Pride and Prejudice


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It’s been nearly five years since Ohio repealed state-wide Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).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


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


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.


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:

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.,,,,,,,
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

The Problem with Pitties

It matters not what one is born, but what they grow to be.
- Albus Dumbledore

3-13-14(1)I recently wrote a post on why I love (accurate) breed profiling.  I briefly mentioned pitties (A.K.A., pit bulls), but didn’t really go into depth about them as a specific “breed” of dog. Right now pit bulls are a polarizing breed.  Lovers or fighters?  Vicious or victims?

As I’ve previously written, I’m all for accurate breed descriptions, or profiling. Name things accurately. Describe things correctly. As Dumbledore pointed out to Harry Potter, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”  Sage words.

Polarizing things, such as pitties, puts them in angel or devil categories, each side slinging skewed statistics and unrealistic qualities, towards the other:

  • Their jaws lock on their victims/There’s no such thing as an aggressive pittie
  • The pit bull terrier is the breed of choice for criminals./Pit bulls are the best family dogs.
  • Pit bulls will readily fight other dogs/Pit bulls are the most social dogs out there

Who’s right?  The problem lies within the fact that we only have two choices within to categorize pits: angel or devil.

In 1820, Sir Walter Scott wrote his famous Ivanhoe, a medieval romance set in 12th century England.  One of Ivanhoe’s characters that doesn’t get a lot of credit is Isaac of York, a Jew.  In 12th century England, where the story is set, Jews were basically a pariah. Hated and maligned, and apparently quite capable of witchcraft against Gentiles, according to the ludicrous thinking of the period.  They had mostly, if not always, been portrayed in western fiction as evil, base and cowardly.  After a bit of time, a small, select group of people began to loathe the treatment of Jews in literature, and portrayed them to be enlightened people, who were innocent beyond reproach (even Rebecca in Ivanhoe was treated as a pinnacle of beauty and innocence).  Obviously neither description of Jews was accurate – any large group of people cannot possibly be all good or bad.

Then comes Isaac.  Sir Walter Scott did something amazing when he created the character of Isaac:  he allowed Isaac to be base and elevated. Kind and cruel.  Able to be callous one moment, and show extreme tenderness the next.  In other words, Scott made him real.  To my recollection, this was the first time in history that Western culture had portrayed someone Jewish as, well, neither angel nor devil.  He was merely human. He was just like other humans.  And we judge humans on a case-by-case basis, not by gender, by ethnicity, or by…well, anything other than who the individual is.

2-10-14 (2)

Consider Isaac when debates about pit bulls come up.  The best thing we can do for pitties as a “breed” is to allow them to land somewhere between angel and devil, just like any other breed of dog living being.  Pitties are not perfect. Please don’t put that label, so full of pressure, on them.  Pitties are dogs, no more, no less.  Just like every other dog, they have their quirks, and they have their amazing redeeming qualities.  Most importantly, they are individuals, not to be defined as a one-size-fits-all breed standard.

I am admittedly a pittie fan.  Being a trainer, I am familiar with these dogs. I’d say roughly 60% of my clients own pitties/pittie mixes, however, I have never been bit by one. They can be very timid sometimes, and occasionally very submissive, but stand-offish is not a word for them.  Sometimes shy, sometimes boisterous.  Always a riot, though.  Typically, they’re the type of dog who’d apologize for apologizing too much.

I’ve worked with a few clients who had dog-reactive pit bulls, but then again, I’ve had 4 pugs in the last week who were dog reactive.   Pitties are not suitable for every situation, but then, no dog is. But I’d confidently say they’re appropriate for most situations. I will not lie and say they are without fault; believe me, they can have faults, just like every other dog.  But they have heart. They have loyalty.  They seem to be willing to try to do what ever you want them to do. They are a dog. I personally do not own one because, unfortunately, that would be illegal in my home city of Lakewood.  But hopefully I will be able to in the near future.  I’ve kinda developed a crush on pitties, you see.


This is why Darwin Dogs is so vocal about ending breed specific legislation (“BSL” or “Breed Bans”), and are aggressively pursuing an end to them..  As our mission statement proclaims, we are dedicated to peacefully and logically examining the necessity of Breed Specific Legislation in various cities, starting with our hometown of Lakewood, Ohio.

So instead of serving the Kool-aid of “Perfect Pitties” or the poison contained in the BSL’s, it’s time to give the victims of the BSL laws what they deserve: the opportunity to be looked upon with all their glorious faults and beauty.  In other words, just a regular dog. Perfectly imperfect.

Please help us in our fight against stereotypes, such as BSL.  For more information about how you can help, please check out All Breeds Lakewood, which is comprised of a handful of Lakewood citizens who have banded together to end breed discrimination and promote dog safety in our city.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, 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

Photo courtesy of

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:'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?


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

The Power of Experience

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything – George Bernard Shaw

Remember those days, where posters of your favorite movie star or boy band covered the walls of your room? It basically looked like a teeny bopper version of a stalker’s basement. Or remember when you would see your favorite movie star or boy band on tv or on a magazine, you would squeal and go on and on about how amazing they were and all their great qualities?

These guys used to cover my walls

These guys used to cover my walls

Well, my poor parents had to go through that stage with me twice. Once, when I was an actual teeny bopper. And once when I was older and found out that pitbulls had stolen my heart. Anytime one was on tv I would stop and stare after letting out a slightly embarrassing sound that I hadn’t used since my ‘NSync days.

If we saw a pitbull on the street, I would come close to drooling. I had pictures of them on my desktop background and I was constantly sharing facts and videos of them.

When this first started my parents didn’t seem to fully understand what was happening. They, like most people, hadn’t had much contact with any pitbulls. In fact, pretty much none. I was the only one that had met and interacted with bully breeds out of my family.

 Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

At first, my parents would ask about certain traits that many people haven’t been around pitbulls or haven’t been able to gain enough information about the breed (I use the term breed loosely, because as we know, they’re just a mix) ask:.

Aren’t they aggressive?

Their jaws lock don’t they?

Don’t you think they’re kind of funny-looking?

Why aren’t they allowed in certain apartment complexes and towns?

This was my opportunity to educate! I would share the knowledge that I had gained about them every time the opportunity came up. My parents would just nod and smile. I never knew what they were thinking really. It was kind of like my teeny bopper days, they accepted it but didn’t fully understand. But that was okay with me. I went on oohing and aahhing over every pitbull I came across.

When Vesta came into my life (she’s the reason that I want BSL to end), I could tell they were hesitant again. But, they were supportive and went with it.

Vest as an adorable little puppy

Vest as an adorable little puppy

Vesta was a lovebug. As they would come to visit, I could see my parents warming up to her more and more. They saw how happy she made me. They also saw how sweet she was. She had an amount of devotion towards me that was extraordinary. She knew what my next move was going to be before I did. She knew how to make me feel comfortable and how to cheer me up. She also knew how to make everyone around her laugh and that endeared her to them. They were able to see the dog she was and not just the breed.

It’s hard to connect or change your mind about something or someone if you’ve never interacted with that individual or animal. You’re only able to go off of facts or stories that other people have told you. It’s not the same thing as experiencing it yourself. And sometimes, those that are able to change others minds can do it without even knowing.

The other day, I was home visiting when a neighbor was talking about a new dog in the neighborhood. It was a pitbull and they relayed concerns and incorrect facts about pitbulls. I took a deep breath to start in on my arguments and all of a sudden my parents piped in:

“They’re very loyal dogs you know”

“They’re not what the media makes them out to be”

“I saw him the other day, just standing there, wagging his tail with a big smile on his face. Looked like a great dog.”

I took a step back and just realized, the individuals that had never understood my pitbull obsession were standing up for my pitbull obsession. They were able to rely on experiences that they had had with the breed and help others appreciate these misunderstood dogs.

Vesta and I playing around

Vesta and I playing around

This is why the Pittie Parade is so important. It’s a chance for individuals to encounter well behaved and gentle dogs that they might not have met in any other circumstance. They get to meet the wiggly butts and goofy smiles that pitties so lovingly posses. That’s what it takes to changing minds. No yelling, no screaming, no yelling out facts over and over. It takes someone to say, “hey, this dog is really sweet” for some changes to start to take place.

If we can change just one mind, we’ve succeeded. If we can change more? Well, that could create some more loving homes and arms for wiggly butts and goofy smiles everywhere.

Keep calm and pilot on

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



“…so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” -Ian Malcom, Jurassic Park

o-PITBULL-570This is Hulk.  At 175 pounds, he is the world’s largest pitbull (which yes, I know isn’t even a breed, but rather a conglomeration of different breeds).  He is owned by Marlon Gannon of Dark Dynasty K9.  Hulk has been bred, and according to Gannon, is a trained professional guard dog, who will heed his owners every command and protect them with his life. Lisa Gannon claims she trusts him around her toddler “precisely because of his thorough guard-dog training” and even lets her toddler ride him(!), a very dangerous (and stupid) thing to do.

Because nothing shows respect so much as letting your children ride your dog

Because nothing shows respect so much as letting your children ride your dog

Let me start by stating that anyone who claims their dog will follow their “every command” has some ego problems.  My dogs and I are pack members. I have nothing to prove to them except that I will always take care of them, and in a crisis situation (say, intruder breaks in or a zombie apocalypse) I know they will do their best to protect me.  I will never claim any animal (or human, for that matter) will obey every command, as every creature has a breaking point.

I’ll admit it: I don’t respect guard dog trainers very much.  I think it takes a special kind of bully to turn a dog into a compensating appendage.

Contact your doctor if you try to compensate for more than four hours.

Contact your doctor if you try to compensate for more than four hours.

I do realize that there are indeed special circumstances that actually require a guard dog, and that there are indeed wonderful trainers who can train dogs to safely handle these situations.  Police dogs, military dogs, even personal protection dogs, are all a necessary evil.  However, I do wonder at the ludacris number of “guard dog trainers” out there. Especially the ones who use pitties as guard dogs.  One of the worst choices for the job.  Yeah, they’re muscular, but so was Michael Clarke Duncan.  Who was a vegetarian.  

So wait, muscular individuals don't dine on baby flesh?

So wait, muscular individuals don’t dine on baby flesh?

I stumbled across the best statement about this whole “Hulk” debacle on Facebook.  Trainer Shannon Duffy, from Your Good Dog, had this to say about it:

“This may come as a surprise but I am not a fan of Hulk. Well, Hulk I love, the situation around him is despicable in my opinion. Hulk, the 175 pound “Pit Bull”, is the latest internet sensation. Hulk is also a mutation that is the result of irresponsible breeding that is done purely for looks and size with no regard for the health or temperament of the dogs created. He seems to be a great family dog even when the parents, showing extreme poor judgment, allows their child to ride him like a horse. I wish him all the best and hope that he continues to be a good ambassador for Pit type dogs but I cannot support the concept of breeding based purely on appearance (looking at you too AKC).”

And that sums up everything despicable surrounding poor Hulk. I, too, wish you the best in this crazy world you’ve been thrust into, big guy.

Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, 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


 Stereotypes do exist, but we have to walk through them.
- Forest Whitaker


As you may have heard, here at Darwin Dogs we are starting our Pittie Parade.  This is where we try to get people to look past the stereotypes of this breed and see who they’re really about: love, loyalty, and a whole lotta goofiness.  Maybe we need to do the same for humans as well.

When I was about 20, I was involved in a car crash.  Nobody was injured, but both cars were damaged.  My car’s tire was completely blown.  As usually happens in an accident, a group of people gathered around immediately.  Cops showed up.  While I giving my statement to the police, a very “rough” looking man pulled up to the scene on a bike.  He had the entire ensemble going: from biker boots to the head-to-toe leather…right down to the red bandana on his head.  He calmly walked up to me and asked me for my car keys.  Being very shaken up, I automatically gave them to him without thinking.  He silently walked over to my car, popped the trunk, and proceeded to remove the damaged tire and put the spare tire on my car.  He then handed the keys back to the cop (I was signing documentation) and left.  I never got to thank him.  Not just for changing my tire, but for changing my perception.

No, this is not the gentleman who fixed my tire, but it's a pretty good clone of him!

No, this is not the gentleman who fixed my tire, but it’s a pretty good clone of him!

Take a look at the first picture again.  The one at the top of this post.  That man, what did you think of when you saw him? Gang? Violence? Thugs?  Drugs and alcohol? But what about animal advocacy?  I’ll bet that didn’t pop up in your head immediately.  This is Danny Trejo.   You can read a little about him here.

Pic from the BAAC website's Rodeo.

Pic from the BAAC website’s Rodeo.

This is a picture from Bikers Against Animal Cruelty, a non-profit dedicated to animal advocacy.  Probably not what you expected. Check out their link…it’s a pretty amazing group of people doing a pretty amazing thing.  They certainly look different from me, and probably from you as well (if not, well then you’re cooler than I’ll ever be!).  But different isn’t good nor bad…it’s just, well, different.  Kinda like the message we’re trying to spread about Pitties:  judge deeds, not breeds.

Up until I was 20 years old, I might have been inclined to think that “biker-types” were usually involved in violence.  Were thugs. In general, just unsavory people.  That changed in a moment, when one of these “thugs” helped me out when I really needed some help, with no motive other than to just help.  No, I didn’t get to know him, and never saw him again, but I saw in that moment who he was, not what he was.  And my opinion completely changed about bikers.  When I see one on the highway now, I think of that man all those years ago.  Opinions can change for the better.  That’s what October is all about: education about a breed that is misunderstood and maligned based upon a culture that thinks if something looks big and bad, it must be big and bad.  But we know better.  It’s up to us to change opinions.  Because it feels wonderful to have your stereotype lifted and to find commonality where you were certain there was none.  I can speak from experience.

Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Laws in Lakewood, Ohio (and plenty of other cities) encourage discrimination of pets based upon how they look.  Prejudiced and narrow-minded in application, and downright ridiculous in standing.  And so Darwin Dogs holds a Pittie Parade every year. “Bandannas for Banned Breeds” is our theme.  Wear your green bandanna in support of our cause. I’ll bet your dog would look great in one too!  If you’re in the Cleveland area, show your support by walking with us in the parade.  Help support our cause with a donation (we need all the help we can get!).

Pittie_Parade_0021 (1)

 But most importantly, be an ambassador for kindness, be it in representing a breed of dog or a just as a human.  I truly wish that the gentleman who assisted me on that day 17 years ago is reading this.  I would thank him for changing my tire.  And I would thank him for changing my perspective.


Keep calm and pilot on Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


Off with you! You’re a happy fellow, for you’ll give happiness and joy to many other people. There is nothing better or greater than that!

 - Ludwig van Beethoven

In the words of Beethoven, "huh?"

In the words of Beethoven, “huh?”

I’m a nerd.  Really.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, you really haven’t been reading many of my posts, have you?  Well, this post shouldn’t shock you either.

Too much?

Too much?

Something happened today that made me want to listen to Beethoven (we’ll get to the incident in a moment).  Specifically, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, hailed as perhaps one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed.  I’m sure you know it, or at least how it starts out.  The same five notes, over and over, twisted around new forms, altering their tone, tempo, or sound, but constantly, those same four notes.  It’s very moving in a dark, desperate kind of way.  Almost chaotic. 

Dark and terrible.  That’s what most people think of when the Beethoven’s 5th comes to mind. We’ve seen its resonance as the heroine runs through the dark forest only to trip and fall as Some Dark Figure approaches.  We’ve heard it playing as we do our taxes.  Perhaps we’ve heard it as background on a war documentary.  It feels passionately hopeless.

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So that’s what imagery is conjured up by Beethoven’s terribly magnificent 5th Symphony.  The first movement.  See, there are four movements.  But we’ll get to those in a moment.  Now, on to what made me think of Beethoven.  Meet Beethoven.

Not what you wanted to see?  Me neither.

Not what you wanted to see? Me neither.

This Beethoven has had a tremendously horrific life thus far.  He was found in Cleveland this week by a good Samaritan who brought him to All Dogs Heaven.  He weighed 36 lbs. His body temperature was 94 degrees (99-102 is considered normal).  I will spare you the visuals of his condition, but suffice it to say his limbs look like hamburger meat.  He can’t walk. If he makes it, it will be a long, difficult journey.

He made me think of those famous first four notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.  This Beethoven has had the same four notes playing his entire life.  Pain. Hunger. Terror.  Loneliness.  Over and over again, swelling and cresting, but constant companions.  Pain. Hunger. Terror. Loneliness.

But did you know about the other 3 movements in Beethoven’s 5th?

The second sounds like what I imagine Beethoven must have felt when someone finally slowed their car down as they passed him huddled in the street, temperatures below zero.  It must have sounded like one little glimmer of hope as a woman, sobbing over his condition, gently cradled him as she placed him tenderly into her warm car.  Just a tiny little sliver, but nevertheless a break in the excruciating four notes that had thus far filled his days.

Huddled in the backseat of the car, he was then transported to a vet, who initially had to leave the room to composer herself before she could start to treat his wretched condition. Tender hands working to console him, care for him, love him. The third movement of Beethoven’s 5th.  Pain, Hunger, Terror, Loneliness is starting to melt away into something else.  Uncertainty? Maybe.  Pain?  Still there.  But so were friends.  Beethoven’s tail started to wag (and 2 days later still hasn’t stopped!).  Food is replacing the hunger.  Certainty is replacing the dreadful unknown.



A scratch behind the ear.  Love. Affection.  Our furry little Beethoven is about to enter into the 4th and final movement, which is the sound of rebirth.  He’s only just started, a few moments into the final movement, and he needs your help!  His medical bills will be quite staggering, and his rescuer is quite burdened with other fosters in her care.

Beethoven needs his final movement played.  At least given the chance to hear his symphony end with triumph instead of those same callous four notes he’s been hearing his entire life!  Please consider making a donation to his cause by clicking here.  All donations go directly to his care.  Let’s help him discover that last movement of the greatest symphony of all time.



Ludwig von Beethoven gave birth to what was the greatest era of music:  Romanticism.  He embodied perfection in composition.  Our little Beethoven?  He embodies every dog. His inability to give up.  His endurance despite desperate circumstances.  But most importantly, the beauty of living here and now, in the moment, and despite all he has survived so far, to have enough hope to start to wag his tail.  I for one would like to hear his triumphant finale rather than an unfinished and discarded masterpiece.

Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio