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

How Our Prejudices Have Influenced Dog Ownership

All generalizations are false, including this one.

Mark Twain

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

I went out to a local Thai restaurant a few weeks ago.  I brought home the leftovers, and when I ate them the next day, ended up getting food poisoning.  I decided that this was very dangerous to the health and safety of the general populace in my area, so I decided to take action.  I’ve started a petition to ban Thai restaurants in my city.  Public safety comes first.  That’s why I’m including any Chinese, Japanese and Cambodian restaurants in my proposition as well:  I’m mean, they’re basically the same food, right?  And I’d rather nobody had to experience what I went through.  It’s a known fact that people are more likely to get food poisoning from these styles of cooking than any other type of cuisine.  I’m going to include Indian food in the ban as well.  Better safe than sorry.

If you’re reading this and shaking your head, wondering if I’ve gone bonkers, you know how I feel now reading about breed specific legislation.

And both manage to avoid all rational thought.

And both manage to avoid all rational thought.

Yes, technically I did get sick from some Thai food that I ate…but my fridge malfunctioned and the food was left at room temperature for waaaay too long.  Essentially, because I did not harbor the food properly, it turned against me.  I didn’t take care to ensure it was in a safe environment, and against all precautions, ate it.  And paid the price for it.  However, I’m pretty sure that if I had chosen to eat the meatloaf that was left in similar conditions, I would have ended up with the same results.

I have indeed gotten food poisoning through no fault of my own – twice.  But considering how often I eat out (2x or more per week), having food poisoning a couple times in my life is a pretty amazing track record.

Let's stay positive about this.

Let’s stay positive about this.

Claiming that a breed of dog is inherently “bad” is about as sane and rational as declaring an entire cuisine poisonous based upon one bad experience, regardless of who is at fault. So I question the mentality of banning an entire breed, let alone lumping several in together because they “look alike”.

Currently, in the city of Lakewood, Ohio, the law reads:

 ”As used in this section, “pit bull dog” means 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. ” – LAKEWOOD, OH., ORDINANCES § 506.03(b)

Excuse me….did we just legislate against something using the word “appearance”?  Zucchini may have the appearance of a cucumber, but it ain’t the same thing. (As a matter of fact, my abhorrence for zucchini runs so deeply I had to spell it 5 times before finally running to spellcheck for assistance.)

Zuchini...zuchinni? Abomination That Masquerades As A Cucumber?

Zuchini…zuchinni? Abomination That Masquerades As A Cucumber?

 So lawmakers have opened that horrible floodgate of legislation based on appearance – one I thought we had finally closed years ago.  Do we really want to re-open that can of worms?  I didn’t think so.

Pit bulls (which are actually many breeds lumped together to form a “group”) have plenty of faults: most of which arise from the fact that they are dogs.  They are just like every other dog.  They can be sweet, they can sometimes be annoying.  They require Piloting, Activity and Work (or what we refer to as “PAW“) just like every other dog.  Mostly they’re interested in whatever it is that you are eating, and whether or not they can get a belly rub from you.  They will defend, they will run away.  It all depends upon the dog.

Members of Lakewood City Council are starting to realize the toxic nature of these laws.  jSam O’Leary, councilman for the City of Lakewood, has this to say:

“Lakewood’s BSL unfairly punishes a breed for the actions of irresponsible owners. Lakewood should hold the responsible party accountable: the owners of a vicious dog. When we legislate based on fear instead of the facts, we end up with policies that are ineffective, unfair, and fail to protect our neighbors and pets. Lakewood’s repeal of BSL is long overdue.”

I’m against judging a dog by their looks.  I like judging dogs by their actions.  Based upon who they are, not what they look like.  I believe in accurate breed profiling.  But most of all, I believe that the sum is worth more than the parts.  Case by case determination of what constitutes a “vicious dog”.  Repercussions for irresponsible owners.  I favor education over legislation any day.

 

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio