The Human Victims of Breed Specific Legislation

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.

Helen Keller

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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.

Meet Scrappy, the

Meet Scrappy

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.

A hero to Aleeah

A hero to Aleeah

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  And since Aleeah and best friend moved into Lakewood, a city that still has outdated Breed Specific Legislation (“BSL”), this dynamic duo is about to be broken up.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.

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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.

As of publication, we are just shy of 40,000 signatures in support of Aleeah and Scrappy.  Please click here to add your name and allow your voice to be heard.  We are also asking that you directly contact City of Lakewood, Ohio - Municipal Government, either on their Facebook page or via snail mail:
City of Lakewood, Ohio
Attn:  Mayor Mike Summers
12650 Detroit Ave
Lakewood, Ohio
Keep calm and pilot on
Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Lakewood, Ohio

What a Blue Jay Taught Me about Prejudice

“Angry people are not always wise.”
― Jane AustenPride and Prejudice

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Yes.  It’s a baby blue jay.  I’ll explain in a bit about this particular little monstrosity, but suffice it to say I hate blue jays.  It all stems from several years ago when I was out back working in my garden.  I heard a commotion of cheeps and chirps from a bunch of sparrows.  I looked over my fence into my neighbor’s yard, and found a blue jay in the midst of pecking to death a small sparrow while the other sparrows attempted to dissuade the vicious beast.  I immediately ran into my neighbors yard to try to save the star-crossed sparrow, but was too late.  Thus started my immediate hatred of blue jays.  I deemed them wretched, murderous and vile creatures.

Yes, this strong opinion was based upon one incident with one jay.  However, the incident was so violent that I was, for a long time, unable to erase it from my mind, and thus painted all jays with the same brush.

Well, today I came home after dropping my kids off to school and heard a commotion in the dining room.  There in the corner were two dogs and a cat of mine, all very interested in something.  I heard squawking.  Yup….somehow a blue jay fledgling had gotten into my house.

I quickly grabbed the agitated and frightened creature and secured its safety from the (not so effective) predators in my house.  A frantic text to a vet friend of mine, combined with some quick internet research led me to the conclusion that the best place for it was outside where (hopefully) the mother would be able to find it. Apparently jays spend about a week on the ground once out of the nest, but before they can fly.  They hop about learning the ropes of life on the outside.

So here I sit in my window seat, with the baby jay placed outside where I can monitor it.  He’s since moved to the safety of one of my flower pots, where he’s been contentedly snoozing for the past 20 minutes or so.  I will continue to monitor him for another hour or so.  I hear his mother looking, but she still hasn’t found him.  I’ll keep him safe until she does.

So what does this have to do with dogs?  Nothing?  Perhaps everything.  Or maybe just one dog.

See, a few days ago a boy was killed by dog, possibly a pit bull (though not confirmed).  I will not defend the actions of this dog. I do not believe this dog should be saved nor should rehabilitation be attempted.  I think it killed a boy.  I think that no mother should ever suffer the trauma of losing a child, especially in such a fashion.  However, this was not a pit bull attack, it was a dog attack.  I think that’s what needs to be focused on.

How can this be prevented in the future?  Banning pit bulls?  Hasn’t worked for most cities.  What about education?  Stringent requirements on spaying and neutering (it greatly decreases the chances of aggression).  Leash laws and swift action for dogs deemed vicious by their action, not by their breed.

So was this dog a pit bull?  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  It was a dog.  Dog is a dog is a dog is a dog.  In my estimation, breed doesn’t enter into the discussion. Education does.  Empathy does.  This was a terrible tragedy, a senseless death of a child from a vicious dog.  Yes, details may emerge – perhaps the dog was being baited by the child. Perhaps the dog was abused.  But perhaps doesn’t bring this child back.  And perhaps the dog was a pittie/wasn’t a pittie doesn’t change the fact that this was a vicious attack perpetrated by a single dog, not a breed of dogs.

So I’ll sit here and monitor this baby bird, putting aside my distaste for blue jays (which was based on one incident in my almost 40 years on this planet).  After all, mom had a nest nearby, and never once attacked me.  Perhaps I need to put aside my prejudice and realize that the action of the one doest not dictate the mindset of the many.  Because if mama doesn’t find her baby soon, it looks as if I may have to foster that which I (up until 2 hours ago) hated based solely on an incident from many years ago.  I think Austen put it well when she stated:

“What is right to be done cannot be done too soon.”

I think dissolving prejudices falls into that category nicely.

UPDATE:  I kept an eye on Don Rickles for a few hours while he was outside to see if the momma bird would come back.  Unfortunately, he hung out on a potted plant, refusing to move, and looking like he was falling asleep (which is a bad sign).  Even worse, he didn’t eliminate for a couple hours, meaning momma wasn’t feeding him.  So off we rushed to the Lake Erie Science and Nature Center.  A wildlife rehabilitation center is there, and one of the specialists took a look at Don Rickles.  He noted that poor Don had a puncture on his chest under his wing (probably caused by a cat).  He said in typical situations, the bird would be sent home with me to be left outside so the mom can finish up her job of taking care of him.  However, the nature of the bite necessitated some antibiotics.  So I left the poor little guy there to receive the care he needed.  I was told to call in a week to check in on him if I wished, but I was not expecting good news.

I was pleasantly surprised by this update.

Yup!  That's Don Rickles!

Yup! That’s Don Rickles!

Little man is doing well, and has even made some new friends!  It would appear that he’s on his way to complete rehabilitation!

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio