Pride and Prejudice

charlie1

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
-Edmund Burke

In the September of 2009, the City of Brook Park enacted  BSL.  According to the City of Brook Park’s website:

PLEASE NOTE: ALL Pit Bull Dogs, Canary Dogs and American Bulldogs are deemed to be dangerous animals, and must be registered with the Brook Park Animal Control Department. A Pit Bull Dog means any Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog. If there is any question about whether a dog’s breed falls into any of the above categories, the Safety Director or his/her designee shall make the determination as to the breed of the dog.

The logic of laws such as this befuddle and confound me.  Though a countless number of resources have proven time and time again that these dogs are no more dangerous than any other breed of dog, they are still enacted and upheld.  Per All Breeds Lakewood, a local group dedicated to responsible dog ownership as well as ending BSL:

It’s been nearly five years since Ohio repealed state-wide Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Instead of defining a “vicious dog” by its breed, the Ohio legal system defines it by behavior alone. Unfortunately, despite this progressive state-wide change, our otherwise welcoming and diverse city of Lakewood, OH blindly prohibits the ownership of certain breeds. All Breeds Lakewood is working to replace this ban with a more safe and effective law that protects citizens from dangerous dogs of all breeds and holds irresponsible owners accountable.

 

The list of organizations who oppose breed bans is growing exponentially, including:

 

  • American Bar Association
  • American Kennel Club
  • American Veterinary Medical Association
  • American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • National Animal Control Association
  • National Canine Research Council
  • Obama Administration
  • State Farm Insurance
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • The U.S. Department of Justice

So despite overwhelming evidence that BSL is ineffective, costly, and enforced unequally, why does it still exist, and how can one explain cities introducing it?

In July of 2008, Lakewood City Council passed an ordinance that outlawed pit bulls within its borders. While all of us genuine dog lovers can agree that this is an extremely unfair and, frankly, unenforceable law, few believe that it was actually done for public safety.  The term “public safety” is bantered about like a overwhelmed parent throws out the word “maybe” to a child asking for a treat later.  We all know it means nothing.  We all know it’s a veneer to cover up an answer we really don’t like. For the City of Lakewood, as well as for quite a few other cities who instituted Breed Specific Legislation (“BSL”)  the answer is simple and horrific:  prejudice.

And I wish I were only referring to the prejudice against dogs.

There is a specific recipe for BSL to be enacted. Let’s take a look at several cities that enacted BSL, and how their demographics changed.

According to the 2000 census, city of Brook Park, Ohio had a demographic of:

-94.49% White
-1.95% Black
- 1.99% Hispanic

By the 2010 census, the city had vastly different numbers:

-92.19% White
- 3.25% Black
-3.45% Hispanic

That’s an increase of over 50% in the Black and Hispanic populations respectively. Meanwhile, the population of Whites went down by 11.6%. Interesting, but hardly noteworthy.  Until you start to connect the dots. Brook Park enacted their BSL in 2009.

Parma, for instance. Population of Whites in Parma has never dipped below 90%.  BSL was enacted in 1987, and has been going strong ever since.  No coincidence that it happened concurrently with the largest influx of Hispanics in the United States:

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, decennial census of population, 1980 to 2000

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, decennial census of population, 1980 to 2000

Even better, this is how the population of Parma was broken down in 1990*:

  Total ancestries reported.........................................    120,938
Arab................................................................      1,429
Austrian............................................................        523
Belgian.............................................................         24
Canadian............................................................        126
Czech...............................................................      3,932
Danish..............................................................        120
Dutch...............................................................        686
English.............................................................      6,425
Finnish.............................................................        127
French (except Basque)..............................................      1,543
French Canadian.....................................................        293
German..............................................................     26,348
Greek...............................................................      1,197
Hungarian...........................................................      5,746
Irish...............................................................     12,379
Italian.............................................................     11,827
Lithuanian..........................................................        413
Norwegian...........................................................        169
Polish..............................................................     16,218
Portuguese..........................................................         43
Romanian............................................................        542
Russian.............................................................      1,459
Scotch-Irish........................................................        821
Scottish............................................................      1,157
Slovak..............................................................     12,603
Subsaharan African..................................................         30 
Swedish.............................................................        622
Swiss...............................................................        359
Ukrainian...........................................................      3,743
United States or American...........................................      1,626
Welsh...............................................................        663
West Indian (excluding Hispanic origin groups)......................          0
Yugoslavian.........................................................      2,436
Other ancestries....................................................      5,309

*source: Ohio Census Archives (1990) 

Perhaps the biggest change came in Lakewood, who started 2000 with a showing of 93.07% for the white population.  By 2010, that number dropped down to 87.47%, as the Black population increased to an amazing 199% during that ten year period. Hispanics had a dramatic 69.19% increase in their population as well.  It was during this growth that the BSL was enacted in 2008.

So far I’ve only shown that an increase in minorities in a cities triggered BSL.  But what about cities that don’t have BSL?  Is there a correlation?  Let’s see surrounding cities’ numbers.

Bay Village – 2000

98.05% White, 0.27% Black, 0.98% Hispanic

2010

96.97% White, 0.54% Black, 1.6% Hispanic

So yes, while the black population nearly doubled, that’s not saying much if the Black population literally started at 43 and went up to 85.  That’s right: total population of Bay village as of 2010 is 15,651, with only 85 of those individuals being Black.

So obviously the issue isn’t an increase of Black nor Hispanic population in a city.  It’s the reoccurring theme of an increase in the number minorities in an overwhelmingly White population.  Let’s face it: 85 Blacks in a city of 15,651 isn’t a staggering increase.  At least not an increase that might pose a political threat.  Because that’s what BSL is: an effort to preserve Our Way Of Life.  Let’s look at how many Black or Hispanic city council members there are/were in each city.  How many mayors were of a minority group?  From the looks of it….

I’m not going to say, because nobody can tell ethnicity based upon how someone looks. But what I will say is that these individuals all agreed that a pitbull can be identified by how it looks.  By the way, how is that going so far, Lakewood? How many times has a dog been misidentified as “pitbull” when in fact it wasn’t?  What about obvious pitbulls that have been given the green light by officials?

Let’s call BSL what it is: another attempt by White politicians to keep out minorities.  Or rather, the minorities who have committed the faux pas of not removing every trace of their culture.  For not trying to “pass” as White.  The sin of not trying to assimilate. Basketball courts disappearing overnight in 2006 in Lakewood. Quoted in Michael Gill’s article Scene:

Councilwoman Madigan is not opposed to returning basketball courts to Lakewood. She simply lays forth a series of conditions for doing so that paint their own picture of the trouble they brought to the neighborhood in the first place.

“What would be ideal is a fenced area where kids and adults had an ID, and there was tracking, and you could tell who was there at what time, and it would be documented by cameras,” she says, describing a hoops paradise George Orwell might have envisioned.

An ID to play basketball.  Let that sink in for a moment.

If you’re still questioning the basis of BSL being rooted in racism, please remember what Jeff Theman of Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent pointed out:

During the 1980s and ’90s, this law spread like wild fire, hitting several larger urban cities. In one paragraph of a report by sociologist Arnold Arluke called “Ethnozoology and the Future of Sociology” (published in the 2003 International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Volume 23, Number 3), a single excerpt about the collaborative effort between law enforcement and animal control explained it with clarity:

“To accomplish their overlapping aims, members of this task force carried out joint ‘sweeps’ in suspected inner-city neighborhoods to spot ‘suspicious’ dog owners and disarm them by taking their animals. Driving through certain high-risk urban neighborhoods allowed for opportunistic spotting of African Americans walking with Pit Bulls on sidewalks or sitting on stoops with their animals, the assumption being that these dogs were not mere pets but illegal and dangerous weapons. Task force members would ask if dogs were properly licensed and, if not, seize and take them to the local shelter. Of course, the apparent owner was told that a license could be applied for if proper forms were completed, including name, address, phone number, all to be verified. However, task-force members believe that these individuals do not want to show their licenses if they have them or apply for new ones if they do not, in order to remain anonymous from authorities.”

Lakewood, is an amazing, wonderful town.  But like so many other cities, it has a problem with minorities.  From cops breaking a young black girl’s jaw to removing basketball hoops to BSL.  We all know racism when we see it.  It’s time we do something about it.  Yes, this is still about good dogs being removed from loving homes for how they look.  It’s still about judging a dog based upon its merits and not its breed.  And yes, it is still about racism and prejudice, and I’ll be damned if I’ll stand idly by and watch it happen again.

 keep-calm-and-stop-racism-19Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

How Lakewood’s BSL Came To Be

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
-Edmund Burke

Roux

Name: Roux
Breed: Pittie Mix
Crime: Letting a thief into her owners’ house in their absence, and then snuggling with the cops who arrived after neighbors alerted authorities

There’s just something about Lakewood.  A city where a population of 52,131 is somehow comfortably held on 5.5 square miles of land. And we peacefully co-exist!  We have a small-town mentality that feels almost like modern Mayberry.  We are a tolerant city, where we don’t merely look past our differences; we celebrate them.  We thrive on knowing each other, not merely being “just neighbors”.  We truly feel a sense of community that goes beyond what most cities’ capabilities.

That’s why when, on July 21, 2008, we were all so shocked when a law was passed in our city.

Summary:

No person may keep, harbor or own pit bull dogs or canary dogs in Lakewood, Ohio, with exceptions for dogs in the city on the effective date. A dog may be allowed to stay provided it has a microchip for identification, has been sterilized, the owner has liability insurance of $100,000, and the dog is properly confined or secured. Failure to comply could result in the removal or impoundment of the dog. The owner may also be charged with a misdemeanor. (Source: animalaw.info)

In other words, our tolerant, diverse city passed a law outlawing …diversity.    A law passed based upon how an individual looked, rather than what their actions entailed. How did this happen?

Well, that’s hard to say.  I truly don’t believe that our council members hate dogs.  Perhaps they saw an increase in dog bites in general, or just merely became aware that dog bites happen, and made a reactionary response to the problem, rather than a rational response.  I say “reactionary” because the logic utilized in this ban doesn’t make any sense.

Let me explain.

Right before the ban was passed in July 2008, Lakewood Observer published this article on May 25, 2008 by Brian Powers (former Lakewood councilman who pushed the pit bull ban on Lakewood).

The “article” – which reads as if written by a drunk college frat boy cribbing from Wikipedia the night before his 50 page paper is due – would be humorous if it hadn’t been written by an individual with the ability to pass laws based upon the content of said late-night cribbing session.  For example, the article states that:

“Every legitimate study conducted in America, including the study by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, has demonstrated that pit bull bites are more likely to result in a fatality than bites or attacks by any other breed.” – Brian Powers

 

Please define "legitimate study".

Please define “legitimate study”.

No citations of any kind were included with any of Powers’ “facts”.  Trust me, I looked.  And looked and looked.  I then searched and Googled my heart out.  All I came up with was this quote:

The CDC strongly recommends against breed-specific laws in its oft-cited study of fatal dog attacks, noting that data collection related to bites by breed is fraught with potential sources of error (Sacks et al., 2000) – ASPCA Policy and Position Statements

 

Absolutely no justification nor citation for anything in Powers’ stance on BSL, as stated in his article in the Lakewood Observer, merely contradiction on every point.  Powers’ somehow became the spearhead of a movement with devastating consequences based upon…nothing.  No facts. No logic. No research.  Merely a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived problem. Sound familiar?
Ask a doctor about vaccines.  Ask animal care professional about pitties.

Ask a doctor about vaccines. Ask animal care professional about pitties.

I wanted to write a post picking apart Lakewood’s ban on pit bulls (and the Powers’ article), but it’s like cotton candy: made of nothing but spun sugar and air. Fragile, falling apart if examined at all. Not a shred of logic, science or reality.
 Apparently Conway worked as fact checker for Lakewood City Council in 2008.


Apparently Conway worked as fact checker for Lakewood City Council in 2008.

  As Greg Murray Photography, a staunch supporter working to #endbsl put it:
“I read this interview of then councilman Brian Powers every month. He was a councilman in Lakewood in 2008 when BSL was passed. These terrible and heart breaking answers are some of many things that drive me to advocate for pits.
‘Question: All breeds of dog bite. Are pit bulls really more dangerous than other dogs?
Brian Powers Answer: Unfortunately, yes, pit bulls are very dangerous. When a labrador, collie or other dog bites, you might end up with a bruise or, in some cases, a puncture wound. When a pit bull attacks, you may end up maimed for life or, in many cases, dead.’
bigly so
Greg Murray has asked via his Facebook page:
“If you have children and a pit in your home, you are a terrible parent. Let Lakewood [City Council] know what it’s like to have children and pits in the same household. Here are the emails for council and the mayor. Please write them now.
Sam.OLeary@lakewoodoh.net, david.anderson@lakewoodoh.net, john.litten@lakewoodoh.net, daniel.omalley@lakewoodoh.net, tom.bullock@lakewoodoh.net, cindy.marx@lakewoodoh.net, ryan.nowlin@lakewoodoh.net, Mike.Summers@lakewoodoh.net
Let me note that some of the people listed above DO NOT support BSL. But we still need to email all of them.”
Well said, Greg.
Name: Lucy Breed: Pittie Mix Crime: Blanket Theif and Serial Cuddler

Name: Lucy
Breed: Pittie Mix
Crime: Blanket Theif and Serial Cuddler

But while many of our council members do not actively support the BSL, I ask why they aren’t speaking out against it?
I strongly encourage not only contacting your Lakewood representative, but visiting All Breeds Lakewood, a group that is dedicated not only to ending BSL, but enriching the lives of pet owners in the City of Lakewood by not only ending discrimination against dogs based upon breed, but strengthening the scope of our current dangerous dog law to target actual dangerous dogs.  Further, making sure through dog safety outreach programs, education and services, our dogs are not put into dangerous situations.
Only a fool would think that legislating against a given group would make an entire population safer.  It’s time to end Lakewood’s breed specific legislation.
For information on how you can help end BSL, please visit All Breeds Lakewood, a grassroots organization dedicated to not only ending BSL, but ensuring all dogs have the opportunity to thrive in our community through outreach, education and resources. 
Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Lakewood, Ohio

About Scrappy…

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

- Neil Gaiman

Scrappy and Aleeyah

Scrappy and Aleeah

I think we can all agree that 2016 was a dumpster-fire-shit-show.  To end all shit-shows.  We were all glad to see it end, and we’re ready to start 2017 with that gleam in our eye: hope that we can, and will, do better.  Hope that we can make positive changes in our lives and in the lives of others.

Looking back at 2016, there were a few key moments that stand out for me, but the biggest one was when so many citizens answered a plea for help.  A little girl with cystic fibrosis was about to lose her best friend.  Her grandmother explained that the dog was a pitte, and that she had unknowingly brought a banned dog into her house when she allowed her son and granddaughter to move in with the dog.  The dog and the sick girl, Aleeah, were bonded, and that bond was important, because Scrappy is what helped Aleeah sit through her daily treatments for cystic fibrosis, a disease that will ultimately claim her life at a very young age.

So we fought.  Against Breed Specific Legislation; against discrimination, and against a disease that will take a girl’s life.  And against everyone’s best hopes, we won. Scrappy and Aleeah were allowed to stay together!  Clemency was granted for Scrappy (from a crime he never committed), but still!  A pitbull was allowed in Lakewood, Ohio!

Photo courtesy of cleveland.com

Photo courtesy of cleveland.com

We came together as a community to protect our most vulnerable citizens:  our children and our animals.

Almost a full year went by, and then I saw this:

 

Yup...it's Scrappy

Yup…it’s Scrappy.  On Craigslist.

Needless to say, I was absolutely horrified.  We had rallied around Scrappy and Aleeah, believing that we were fighting The Good Fight.  Believing we had won The Good Fight.  Our petition on Change.or had received almost 150,000 signatures and gained international attention.  Now it was all for nothing.  A worthless fight for a dog whose owner was rehoming him.

Or was it?

Certainly Scrappy is still in need of saving, but what about those of us who fought for him?  What did we fight for?  An end to BSL.  And end to the false stigma of the “aggressive, bloodthirsty” pitbull.  To show that pitties are a breed of dog, and just like any other breed of dog, capable of incredible highs and terrible lows.  In other words, to make a difference, that’s what we fought for.  And did we win?

Absolutely.

We rallied against an unfair and unjust law and we won.  We stood together as one, with a common goal and we won.  We managed to get a pitbull into Lakewood, a city with a strict and discrimintory law against dogs like Scrappy.  And yes, Scrappy is most likely leaving, but we didn’t fail.  We won.  And we did it: together. We’ve shown that many calm but firm voices standing together in our conviction can be stronger than discrimination.  Than ignorance.  We proved that we are a strong community and that we can, and will fight for those in our community.

We did it together.  

Because Scrappy isn’t leaving due to his behavior.  He didn’t maul a small child (sorry to disappoint you supporters of BSL).  He didn’t do anything negative.  He was a positive example of what a pit bull is:  a dog.  He’s a dog who loves his little girl.  He’s a dog who doesn’t know (yet) that he’s about to be re-homed. All he knows is that he has a job to do, and he will continue to do it as long has he can: love his family, take care of Aleeah, and just be the best he can be.

It can be difficult not to pass judgment on his owner, but let’s also remember this: she went to bat for Aleeah’s dog.  She hired an attorney to fight the BSL.  She fenced in her yard as per the law director conditions of keeping Scrappy in Lakewood.   She did the best she could with what she had: a dog that she didn’t pick out, that was dumped on her. So while this hurts me that his owner won’t be keeping him, this doesn’t reflect badly on pitties.  If anything, it’s just another stunning example of how pit bulls are still the dogs that love and will be loyal to their families, regardless of the amount of loyalty that they receive from their owners in return.   So rather than allowing this to be something that drives a wedge in our pittie community, let’s turn it into something positive.

We got a pitbull in Lakewood, and he behaved exactly as a pitbull would: with love and devotion.  Thank you, Scrappy, for all you’ve done to unite us, and for all you’ve done for your little girl, Aleeah.

Keep calm

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Lakewood, Ohio

An Open Letter to Lakewood City Council

This post was originally published prior to our Pittie Parade in May 2015, where Dariwn Dogs took their stance, along with so many, against BSL.  In an interesting twist of fate, today I just had David Anderson, council member for the City of Lakewood knock on my door (it’s election season, after all).  I spoke with him briefly about the BSL in Lakewood, and how we can hopefully amend this egregious piece of legislation.  I mentioned the Pittie Parade from this spring, along with my open letter to city council, and asked what his thoughts were.  His answer was that he didn’t remember reading the letter (and that if a letter is sent with all the council members cc’d on it, it’s difficult to remember to read it).  I offered to have him read the letter, and mentioned it was on my blog, but he declined, as he stated he doesn’t read blogs.  He admitted that he isn’t a dog person (which doesn’t make anyone a bad person…let’s not muddle the issue), but that he’d look into it and find my email from months ago and read it.  The Pittie Parade alone had quite a bit of media coverage, support from many, many institutions, as well as so many dog owners who were on hand to lend their voices to the cause, I find it difficult to understand how anyone could not be aware of the growing outcry among pittie supporters against BSL in Lakewood.

I realize that BSL is not the only deciding factor in determining who you wish to have in office as your ward representative, but how individuals respond to their constituents is pretty important, regardless of their questions or concerns, is telling.  I was informed by Mr. Anderson that we could possibly bring this up again in January.  In other words, after elections.  I mentioned that perhaps we could bring this up before elections. His response was “Good luck.  That’s three weeks away”.  I thought I’d like to bring it up again, anyway.

In conclusion, thought this conversation may have seemed hostile, Mr. Anderson came across like a very reasonable individual, and hopefully one who will listen to what so many of us are asking: drop the ban.  I hope that at least in him we will have a dose of common sense when it comes to how our Lakewood dogs are labeled and treated.  I urge you to share this post, especially prior to elections, and perhaps we can have them take notice.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

To the Members of Lakewood City Council:

Ah… the Lakewood BSL. I realize this has been discussed at length already during city council meetings.  But rather than quoting statistics and information that you’ve already heard, which, while still very important, can only be heard so many times, I’d much rather offer solutions.

As our council members, your job is difficult.  You must weigh public opinion against the legality of certain issues, add a measure of your own different viewpoints, and combine it with a dash of funding issues.  I realize that can be a very difficult job – tedious at best. When you passed legislation in 2008 to enact a BSL, I realize that this was not done on a malicious basis, but rather, prior to when all  pertinent statistics and information were made available about pit bulls.  I do believe it was passed to try to protect our citizens, our law enforcement officers, and our domestic pets.

Unfortunately, the BSL solution was for the wrong problem.  As you’ve heard previously, pities are not the problem.  You all have heard where they rank in bites, and it’s pretty low. In my entire career of working with dogs, I’ve never been attacked by one.  I wish I could say the same for every breed.  Rather, the problem is in the ill-considered actions of owners.  Whether it be through negligence or ignorance, I put forth that we address the situation at the source: education.

Prohibition didn’t work, and therefore ended with the 21st Amendment.  However, it didn’t end without a plan: education about responsible use of alcohol.  In 1935, AA was founded.  Legal drinking age was established to make sure alcohol was used in a responsible manner.  Education became the weapon of choice, and it’s been working ever since.

I am asking that the same tact be taken with regard to the BSL.  Let’s educate our citizens of Lakewood, starting with issues revolving around issues such as retractable leashes.  Let’s educate about the body language that a dog can give before they are forced to attack.  Provide information on how to prevent dog aggression, (or what is actually happening - defensive reactions, - which can be addressed). Help our community fix the entire dog-bite issue, and not just ban one specific breed, leaving a gap of ignorance around the actual problem.

I work with and educate humans on how to be little more dog-responsible every day, and I see the results of education.  Therefore, I propose regular, free general-safety seminars to be offered to the citizens of Lakewood. I would be happy to present these seminars in conjunction with other professionals, if so chosen, as well as spearheading a general resource of safety etiquette and knowledge as it pertains to dogs.

Our Lakewood Police Department undergoes a rigorous amount of training with canine situations, and in speaking with Lt. Warner recently, I discovered what an amazing track record our police have with dogs, and using force as a last resort.  I firmly believe that stellar record comes from good cops being given good information.  Now I ask that our citizens be given the same opportunity for learning.

Lakewood has a wonderful library.  We have the Beck Center!  I first handedly know about our schools, including our special education department, which has made my children thrive!  Rather than deviating from Lakewood’s path of education, tolerance and non-discrimination by retaining the BSL, let’s be a shining example to other cities, not only by removing BSL, but offering a plan in its place to keep our citizens and their dogs safe.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Lakewood, Ohio

Flower Power

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them – A.A. Milne

There’s a lot of reasons I like SNL. I love the talent, the laughs and the thought that anything can happen when they’re on stage. But, what I love most is seeing the guest stars show a different side to themselves.

Seeing tough guy Robert DeNiro singing with Kermit the Frog warmed my heart and makes you realize he’s just another person. In fact, he kinda makes you want to hug him without fear.

Live From New York….

Watching the dead pan Christopher Walken ask for more cowbell made you see a side of him that probably made your sides hurt from laughing.

Then there’s the time that Peyton Manning showed us he had a goofy side when he danced like a crazy man in the locker room with Will Forte.

Break it down Peyton…

Sometimes, it takes us seeing someone in a different light for us to truly understand what they’re like. It causes us to reevaluate our current feelings of someone and change them.

That’s exactly what photographer Sophie Gamand is trying to do. She’s a pitbull advocate and is using her skill as a photographer to help people see these dogs in a different light than they’re used to. Sometimes, it takes an artistic and different approach to change minds. Even if it’s just one person’s mind it’s worth it. Check out her take on pitbulls here. The pictures are beautiful, soft and invoke a sense of peace and calm. Just like pitbulls.

Sometimes, the louder you raise your voice, the less people listen. It’s coming up with peaceful and creative approaches to changing others’ minds that is the most efficient way to make a difference.

 Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

A Meet Cute

 

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

The unknown is not what to be afraid of, it’s only when the unknown becomes known that one can decide whether to be afraid or not – Markus Peterson

Often, we’re afraid and skeptical of people and things we don’t know, haven’t met, or don’t understand. It’s in our nature to be skeptical. It’s called survival! However, it becomes a problem when we let those fears hold us back from getting to know someone or trying new adventures. You never know who you might meet or what you might accomplish!

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to understand an individual’s initial fear of pitbulls. I look at them and I see wiggly butts, goofy smiles, and the best cuddle partner you could ask for. But, occasionally I force myself to look at pitties from a point of view of someone who has never had much contact with them.

That pittie smile! Brittany Graham Photography

That pittie smile!
Brittany Graham Photography

The media portrays them as vicious dogs. They’re extremely muscular. And, well, they don’t look like the normal dog we’re used to seeing on TV. They don’t resemble much of Toto, Lassie or Air Bud. I can understand someone’s apprehension at first…. my advice: Just meet one. You won’t be able to not smile at some point.

Here’s a video of individuals meeting pitties for the first time. As much as it’s awesome to see individuals change their minds about them, it’s important for us that are pittie advocates to understand where some of these individuals are coming from. What you don’t know can be scary. So, let’s take a kind and gentle approach (just like the pitties) and create an atmosphere where Pittie Newbies can meet these amazing dogs and not feel intimidated.

And please, join our Pittie Parade on Sunday May 9th in Lakewood, OH! We will be walking to bring awareness to BSL. Check out our page!

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

Dog Law

Yesterday, I wrote a post about an experience I had with an off-leash dog which could have ended tragically.  Fortunately, it didn’t.  However, owners of larger dogs, particularly Pit Bulls, frequently feel they are singled out and held to higher standards than smaller dogs.  If a fight breaks out, obviously the larger dog was picking on the smaller dog.  That’s not always, or even usually, the case.  Dog fights start before any movement occurs.  A dog’s posturing towards another dog is designed in certain situations to read as: Come at me.

This is the image I get in my head whenever I see a Jack Russell standing its ground against a larger (often uninterested) dog.

This is the image I get in my head whenever I see a Jack Russell standing its ground against a larger (often uninterested) dog.

No matter the situation, though, it’s always your job as Pilot to control the situation.  So even if that little Jack Russell is out for your Doberman’s blood, and vocalizing it as well, it’s up to you to control your Dobie.  Obviously, just like me, you aren’t perfect.  You aren’t always going to respond perfectly.  Indeed, there is only so much you can do when an off-leash small dog comes charging at your larger one. But just because a situation seems hopeless doesn’t mean you stop Piloting.  You still Pilot.  You still do your best.  Don’t ever give up just because the situation seems too much to handle. Because that’s what Pilot’s do.

Yes, I did just quote Galaxy Quest, thank you.

Yes, I did just quote Galaxy Quest, thank you.

There are things you can do to prevent catastrophe as well as manage a catastrophic event.  BadRap.Org has written up a wonderful list of Dog Owner Rights that perfectly mirrors my sentiments.  It includes such things as carrying your cell phone to document behaviors on walks (you know, like that annoying off-leash dog on the corner of your house), as well as how to handle false complaints.  Give it a read.  Practice what it preaches.  It may well prevent a tragedy.

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

The Problem with Statistics…

   There are lies, damned lies and statistics.

  – Mark Twain

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Lately, we’ve had numbers and facts thrown at us about how Pitbulls are dangerous and that BSL is something that should be supported. We still wholeheartedly disagree. These “numbers” that have been thrown our way can sometimes be skewed and unless we look at the whole picture, they can be interpreted incorrectly.

We’re not saying there haven’t been aggressive pitbulls. What we are saying is that this is a human problem. Lack of responsible ownership is at the core of the pitties bad reputation. 90% of the dogs in Detroit’s shelters are pitbulls. Why? Because these dogs haven’t been neutered/spayed or cared for. Their population is high. Extremely high.

Between 1965-2001 there were 60 lethal pitbull attacks. Taking into consideration their estimated population at that time, that’s only 0.0012 pitbulls that were involved in a lethal attack. Compare that to the Chow’s .005.

BSL does nothing more than prohibit owners from being able to own a certain type of dog. Of course it lowers bite reports of a certain breed… they’re banned. But does it really lower the overall number of bites reported? Not in Denver.

Check out this article that deals with some facts and numbers. You may find yourself wondering why you haven’t thought of the numbers this way before.

 

 

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

The Pittie-ful Truth

  Darwin Dogs is committed to all dogs, including those unfairly discriminated against in Breed Specific Laws (“BSL”).   Pit bulls and bully breeds are a lovable group of dogs, and we hope everyone who wants to love and care for one will someday be able to legally do so in their city. 

 

HalloumiI was 21.  I had just rented my first place, a house in a not-so-great but cheap-rent part of town, just like a lot of young adults do.  I had my dog, Darwin, my car, and my job, and well, that was about it, but that was more than enough.

One Saturday, in the earliest days of March, I was on my way to for breakfast with my roommate, Pri.  As we were walking toward the car, I noticed that our next door neighbors had a dog tied up outside.  The dog (smaller end of medium-sized) was secured to a railroad spike in the ground by a length of chain not more than 2 feet long.  It was March, and typical for Cleveland, it was freezing rain.

Unfortunately, I tend to think the best of people, and figured that they had just gotten a dog and were letting it outside to go to the bathroom (I know, naive).  I went about my day as usual, forgetting about the dog after breakfast.  The next day, I noticed the same thing: the dog was still chained outside.  The concept of an “outside dog” was foreign to me, and therefore still didn’t come up in my mind.  I again assumed that the dog was going to the bathroom.

This went on for a week.  By the end of the week, I finally got the drift.  The next Saturday, as Pri and I were headed out for our weekly breakfast at McDonald’s, I noticed the dog outside again, freezing.  I set an ultimatum.  If the dog wasn’t in the house by the time I came home from McDonald’s, I was going to march next door and demand that they bring the dog inside.  Needless to say the dog was still outside when I got home.  Pri left for work, so I indeed marched down my driveway, across my snowy, slushy yard, and pounded on the side door.  Nobody answered.  I peeked inside through the window, and saw nothing but filth strewn everywhere. I pounded on the door again, but to no avail.  I was about to head back to my house when I heard it.  A whimper. The dog was crying.

No, this wasn't the dog I saw, but this is almost exactly the same surroundings.  Chained to the ground.

No, this wasn’t the dog I saw, but this is almost exactly the same surroundings. Chained to the ground.

I went to the backyard to see what was going on.  There sat the dog, in a mud puddle. There was no food. No water. No shelter. The chain was still attached to the poor animal.  I walked up to it, and pet it, wondering what to do.  I made my decision.  I unhooked the dog picked it up (it was amazingly heavy for it’s size, which I later found out was due to muscle mass) and carried it out of there.  I ran across my front yard and put the dog into my garage, wrapped in a blanket I kept in my car. Then I called my father.

“Dad, I just stole a dog.  I need your help getting it out of here.”  I gave him the circumstances. Now, mind you, my father was a cop.  He obviously frowned upon the concept of stealing (which is what I did), but considering the state of the animal, I think he looked at it like I did:  liberating. We decided that he would pick me up, and we would bring the dog back to my parents house in Parma, and decide what to do from there. He asked me what kind of dog it was.  I told him I thought it was a Boxer.

My father pulled into the driveway not too long afterwards. I ran into the garage, threw the dog into the front seat with my father, and than ran inside the house to grab my purse.  By the time I got back into the car, my father was plastered up against the driver’s door, giving the dog as much room as he possibly could.  ”Kerry, that’s not a Boxer!!! That’s a damn Pit Bull!!”, he shouted.  The dog just sat there panting, with what I would later learn was a Pittie smile across his face.  The dog (I called him Chico for some reason) slept on my lap the entire way to my parents house, where we let him rest for a couple hours (snuggled on the couch with my dad, who took all of 5 minutes to warm up to the pittie, the first he’d ever met), before contacting a local shelter, who mercifully took him in.  I followed his progress: he was adopted by a volunteer a very short time later. Happy ending for Chico!

Meanwhile, Pri came home. She called me at my parent’s house, asking what I’d done. I told her.  She said no matter what, do not bring that dog back to our house.  ”There are a bunch of guys outside with dog just like the one you stole.”  They were following my footprints down their driveway, into their backyard where the dog was, and but then my footprints disappeared because I had gone across my yard, where the slushy mud made them vanish.  Pri told me that they were doing weird things to the other dogs in the yard, like making them bite something and then dangling them in the air. At that time, I had never heard of dog fighting (I know…insulated childhood), but all the signs were there.  Chico had been destined to fight.

To this day, I still wonder if anything could have been done for those other dogs.  Chico, in the brief time I knew him, was a sweet, wonderful, kind little boy. I had taken him for a short walk around my parent’s block, and he was fine with meeting two people on the way.  He got along well with my parent’s smallish dog, Pebbles.  He didn’t kill the cats that were at my parents’ house, either. In other words, he was a great dog.

Unfortunately, this story would not happen today.  Pit bulls are banned in most cities, including Parma. I would not have been able to bring Chico back to my place, here in Lakewood, because they are outlawed.

Dogs that have no place to go are euthanized.  There’s not much that can be done in an overcrowded shelter.  There’s no more room on the Ark, if you will. Now imagine how much lessened your chance is of coming out of a shelter alive if you are a Pit Bull.  Most cities won’t even allow you to be adopted.  I’ve seen it time and time again with clients I work with: I help with dog selection for my clients. They want me to help them pick out a dog that will best work for them, and I’m happy to do it.  Until we get to the county shelter, which is inundated with Pitties.  My client falls in love with several of them, but can’t adopt them, because they live in a city with a ban.  Those dogs most likely won’t make it out alive.

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So I walk for Chico. I walk for the dogs that should have had homes, but couldn’t be brought home because of breed bans. A dog should be allowed to live and thrive based on nothing more than it being a dog. Not all dogs work within a home, but that determination should be made on an individual basis. After all, I stole a Pit Bull from a backyard, who according to BSL’s, should have mauled me upon sight.  Chico instead was the accurate standard for all Pittie breeds: a wonderful, slobbering, goofy dog.  So I ask you: join me on this walk.  For Chico and for all other Pitties out there who deserve so much better!

FREEDOM RIDE!  One of the lucky ones who made it out!

FREEDOM RIDE! One of the lucky ones who made it out!

Join us in our cause.  Raise awareness. Educate.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Why I Walk – Danika

Darwin Dogs is committed to all dogs, including those unfairly discriminated against in Breed Specific Laws (“BSL”).  That’s why Darwin Dogs has teamed up with Brittany Graham Photography for the Pittie Parades.  Pit bulls and bully breeds are a lovable group of dogs, and we hope everyone who wants to love and care for one will someday be able to legally do so in their city. The purpose of a Pittie Parade is to peacefully protest the BSL’s in specific cities.  On May 3, 2014 at 10:00 a.m., we will start our walk at W 117th and Madison and walk across Lakewood, Ohio with all our dogs, gaining signatures on petitions in opposition to BSL’s as we go.  Dogs and their owners are encouraged to wear their green bandanas in support of the Pittie Parade.  ”Bandanas for Banned Breeds” T-shirts are also available.

Danika Migliore of Darwin Dogs explains here why she chose to become involved with pitties and work towards revocation of BSLs.  To find out more about the Pittie Parade or to make a donation, please visit us here.  Proceeds from the Lakewood Pittie Parade benefit Cleveland Animal Control Volunteers, who are inundated with pitties who, because they are banned in so many cities, typically never find homes. 

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Vesta. Impossibly cute as a puppy.

We all have different reasons why we love those pittie breeds. But, I’d like to share mine. No, a pittie breed didn’t save me from a burning building or ward off an attacker. One just loved me. At a time when I needed it most.

While in college, I ended up getting very sick. I had what they call Adrenal Fatigue. I couldn’t sleep, I was exhausted all the time, felt panicky, alone (even though I wasn’t and had an awesome support system), and would just break down a lot for no reason. I cried once because Batman was on TV. I’m serious. It was crazy. I felt not one bit like myself and that’s what frustrated me the most. I was determined to get through college though and not take any time off.

Before heading back for my Junior year, I had considered getting a dog. Someone that would offer me that companionship I felt I needed. Before actually making a decision though, my roommate called me asking if I’d be okay with having a puppy in the house, as her Mom’s dog had just had some Staffordshire Bull-Terriers (or “Staffies” as they’re known). I was all for it. I didn’t know at the time, that the little diva that would come into my life, would change it forever.

We named her Vesta. Goddess of the Home. And boy did she fit that. She was a typical pittie breed. Hilarious and a goofball, with her own spice of attitude. She loved to cuddle. And she loved me. When she was little, she was a hellion. Doing homework was always difficult because pens were pretty much the most amazing things when we were holding them. However, once she got past her crazy puppy stage she settled into her own.

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Freddy Kreuger didn’t enjoy shredding as much as Vesta did!

She was my shadow and my partner in crime. We went everywhere together. The park, the library, farmers markets, everywhere I could take her she went. She slept with me every night, and you’d be amazed at how much room a 35 lb dog can take up. Yet somehow her snores were so soothing. I couldn’t help but finally be able to sleep again. She never asked more of me than what I could give. She could always tell when I wasn’t feeling great and was the best snuggle partner I could ask for. She motivated me to get out and do things even when I felt I was too tired. She made me feel better and lowered my anxiety. She was a therapy dog without knowing it.

I taught her tricks and worked with her constantly. My roommate’s mom couldn’t believe how good she was and the things she knew. That built both of our confidences. We were a team. Her Staffie attitude of complete loyalty and love is what helped me get better. I know it.

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We graduated Summa Cum Canine!

We lived in an older community. And there were lots of smaller dogs on our street. Many of our neighbors would make comments about how “dangerous” she looked. Meanwhile, their 3 pound dog wanted nothing more than to rip both of our throats out. It was unfortunate that Vesta got labeled because of what she looked like, and not by the fact that she would sit calmly by me and wait for me to make the first move. She changed a few minds while I lived there. Not enough in my opinion, but it was a step forward.

The day I moved out was hard. She followed me around the condo like usual. And she knew what was going on. I went into my room to do a last check to make sure everything was out and I felt a little nose at my leg and then paws. She was crawling up my leg one last time to say goodbye. I bent down and she gave me a gentle kiss on the nose. I walked downstairs and on my way out the door I went to say goodbye one more time, but in true Vesta fashion, she wouldn’t look at me. She was a diva after all, and well, she had already said her sweetest goodbye.

I miss that dog every day. I don’t have a pittie breed right now because I knew I wasn’t ready. I was afraid I would do too much comparing. But the next dog will be a pittie breed. There’s no doubt in my mind. She built a place for herself in my heart that is Staffie shaped. I get updates about her every once in a while and each picture I am so thankful and heartbroken at the same time. And that’s why I’m walking. Because a Staffie changed my life. A Staffie that had 4 legs, a cold nose, a big heart and a pittie face.

This is for you Vesta.

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Porter lending his support for banned breeds.  #BandanasForBannedBreeds

Porter lending his support for banned breeds. #BandanasForBannedBreeds

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training Cleveland Ohio