Our boy, Waldo, is five years old. His father was a boxer, and his mother was a mixed breed that appeared to be part golden retriever.
When we brought him into our home, he came into a family that dotes on him, gives him the best care, and shares their beds with him. We see to it that he receives whatever he needs to ensure his well-being. He is a loved and integral member of our family.
Being involved in animal advocacy has brought impossible stories of animal abuse to my attention over the past two years. I have often heard a story and thought to myself “God help the person who ever hurts or tries to hurt one of my dogs. They will do so over my dead body.” But I’ve come to realize that our pets are not safe anywhere. I’ve seen too many stories of pets stolen out of their own yards and shot, beaten, even skinned alive by strangers. I’ve seen too many stories of pets shot to death in their own yards by police officers responding to situations at unrelated addresses. And there have been far too many stories of family members and friends taking their spite out on a family pet. I’ve concluded that the only place our pets are safe is when they are locked inside of our homes with us.
But now I’ve learned that they are not even safe then. Boxers are often mistaken for pit bulls. If there was BSL in our community and a local government official were to decide to remove Waldo from our home, there’s probably little that we could do about it.
Waldo is five. He’s the same age that Lennox was when the Belfast City Council Dog Wardens took him away from his family. Lennox was an American Bull Dog/Labrador Retriever mix. He hadn’t bitten anyone, he had no complaints against him, and he wasn’t prone to running at large. His family, the Barnes family, took good care of him. He was neutered, licensed, insured, DNA registered, Pet Safe registered and micro chipped. He was the constant companion of the family’s disabled daughter, Brooke. Lennox was a good dog. He was a loved and integral member of the Barnes family. But Lennox didn’t “look” right. The Belfast City Council Dog Wardens measured his muzzle and his hind legs with a dressmaker’s tape measure and decided that by their measurements, he was a “possible pit bull breed type.” On those grounds, they seized him.
The city of Belfast in Northern Ireland, and the UK, have a Dangerous Dogs Act,
which is a piece of Breed Specific Legislation that allows officials to seize and destroy dogs based solely on their appearance.
It sounds insane, doesn’t it?
In fact, it sounds as terrifyingly absurd as the Physiognomes during WWII who claimed they could detect Ashkenazim (eastern Jews) facial features, and would denounce people to the Nazis based on their assessment of a person’s appearance. Yet BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) of this exact nature exists not only in the UK, but across the United States as well.
The UK Dangerous Dogs Act was instituted in the UK in 1991 in response to a number of dog attacks by aggressive and uncontrolled dogs that had caused injury or death. Four breeds of dogs were singled out and named in the act:
Four types in particular were identified by the Act:
The Act also also includes cross breeds of the four named breeds. Dangerous dogs are classified by ‘type’, not by breed label. That means that a dog can be judged by its physical characteristics and whether or not they match the description of a prohibited ‘type’—which is exactly what happened to Lennox. Lennox was determined to be a “pit bull type”, even though he was licensed with the city as being an American Bull Dog mix.
The Barnes tried to save their boy for two years. They exhausted every avenue available to them under the law to try to grant Lennox amnesty, but the Council stubbornly refused all attempts of contact from the family, all alternative solutions from high profile rescues, and any attempt at common sense and decency. (read the whole story here)
The only bully in this story is the Belfast City Council, who took a dog away from his family; kept him incarcerated for two years in a stark, un-enriching cell; denied him visitation by his family; refused to allow him to be released to rescue and adopted out of the country; and ultimately put him to death today. They didn’t even allow his family to say goodbye, or to claim his body.
BSL is Bull Shit Legislation. Educate others and take a stand against BSL in your state and community.