“Daddy, why are they calling dogs like me dangerous?”

NOTE: As of March 19th, this bill has been withdrawn :)! Thanks to all the dog lovers out there who made that possible! Since awareness of breed specific legislation is important, I am leaving the blog post from yesterday:

This week (March 20th), lawmakers in Tennessee will decide if they can require owners of a specific breed to carry $25,000 worth of insurance on their dog. Judging others based on appearance is simply a fancy way of saying discrimination. When we think of people being stereotyped by the physical characteristics they brought with them when they were born, we cringe. But now they are teaching the concept of discrimination through dogs.

Week 2 with Mia

Tennessee House Bill 621 has tossed in an amendment that labels all pit bulls as “dangerous.” What breeds will be next? shepherds? chows? dobermans? Since most of us do not have a family tree of our pet’s linage (nor do we do the expensive DNA testing) this leaves us with a lot of guessing on what they are.

Years ago, without intending to, I became a person who adopts dogs others have cast out. We had a beagle mix whose former owner named “Hunter.” They gave him to me since he was not what they wanted and thus had been a neighborhood stray for two years. This little guy enjoyed rolling in the dead as much as any dog, but he never harmed a furry or feathered creature that we ever saw. Squirrels dashed around our yard with no fear of Hunter, who would sniff along as they gathered their dinner.

Little Hunter

When the cicadas came up out of the ground a few years ago, he would crunch on the dead ones, but those on the ground still alive, he would simply sit and listen to their song as if meditating. The last two days of his life, a cicada got inside our patio and sat near Hunter’s bed, making its familiar noise for a not-your-typical beagle. He defied the label that society (and even his own name) stuck on him.

This beagle’s lack of sticking by his stereotypes always made me smile, but now, our other dog is being stuck with labels that could affect legislation (and the adoptability of an entire breed).

Six months after little Hunter died at age 16, we went in search of another all-American-mutt. Petfinder.com led us to a dog who had been tossed around and returned for two years. Her photo showed a scared but sweet face. The rescue organization said she was a good match for our blind elderly dog so we did a meet and greet with them where they pretty much sniffed and then ignored each other.

After adopting Mia, an animal expert friend came over with her own dog and determined that Mia (a pit bull-boxer-basenji mix) had been severely abused at an early age, confirming what we had already thought based on her behavior. No one would blame this dog for not trusting humans, but luckily for us, she did. I’ve never seen a more snugly creature. She curls up next to us like a cuddly toddler and has come a long way in seeing that she does not always have to bark to keep new people at a distance, but can let them love her.

Day 1 with Obi Wan

And then there is our other dog Obi Wan, a chow-shepherd mix who exudes the comfort and calmness of a true Jedi Knight. At only 3-months-old, he used his mind trick skills to quickly have me open the car door where he jumped in as if he already knew the way home. He was quite happy for a dog that had been dumped out of a truck earlier that day, according to the nice young man that had been caring for him outside a store. When I brought home this begging-for-a-bath dog, I did not know that 12 years later, he could be next on the list of breeds being legally considered “a dangerous or vicious dog” like his adopted sister.

I never intended to adopt these types of dogs, but now that we have them, I’ve taken up a torch that has been handed off by people who spend countless volunteer hours to bring their misunderstood pets (many certified as Canine Good Citizens by the American Kennel Club program) out into the community to shine the light of truth on breed stereotypes, mainly pit bulls.

And what do they get in return? Breed specific legislation.

Day 12 with Mia

Even though pit bulls (see Staffordshire Bull Terrier) are ranked higher in temperament testing than the average dog—passing 90.7% of the time vs. saint bernards at 84.6 (per the American Temperament Test Society)—pit bulls are one step away from costing responsible owners $25,000 worth of insurance coverage for “…harboring a dangerous breed.”

As a certified dog trainer, the big smile of a pit bull brings out my baby-talking voice: “Who is a sweet baby? You are. Yes, you are.” (Insert kissing noises here.)

Do not stereotype us

So why not legislate against dangerous owners like dog fighters, or those who chain their dogs up outside and torment them so they will be “good guard dogs,” or those who let their dogs roam free to snarl and snap at anyone passing by? (We get this in our neighborhood from dogs not considered “dangerous” so they are left for my leashed pitty-mix and me to deal with.) Trust me, dog fighting ring leaders will not be rushing out to insure their sixty or so dogs, however, responsible owners will be obligated to do so, and others just won’t adopt them all due to cost of insurance.

If you want your voice to be heard on this issue, you can email the sponsor of the bill and those voting on it this week. Here is the information to politely ask these representatives to vote NO on HB621:

 

“These are not the dog owners you are looking for.”

Sponsor of the bill: Brenda Gilmore at rep.brenda.gilmore@capitol.tn.gov
Ron Lollar, Chair (Shelby) rep.ron.lollar@capitol.tn.gov
Curtis Halford (Gibson, Carroll) rep.curtis.halford@capitol.tn.gov
Andy Holt (Weakley, Obion, Carroll) rep.andy.holt@capitol.tn.gov
Judd Matheny (Coffee, Warren) rep.judd.matheny@capitol.tn.gov
Billy Spivey (Franklin, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall) rep.billy.spivey@capitol.tn.gov
John Tidwell (Houston, Humphreys, Montgomery) rep.john.tidwell@capitol.tn.gov
Ron Travis (Bledsoe, Roane, Sequatchie, Rhea) rep.ron.travis@capitol.tn.gov

Also thank them for their time and consideration on this issue.

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Debbie Emory

Making Magic Out of Everyday Moments