I am so sorry Lennox.
Thousands of us across the globe tried to save your life but failed. You were the victim of Breed Discrimination Laws.
In the words of noted canine aggression expert Jim Crosby, “I just hope your death serves to be the seed for change, and that your sacrifice motivates others to fight unfair laws based in ignorance and hate.”
You see Lennox looked like a pit bull and pit bulls are outlawed in his home town of Belfast in Northern Ireland. Lennox was a good boy yet his looks were all it took for a dog warden to come to his home, measure his muzzle and chest with a tape measure, declare him a pit bull and seize him. He was taken to a secret location, his family was not allowed to see him or say goodbye to their pet, who they loved dearly. Lennox was killed and the world grieves for him.
We cannot bring Lennox back but we will fight Breed Specific Laws (BSL) also know as Breed Discrimination Laws (BDL) everywhere. BDL is not good public policy as it does not achieve its goals of protecting the public from dangerous dogs. To protect the public, we should look at the behavior of the dog, not its breed. A dog’s behavior is determined by their upbringing and training, how they are handled by people. When we see a problem in an individual dog, often the problem is the owner, not the dog. Let’s stop supporting unfair legislation against breed types and support legislation that puts more responsibility on the owner. Judge the deed, not the breed.
What can we do to decrease dog bites? Here are some suggestions from a successful model program in Calgary, Alberta, Canada*.
1. Pass a dangerous dog law that recognizes that any dog, regardless of breed, is potentially dangerous or considered dangerous if the dog has demonstrated aggressive behavior. The dangerous dog law should allow for different levels of aggressive behavior. The point is to protect the public by encouraging owners to take action to control and manage their dogs - through spay/neuter, training and pet owner responsibility classes - before their dogs' behavior causes them to be classified at a higher level of aggression.
2. Pass strictly enforced leash or dog-at-large laws that require spay/neuter after the second violation. 82% of dog bites are by dogs running loose. (JAVMA, September 15, 2000) After passing a leash law, the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, reported a 35% drop in dog bites.
3. Pass laws that restrict the tethering and chaining of dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association has stated: "Confine your dog in a fenced yard or dog run when it is not in the house. Never tether or chain your dog because this can contribute to aggressive behavior." (May 15, 2003).
4. Encourage spay/neuter and provide low-cost spay/neuter in your community. 90% of fatal dog attacks are by dogs that are not spayed or neutered. Research cited in a 2000 Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association study indicated unsterilized dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite. (Delise, National Canine Research Council) 80% of dogs seen by veterinary behaviorists for dominance aggression were not spayed/neutered. (JAVMA, Vol. 218, No. 11, June 1, 2001) More than 81% of dogs involved in bites or attacks were found in one survey not to have been spayed/neutered. (Texas 2002 Severe Animal Attack and Bite Surveillance Summary) The key to encouraging spay/neuter is education and also the availability of a subsidized, low cost spay neuter program. Also, mandate spay/neuter for potentially dangerous dogs, dogs adopted out by shelters or rescues or sold by breeders or pet stores, and dogs impounded more than once or found at large.
5. Encourage responsible dog ownership, including socialization at an early age and training. Dogs should be part of the family. 81% of fatal dog attacks are by dogs that were isolated or not included in the family's activities. Educational programs to teach dog owners responsible dog ownership. Promote socialization and training with community-wide programs to reward responsible dog owners and encourage socialization and training as part of basic and common canine care practices. Increased access to off-leash parks for proper socialization of dogs is vital.
6. Strengthen dog-fighting laws, and ban training of dogs for aggression. Make animal neglect and cruelty laws more specific and easier to enforce, with tougher penalties. Breeders should be registered or licensed and subject to inspections and sales of their dogs tracked.
*source: Information Community Leaders Should Know by the Animal Law Coaltion.