Pit Bulls – A Story of 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It’s been nearly five years since Ohio repealed state-wide Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).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