Washington has gone to the dogs these past few weeks. As President Obama adds another dog to his family, Portuguese Water Dog Sunny, it seems the most powerful person in the United States has a soft spot for dogs of all breeds, as the man in charge offered his administration’s official position on Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) for the first time in his presidency.
In a response to a petition making the rounds on We the People, the U.S. government’s official web-based equivalent to a suggestion box for citizens, the administration blasts Breed Specific Legislation, laws that often deem dogs vicious or outright ban them not because of past behavior or demonstrated poor temperament, but because of certain physical features.
“We don’t support breed-specific legislation — research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources,” the White House statement reads.
While the great majority of petitions on We the People aren’t reviewed by the administration until after they hit the threshold of 100,000 signatures, the White House clearly felt strong enough about the issue of BSL to make their official position known after only 30,000 signatures.
The Rottweiler, German Shepherd, and most recently dogs lumped into the “bully breed” or Pit Bull category are often at the center of these bans. While many states — most recently Nevada — are saying no to Breed Specific Legislation, and despite opposition from numerous organizations like the American Humane Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club, and the American Bar Association, BSL is still alive and well in many towns, major metropolitan areas, and even on U.S. military bases.
The White House goes on to cite research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2000, the organization looked at two decades of dog bite statistics and their findings were crystal clear — a dog’s breed, or estimated breed, is an unreliable predictor of whether or not the dog will bite.
“They found that fatal attacks represent a very small proportion of dog bite injuries to people and that it’s virtually impossible to calculate bite rates for specific breeds,” the statement says of the CDC study.
“The simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they’re intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive,” the statement goes on to say, putting the blame on irresponsible ownership.
The White House concurs with the CDC’s suggested solution to the problem of dog bites.
“As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think that’s a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners,” the White House asserts.
Animal activists from coast to coast are praising President Obama’s stance against BSL.
Actress and comedian Rebecca Corry, organizer of the upcoming One Million Pibble March on Washington D.C., tells the Huffington Post the POTUS is finally on the right side of history when it comes to the issue of breed discrimination, but that his announcement is a long time coming.
“I think it’s the least he could do,” says Corry. “It should have been done a long time ago.”
Washington Humane Society President Lisa LaFontaine considers the President’s response a victory for dogs across the country.
“The White House is such a bully pulpit for important issues,” LaFontaine says. “And certainly for them to come down against this type of discrimination I think will give pause to any communities that are thinking about putting something like this in place, and certainly will fuel the work that’s already being done by advocates to overturn legislation that already exists.”
“It’s a really happy day,” she adds.
If you would like to make your voice heard in the fight against Breed Specific Legislation, consider adding your name to the We the People petition today. For more information on the One Million Pibble March on Washington D.C., which is set to take place on May 3, 2014, check out the event’s Facebook page.