When breed discrimination means you can’t go home

Jeter and Chip, GSD mix and Pit Bull

By Gerald Sager, for StubbyDog.org

The saying is, “You can always come home.” However, for some people that is not true. I never thought I would be afraid to come home, but because I fear losing my best friend, that is the case for me and my family.

Three years ago, my wife and I moved from our home state of South Dakota to Oklahoma City, Okla., to go to law and graduate school. I recently earned my law degree and also hold a master’s degree in business administration. Ashton is pursuing her master’s degree in nutrition. Our family consists of two dogs (Chip and Jeter, a.k.a. “our boys”), and three cats (Priscilla, Bella and Luci, a.k.a. “our girls”).

When we first moved to Oklahoma, we had in the back of our minds that we would move back to South Dakota eventually.

That changed when we acquired our Pit Bull, Chip. One reason why Ashton and I have made such a good couple is because of our equal love for animals. For example, all of our current pets are strays from the street. I found Chip in a gas station parking lot while I was on my way to class. We fell in love with him immediately. It didn’t hurt that he and Jeter were instant best friends and now inseparable. In addition, both Chip and Jeter get along very well with the cats.

Gerald Sager family portrait

We have always been aware about the legal issues when it comes to breed bans, but we didn’t think about them much until we acquired Chip. Now, breed-discriminatory legislation is foremost on our minds. While researching breed-discriminatory legislation, I found out that some municipalities would not only ban Chip, but also ban Jeter, who is a Doberman and German Shepherd mix. I became immersed in researching and fighting breed bans when we were in South Dakota for a holiday, and I heard on the news that a certain South Dakota city had in the works a proposed Pit Bull ban. Hearing that a South Dakota town was going to vote on whether or not to ban Pit Bulls made me sick to my stomach.

Luckily, this town was neither my hometown nor my wife’s hometown, but I understood that it very well could be one of our hometowns, and then what would we do?

Our dogs come with us every time we go to South Dakota. I quickly found out that a few other South Dakota towns had been banning Pit Bulls for a while. One town in particular bans Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers and German Shepherd dogs. It was at this moment I decided to devote myself to fighting breed-discriminatory legislation. Also at that moment, I felt fortunate to be living in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is one of 12 states that prohibits breed-discriminatory legislation.

When I finished school, Ashton and I had the option of either going back to South Dakota where our family resides, or staying in Oklahoma. Making the decision was tough because we miss our friends and families that are in South Dakota, but on the other hand, we have started a life here of our own in Oklahoma. With that, we really appreciate the fact that our dogs are safe in Oklahoma.

When we road trip, we are nervous to drive through areas that are not pit friendly because we have heard horror stories of authorities confiscating travelers’ Pit Bulls because Pit Bulls were banned in that particular area. Not wanting someone to take our dogs from us, we decided to stay in Oklahoma rather than move back to South Dakota where there is the potential that the city we would be living in might decide to pass a breed ban. We couldn’t justify removing our dogs from a safe haven and putting them in a potentially dangerous situation. If we were to move to South Dakota, and our town passed a breed ban, we would always be asking ourselves, “Why didn’t we just stay in Oklahoma?”

The counterargument to this is that I could always try to lobby my city council to not approve a breed ban, and I could also lobby the state legislature to propose and pass a bill that would prohibit breed-discriminatory legislation throughout the state. This is all true. However, I can also attempt those missions while in Oklahoma. If I have to fight a breed ban, I would rather fight from far away, rather than in the place I am living. If South Dakota eventually does enact a law prohibiting municipalities from enacting a breed ban, we would consider moving back there.

Until then, it is just too risky.

Another counterargument is that Oklahoma could retract its law prohibiting municipalities from enacting breed bans.

Recently there has been a state legislator trying to do just that (thank goodness he has not been successful); however, when a state has on its books a law prohibiting breed bans, overriding that law is at least one more step that has to be accomplished before a city can enact a breed ban.

What it boils down to is that when city leaders enact a breed ban, not only do they fail in making their communities safer, but succeed in killing many innocent dogs; they also are preventing good individuals and families, that will contribute positively to the community, from moving into town. Irresponsible owners are the cause of dogs getting into trouble, not the dogs’ breed. Therefore, if city officials truly want to make their communities safer, they need to be blaming and punishing irresponsible owners, not blaming and punishing the breed.