ADA Trumps BSL
Great news in the legal department for pit bulls owners this week. The Department of Justice ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does NOT allow Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) to be applied to service dogs. The new ruling applies to all breeds, including pit bulls, which is good news for pit bull owners from Colorado to Florida, who have been told they can’t have their service dogs in specific cities and towns. A number of lawsuits are pending over this issue; presumably, the local municipalities will now drop the restrictions.
Subpart A, Section 35.104, of the ruling specifically addresses BSL:
“The Department does not believe that it is either appropriate or consistent with the ADA to defer to local laws that prohibit certain breeds of dogs based on local concerns that these breeds may have a history of unprovoked aggression or attacks.”
While this ruling addresses BSL only as it applies to service dogs, it’s a win for fairness and a blow against ignorance.
Three cheers for the DOJ!
Media Bias against Pit Bulls
Meanwhile, good news on the media front as well. Inspired by reader Monika Courtney, who responded to a headline story about a pit bull attack with an impassioned letter complaining that pit bulls are treated unfairly by the Denver Post and the rest of the news media, Post reporter John Davidson decided to check out her allegations.
Readers of this blog will no doubt be entirely unsurprised by Davidson’s findings. He cited, among other sources, a National Canine Resource Council study of media coverage of dog bites over a four day period which included the following:
August 18, 2007 — A Labrador mix attacked a 70-year-old man, sending him to the hospital in critical condition. Police officers arrived at the scene and the dog was shot after charging the officers. This incident was reported in one article in the local paper.
August 19, 2007 — A 16-month-old child received fatal head and neck injuries after being attacked by a mixed-breed dog. This attack was reported twice by the local paper.
August 20, 2007 — A six-year-old boy was hospitalized after having his ear torn off and receiving a severe bite to the head by a medium-sized, mixed-breed dog. This incident was reported in one article in the local paper.
August 21, 2007 — A 59-year-old woman was attacked in her home by two pit bulls and was hospitalized with severe, but not fatal, injuries. This attack was reported in over 230 articles in national and international newspapers, as well as major television news networks including CNN, MSNBC and Fox.
If you ever wonder why you see so many pit bull attack stories in the media (aside from the uncertainty over how many of these attacks are actually by pit bulls), to quote Davidson’s article, “anti-pit bull bias in the media is more than just a theory — it’s a fact.”
Save Peter the Pit Bull from the Pearly Gates!
And speaking of anti pit bull bias, readers are urged to contact the Sturbridge, Massachusets Town Council at (508) 347-2511 before an August 5th hearing to appeal the death sentence handed out to Peter, a Sturbridge pit bull. Peter committed the horrific crime of running up to a neighbor. The dangerous canine compounded his perfidy after the poor woman began beating him over the head with a caulking gun. In a truly gruesome display of viciousness, Peter grabbed the caulking gun away from her, ran back to his yard, and began playing with it.
Of course, Peter has a long history of crimes. When he was 9 weeks old, he was attacked by this same neighbor’s adult husky. Later, as an adult pit bull, Peter got loose from his owner and barked at a poodle. While he was barking at the poodle, the woman next door (yes, the same one) again ran out and yelled at him, then retreated behind her glass door when Peter charged toward her. Supposedly, Peter attacked the glass door. The poodle, not behind a glass door, remained unharmed. In yet another case of canine criminality, Peter was briefly unlicensed at one point.
It is understandable that these incidents outweigh the affidavits of numerous other neighbors, including the cleaning lady who sees Peter on a regular basis, and the testimony of an animal control officer who put Peter through a battery of tests designed to provoke aggression and concluded “I would not consider Peter to be aggressive or a threat to society more than any other dog residing in the town of Sturbridge.”
If you wish to see Peter granted mercy despite his horrific crimes, the number to call to plead his case is, again, (508) 347-2511. You can also contact the Board of Selectmen, who sentenced Peter to death, at (508) 347-2500 or by fax at (508) 347-5886. The Town Hall is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
This probably goes without saying, but just in case: Please be respectful with your calls and faxes. People are much more likely to respond well to polite treatment, and there’s a good chance that whoever answers the phone will not be one of the people who imposed the death sentence. Also, keep in mind your comments will reflect on the breed (and Peter!) as well as yourself.