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

15 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Lakewood City Council

  1. Doesn’t read blogs? Must be a religious prohibition. Anyway, I think a lobby of Animal Control and a prohibition of those damn retractable leashes is the way to go.

  2. Pingback: Pride and Prejudice and Blue Jays | Darwin Dogs

  3. This is a well written letter. It ties in the strengths of the community while offering specific, methodical, and consistent actionables. I personally own a pit/mastiff and have a young baby’s. They are best friends and adore each other. It’s all about how the dog is raised and has set expectations. Good luck!

    • Thank you, Samantha. It will indeed be a process that won’t happen overnight, but that we are determined to make happen. Thank you for your support of our endeavor!

    • Not yet. However, we are not looking for a reply yet. We are looking for an open, positive approach to working with council to achieve a solution that works for everyone.

  4. I’m really happy Lakewood has BSL, I feel safer walking around my neighborhood. I have not been attacked by a pit type dog, but on average, 25-35 Americans are killed by pits, and scores are maimed. Hundreds of beloved pets are killed by pit type dogs every year. Why not spend your efforts to clean up the breed first, and when the human fatalities are eliminated, then come back and discuss BSL. Betcha a quarter you never publish my comment…

    • Thanks for your input, Lew. I’m happy to hear that you’ve never been attacked by a pit. Congratulations, you are among the majority of Americans! As I’m sure you’re aware, pits are not a “breed”, and therefore cannot be “cleaned up”, so unfortunately that renders your comment unhelpful. Rather, as my letter points out, cleaning up the other end of the leash, the human end, with education is key to preventing bites from any dog. That is our goal.

      • Yet, on June 10, 2016 in the Comments section of a Detroit News article “Smiling dog’s breed might violate Waterford ordinance”, Mr. Heifner claimed to have owned a “pit bull” for 9 years which subsequently attacked him. He further stated that the only thing that saved his life was the fact that he shot the dog five times and that, even though one shot was through the head, the dog’s jaws had to be pried off of his arm.

        Mr. Heifner’s post have since either been deleted by him or blocked by the Detroit News.

        http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/oakland-county/2016/06/10/smiling-dogs-breed-might-violate-waterford-ordinance/85691932/

        • Please correct me if I’m wrong, but…You want to submit a comment to an article by a “Mr. Heifner” (which has since been deleted) that a dog attacked said individual and somehow turned into a zombie because after the alleged attack and subsequent death of the dog, the dog was still somehow able to retain a grip.

          Sounds like a pretty cool Marvel Comic to me! I wholeheartedly believe that if any of the information “Mr. Heifner” stated were true, then the government would already have a legion of these zombie dogs ready for battle.

          In all seriousness, I doubt one (deleted) comment to an article about a dog going full on “zombie” will change any rational and logical person’s opinion.

          • I had never been involved in a public “pit bull” discussion until June 10 when I encountered Lew Heifner in the comments section of the article I cited. His vehemence surprised me and I simply Googled his name to see if I could get an indication of what fueled his attitude. That brought me to your website where I noted that on May 12, 2015, he wrote to you:
            “I have not been attacked by a pit type dog,”

            Yet on June 10, 2016 he posted the following to the article I cited (btw … he didn’t delete his comments. It turns out he had blocked me and I could no longer view his posts while I was logged in under Facebook. His comment remains on the article.):

            Lew Heifner ·
            Works at Retired
            My experience is irrelevant, however. I had a pit bull, greatest companion in the world for 9 years… Then there was the last hour of his life where I was in a pitched battle for life. By the grace of God and 5 well placed bullets, my dog lost his life instead of the other way around. The locking jaw myth? My dog, with most of his skull blown away, still needed to be pried off.

            I found the contradiction curious.

  5. Great letter! I wish we did have free seminars. I think a lot of people would like learn more about dog behavior and training but don’t always have the money to put towards it. I hope that happens!

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