Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Baltimore Cop Saves Pooch From Ruffians, Breed Specific Legislation Called Into Question

Recently, Baltimore police officer Dan Waskiewicz responded to a vicious dog call.  Many of these go unreported in the media and usually end up in the capture of killing of the dog.  The officer did not find viciousness in the dog so much as the ruffian children chasing it down the street, pelting it with rocks and bottles.

Baltimore's CBS affiliate reported that Officer Waskiewicz called the dog over.  He meekly responded with his tail between his legs.  When the policeman bent over to examine him further, the dog responded with kisses.

Waskiewicz put the dog into his squad care where he received more thankful kisses.  A spokesman for the Baltimore Humane Society praised the officer's "astute response," adding that he certainly saved a dog's life.

The catch here is that the rescued dog inspires reactive fear at the mere mention of the type or the sight of its bricklike head.  Waskiewicz saved the life of an American Pit Bull.

Pit bulls are often targeted by "breed specific legislation" referring to statutes aimed at curbing the ownership and breeding of certain types of dogs deemed dangerous.  Two years ago, Waukesha, Wisconsin considered banning pit bulls except for commercial uses.  These would include owning them as guard dogs in junk yards.

Last April, Bluefield, West Virginia and its surrounding county of Mercer battled over the breed ban.  Bluefield banned pit bulls within city limits and ordered the dogs to be taken to the county animal shelter.  Mercer County refused to prevent owners from reclaiming their animals, saying that they "we're not on the dog containment business."  The mayor threatened to take the county to court, despite the absence of a state or countywide ban.

Organizations such as Pit Bull Rescue Central claim that the fear stems from hysteria and misinformation.  Pit bulls were bred to withstand violent attacks in dogfighting competitions.  Breed advocates claim, however, that they are no more inherently violent by nature than many other types of dogs.  They emphasize that responsibility for dog behavior lies with owners and how animals are trained and treated.

Another problem is that "pit bulls" are actually not a specific breed, but a group of breeds with similar characteristics.  They include the American Staffordshire Terrier.  This means that authorities often cannot identify what is and is not actually a pit bull.  One city's breed specific legislation was written so poorly that the councilman who proposed the ban saw his own labrador retriever seized.

Officer Waskiewicz's experience does raise questions about breed specific laws aimed at pit bulls.  An inherently violent animal in a terrifying experience usually wouldn't react with meekness in that situation.  Certainly bad owners make bad dogs.  But increasingly, education and awareness have caused many to question blanket laws banning certain breeds

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