Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.
About a week ago I received a voicemail from a thoroughly exhausted woman named Liz, asking me for help. I listened to her story with growing outrage at the situation they had all been placed into.
Liz’s granddaughter, 4-year old Aleeah, has cystic fibrosis, and Liz’s son, who had just gained full custody of his daughter, was forced to move in with Liz so as to facilitate Aleeah’s constant medical care. Part of Aleeah’s care includes wearing a compression vest for fifteen minute treatments, twice a day. The vest is designed to help break up the mucous that is constricting her breathing, and it shakes her, starting with moderate vibration and ending with violent shakes. Needless to say, it can be traumatic for the child, and they had difficulties getting her to sit calmly through the twice-daily ordeal.
That’s where this little guy came into play.
The thought was that a puppy might be able to keep Aleeah’s mind off of the treatments. And guess what? It worked. Aleeah was sitting still for the treatments, and Scrappy was right by her side, comforting her throughout the ordeal.
He hears the machine go on, and he’s right by her, ready to do his job. No, he wasn’t trained to do this. He’s not a service dog, nor even a therapy dog. He’s a dog who knows he has a job. Unfortunately, according to a few, he’s something else. A pit bull. At least that’s what the City of Lakewood believes. And since Aleeah and best friend moved into Lakewood, a city that still has outdated Breed Specific Legislation (“BSL”), this dynamic duo is about to be broken up.
Scrappy was forced to do a blood test to prove whether or not he actually is actually “pit bull”. According to the City of Lakewood’s 2008 legislation, a “pit bull” is:
“any Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog, any dog of mixed breed which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of such breeds, any dog commonly known as a pit bull, pit bull dog or pit bull terrier; or a combination of any of these breeds.”
Scrappy’s blood test is still pending. He has a hearing on February 23 pending the outcome of his blood test. If he proves to be “pit bull” by DNA, the hearing will go forward, most likely resulting in his being seized by the city.
Meanwhile, a little girl sits at her breathing machine, wondering if this will be the last time Scrappy will be there with her though it all.
I, personally, refuse to allow Scrappy to be taken away purely because of misguided and outdated legislation. Aleeah needs Scrappy, and Scrappy needs Aleeah. But even more so, we need to examine the nature of legislation such as this. With so many cities overturning their breed specific legislation and welcoming all dogs into their cities, why do we still have such antiquated legislation in effect in such an otherwise tolerant city as Lakewood, Ohio? Even Lakewood City Council is divided on the issue, which was decided eight years ago, with different members on the council at the time. Council President Sam O’Leary had this to say to reporter Bruce Geiselman in a recent Cleveland.com article:
“I don’t speak for all of council, but I have heard from other council members they would be open to revisiting the topic this year,” O’Leary said. “Personally, I don’t think this is a policy that has support in science, and I think there have been a number of reports, studies and other information provided from groups ranging from the American Bar Association to the ASPCA that show from a public policy and public safety standpoint there are more effective and comprehensive ways to address this issue than breed-specific language.”
Aleeah’s grandmother and I attended Lakewood City Council’s meeting this past week, along with many supporters, to plead with council to revisit the archaic legislation. Let’s hope that our words do not fall on deaf ears. We ask that you join with our voices, not only with regard to Aleeah and Scrappy, but also in support of those dogs who didn’t garner as much attention as Scrappy has. For those victims of BSL who never make it out of a shelters. Only 1 in 600 pit bulls will make it out of a shelter alive. Most are euthanized through no fault of their own. Be a voice for those families who are unable to keep their beloved pets because of misguided notions about who pit bulls really are. Be a voice for Aleeah and Scrappy.
I’ve already added my voice, and will continue to do so. Please consider adding yours.
Dog Training in Lakewood, Ohio