Rational conclusions cannot be drawn about one dog or an entire breed type based on the actions of a dog down the street or a hundred miles away.” Cut and paste away.

Then, after a few thousand of those, let’s just stop reacting.

*What They Are Is What They Are

It’s time to end the war on Maryland’s favorite family dogs

Prince George’s County, Maryland, has a population of 900,000 people and a dog breed ban for the last 15 years.  Thousands of innocent dogs have been seized and killed already.

Donate to the Prince George’s County Family Dog Defense Fund to overturn its breed specific law (BSL).  Because with your help we can STOP this.  All contributions large or small can make it reality.  Please contribute today.

Help hundreds of dogs stay where they DO belong — in their home…and keep them out of the shelter—where they DON’T belong.  Animal Management’s budget has been slashed this year by 20%.  BSL unnecessarily increases dog intake at the shelter and costs $250,000 to $500,000 every year to enforce.  So, why are we wasting money taking good dogs from good people?  Whether you love your dog or disdain wasteful spending, you understand why we ask.  The county forces good citizens to practice “civil disobedience” in order to keep their beloved pet safe.  There are so many citizens here who care for and love their dog, folks who saved a dog that was wandering, lost, abandoned, or about to lose their home, or saved that dog from a bad situation.  Good people.  Good dogs.  Why must their world be turned upside down because a neighbor calls animal control to report they have a pit bull?  Not for doing anything wrong, mind you…just for having a big head and a stocky body!  What would you do if you came home from work to a notice plastered on your front door giving you 24 hours to surrender your dog to animal control or else face arrest, six months in jail or a $1000 fine (and they’d take your dog anyway)?

This is how it is in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  For 15 years, good family pets have been seized and killed for being of no threat to anyone.  More and more people are moving to this county unaware that their family dog is illegal and can be confiscatedIn the worst case scenario, which happens hundreds of times a year, beloved pets are seized, often from living rooms and right from under the embrace of young children, then killed by Prince George’s County government. Often, for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

boy braids and dog

We must overturn this law now more than ever before. 

Do you want to be part of this fight?  Do you want to be part of saving thousands of innocent dogs?  Well, we need you.  We need your help.  We want to raise $5,000 to fund a legal action.  It might not be all we need, but it will get us started.  Every contribution…$5, $10, $20…large or small, will save the lives of thousands of dogs and keep them at home with their families–where they belong.

Please join us.  Give to the Prince George’s Family Dog Defense Fund today.  Bit.ly/PGFamDogs

For more information contact:
Adrianne Lefkowitz, Executive Director
Maryland Dog Federation
PO Box 911, Greenbelt, Maryland 20768
301 693 2256
marylanddogfederation@yahoo.com
www.marylanddogfederation.com
@MDDogFed
facebook.com/marylanddogfederation

 

4/9/2013: Maryland House fails to pass anti-discrimination bill

Amid political rants and wranglings, the Maryland House of Delegates FAILED to vote on a bill that would nullify the “Solesky” ruling. Despite multiple prior, unanimous AFFIRMATIVE votes in the House and Senate to stop discrimination Maryland, three or four legislators and the insurance industry effectively and intentionally torpedoed the possibility of ending the nightmare for thousands of Maryland citizens who are forced to decide between their home and their family pet. We wonder which legislators felt so successful about “torpedoeing” the lives of dog owners…which ones made the whistling sound of a bomb dropping?
Did someone mention that heartless legislators mockingly sang “Who Let the Dogs Out” when it was decided the bill would not get to the House floor for a vote?

Is this the level of disrespect we as Maryland landlords, property managers, business owners and dog owners should expect from the House of Delegates in the
future? We hope not. The House was BLOCKED from voting on this bill one final time by just a few people with a mission.

Was the compromise bill ideal? Was the compromise of the compromise bill ideal? Was the THIRD compromise bill ideal? No, no, and no. As a matter of fact, we don’t think any of the bills would have truly solved the long term, ongoing problem of landlords prohibiting dogs from their properties. But the bills would have prevented the immediate problem…that of landlords THROWING OUT established tenants with dogs who already live in these rental units. Tenants who have otherwise been living peacibly among their neighbors whose innocent dogs are suddenly and needlessly declared dangerous for no reason other than their appearance. Instead of compromise, which we were hoping and fighting for, we have nothing.

Despite the apparent display of meanness and ugliness by a few thoughtless lawmakers in the end, let’s remember that, ever since the Maryland Court of Appeals legislated from the bench with inadequate and inaccurate information that an entire race of dogs could be declared dangerous, many organizations with varying, often opposing viewpoints rallied to correct the common problem created by the court’s ruling. Between the 2012 Special Session and the 2013 Regular Session, MULTIPLE unanimous House and Senate committee and floor votes allowed no misunderstanding…the majority of the Maryland legislature was in favor of fixing the court’s mess. We thank those senators and delegates for sticking with their constituents and hope they will continue to support us in the effort to stop needless discrimination.

To everyone who wrote, called and emailed legislators, rallied, testified and visited lawmakers–thank you for doing everything possible. This was not a failure of public involvement. On the contrary, thousands remained involved and engaged for over a year. Kudos to you all for exercising your democratic rights to support Maryland Dog Owners! The Maryland Dog Federation is wasting no time and will begin creating it’s legislative agenda for 2014.