One thing I love about modern technology is that I’m writing this message to you from Singapore but it doesn’t matter. I write it here, email it to the office in LA, they create the newsletter you get and the page you’re reading, and the nine thousand miles between me and my office pack doesn’t matter.
The nine thousand miles between me and Junior does, though, and I miss him every day. But, unfortunately, on this tour it wasn’t possible to bring him along because of the law. But it’s not the law that you’re thinking of.
Junior couldn’t come along because I’m visiting several island nations, and they often require quarantines and always require stringent medical checks and documentation for all canines immigrating. This makes perfect sense. It takes time to make sure that the dog has been immunized against any unfamiliar diseases on the island, and to make sure that the dog doesn’t bring any new diseases to the island.
This kind of law, which applies to all breeds equally, saves lives. Yes, it’s inconvenient for someone like me who’s just passing through for a few days, but for people moving from one country to another it can mean the difference between a long, happy life with their family dog and their sudden mourning because their dog had no immunity to a local bug — or the knowledge that their dog started an epidemic that decimated the local canine population.
Spay and neuter laws are another kind of good law, because they save lives, too. They prevent unwanted puppies from even being conceived, and so lower the number of abused, abandoned, and homeless dogs on the planet. That’s one of the great parts about me not having to go through quarantine to go from country to country (all I need is a passport!) — I get to spread that message wherever I go.
But then there’s that other kind of law, which would tell me that I could bring some of the dogs in my pack anywhere I wanted to, but that Junior would never be welcome.
This kind of law is called “Breed Specific Legislation” (BSL), and it makes no sense at all. There are no bad breeds. There are just dogs that need to be rehabilitated because humans have failed them. “Pit bull” isn’t even a single breed, and yet it becomes a brand that gets so many dogs banned, or worse.
This is about as ridiculous as writing a law that says “Green-eyed people are not allowed anywhere” and basing it on the “fact” that more crimes are committed by green-eyed people, at least when eye color is recorded.
But, as we pointed out in my special “Love My Pit Bull,” stories about other breeds biting people usually don’t make the news, while large, unknown breeds tend to become “pit bull” when witnesses and reporters tell the story — whether the dog was a pit or not. The result of this is the impression that only pit bulls attack people, and that’s just not true.
Another result of this is that in large city shelters, up to 65% of all dogs taken in are pit bulls, and it’s the policy of 75% of those shelters to kill pit bulls immediately upon intake. In Los Angeles alone, 200 pit bulls a day are put down, and some studies estimate that up to a million pit bulls a year are killed in the U.S. — compared to a total pit bull population of three to five million.
Sadly, one of the main reasons that pit bulls are turned in to shelters in the first place is because people’s landlords won’t allow them, and that is entirely based on the bad reputation. It’s another form of discrimination based on breed and misperception alone.
The good news is that the tide is starting to turn against BSL and toward owner responsibility so that the blame for a dog attacking another animal or human ends up where it belongs — on the negligent person who created an unbalanced dog.
Last year, thanks to the activism of a 15 year-old girl, BSL in Annapolis, Missouri was overturned, and seventeen states have now prohibited BSL, with six more considering it as of earlier this year. It’s a start, but it needs to become an international movement.
I do miss having Junior on the road with me, but at least for this tour it’s for humane, life-saving reasons. But there are countries I still can’t take him to because of BSL. It’s the 21st century, and time that we move beyond judging entire groups because of the misbehavior of a few. This is doubly true when that misbehavior isn’t even caused by the dogs in question.
Stay calm and get ready Hong Kong — I’m coming to see you next week!