United We Stand Against The Pit Bull Ban

Literature Review-Denver’s Pit Bull Ban 

               In 1989, the city of Denver, Colorado passed an ordinance, or more commonly referred to as breed-specific legislation, that prohibited people from owning Pit Bulls.  The term Pit Bull is described in the law as being “…any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of anyone (1) or more of the above breeds” (“pit bulls prohibited,” 1989). The city of Denver decided to introduce this new law due to two fatal incidence involving Pit Bulls that occurred between 1986 and 1989 (Nelson, 2005).  Repeal This evidence shows that Denver’s ban against Pit Bulls is extremely discriminatory and unconstitutional that serve on the committee for health, safety, education, and services. including the following: Paul Lopez, Debbie Ortega, Susan Shepherd, Albus Brooks, Judy Montero

As more cities and countries began to enact breed-specific legislation, people began to conduct research on the topic.  Almost all scientific based research has found the following conclusions: breed-specific legislation does not prevent dog attacks, all dogs have the ability to act aggressively, and all breeds of dogs can be seen as safe if they have responsible owners and are adequately trained.   Therefore, the exigence that surrounds Denver’s ban on Pit Bulls is that the city refuses to abolish the law even though there is evidence that shows the city is discriminating against Pit Bulls.

            The main reason that Denver can be seen as discriminating against Pit Bulls is due to the fact that all dogs have the ability to act aggressively. During 1986 and 1989, fatal dog attacks took place involving the following breeds: Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Huskys, Malamutes, and Saint Bernards (Sacks, Sinclair & Gilchrist, 2000). This data shows that there were many other breeds of dogs that had the ability to act aggressively; however, Denver decided to only put a ban on Pit Bulls.

 The American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) has also proven that all breeds have the ability to be aggressive. The ATTS evaluates the temperaments of all purebred and mixed breed dogs by putting them through a series of confrontational situations. If the dog acts out in any way it fails the test.  The following are percentages of a few breeds that passed the test, which was updated in 2011: 79.9% of Collies, 82.4% of Dalmatians, 84.9% of Golden Retrievers, and 86.4% of Pit Bulls (American Temperament Test Society, 2011).  This data suggests that it is likely that any breed of dog can attack a person if the right conditions are present.

Another issue that goes against Denver’s breed-specific legislation is the fact that there is no scientific data that supports the claim that breed specific legislation prevents dog attacks (Sacks, Sinclair & Gilchrist, 2000).  A study was done in the United Kingdom to determine if breed-specific legislation worked.  The study looked at veterinary records to determine the number of bites in a three month period before and after the legislation was passed.  The results showed that there were the same number of bites reported before and after the breed-specific legislation was put into effect (Best Friends Animal Society).   Another study on breed-specific legislation was conducted in Spain.  The study collected data on dog bite incidents from the Public Health department of Spain over a ten year time frame.  The results showed that the implementation of breed-specific legislation did not decrease the number of dog bites that were reported (Rosado, Belenguer, Leo´n & Palacio, 2007).  Statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have complied with the findings from the United Kingdom and Spain.  The statistics show that between 1995 and 2006, there were 273 dog bite related hospitalizations in Denver.  Whereas, Boulder, a city that does not have breed-specific legislation, only reported 46 (Davidson, 2010).

            The final reason that goes against Denver’s Pit Bull ban is the fact that most dog attacks occur due to negligent owners. Data collected between 1997 and 1998 discovered that 86% of fatal dog attacks involved unrestrained dogs (Sacks, Sinclair & Gilchrist, 2000).  Many recent incidents in Denver comply with the finding of this study.  In 2005, there was a large number of dog attacks reported in Denver’s news that occurred because the dogs were not properly restrained.  For example, in January of 2005, two pit bulls were spotted wandering around a neighborhood in Westminster. They were reported to the police because they had been chasing after people and had attacked a cat.  When the police went to corner the two dogs the dogs began to run after the officers.  Therefore, the officers were forced to shoot and kill one of the dogs.  The reason this incident occurred was due to the fact that the owner of the dogs allowed them to escape from his home (“Pit bulls shot,” 2005).   If the owner had taken the correct steps in training his dogs the one dog would not have been killed.

 In another dog attack that occurred a year prior, a young girl was attacked by a pit bull that escaped from its house (“Pit bull killed,” 2004). This case also shows the reason the attack occurred was due to the negligent owner.  If the owner had been watching the dog it would not have escaped and attacked the young girl. These two reports, as well as many others, show that owners of dogs are the ones responsible for the attacks, as well as the ones who can prevent dog attacks by properly training and restraining their dogs

The U.S Department of Justice has also come to the conclusion that any breed of dog has the ability to be trained.  In 2010, the U.S Department of Justice passed a law that allows people with disabilities to have any breed of dog as their service dog.  The law further states that if a city has breed specific legislation they still must allow the banned dogs to be used as service dogs (“Nondiscrimination on the,” 2010).  Even though this law has gone into effect, the city of Denver refuses to allow Pit Bulls to be used as service dogs since they are under their breed specific legislation. The refusal of Denver to accept the ruling made by the Department of Justice has caused a great debate to resurface over Denver’s Pit Bull ban (Young , 2011).

Since the debate has reemerged in Denver, many major stakeholders have made their presence in the conversation to state their opinion about whether or not Denver’s Pit Bull ban is discriminating.  The main stakeholders that are for Denver’s Pit Bull ban is the Denver city council and citizens who have been attacked or know someone who has been attacked by a Pit Bull. 

Denver city councilman, Charlie Brown, has received a lot of media attention due to severe threats that were made against him for his view of Denver’s Pit Bull ban.  Councilman Brown opposes abolishing Denver’s ban on Pit Bulls because he believes, “pit bulls are trained to attack. They’re bred to do that” (Associated Press, 2005).  Councilman Brown also feels that his main job is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Denver, and that by enforcing the Pit Bull ban he is doing his job (Young, 2011). Many people who have been attacked by a Pit Bull tend to agree with Councilman Brown.  For example, Denver resident, Josh Armijo, was attacked by a Pit Bull while he was walking his dog. Armijo is now so terrified of Pit Bulls that he will not even pet a Pit Bull puppy. “When it yawns you can see how its jaws are wired like a shark’s jaws,” Armijo said (Wells, 2005).

Though there is lot media coverage of citizens, such as Josh Armijo, who have been attacked by Pit Bulls, there are many other citizens who own Pit Bulls and see them as part of their family.  For example, Denver resident, Gina Strain, was the owner of two Pit Bulls.  However, when Denver’s Pit Bull ban went into effect her Pit Bulls became fugitives.  Her two Pit Bulls were reported by her neighbor, and were then euthanized at Denver Animal Control and Shelter.  When Strain heard that her dogs had been killed she became extremely upset.  “I have their dishes, toys, pillows, and beds. I can’t part with any of it,” Said Strain.  “I’m ready to become a vigilante for these pets. They had no voice. They just found one” (Wells, 2005).

There are many other stakeholders who feel the same as Strain about Denver’s Pit Bull ban including the following: Best-Friends Animal Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, people with disabilities, and doctors of Veterinary Medicine.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a nonprofit organization that believes breed-specific legislation does not work to prevent dog attacks.  It feels that the legislation ends up punishing good dogs and responsible owners.  ASPCA does believe the problem of dangerous dogs requires attention.  However, it feels there are better alternatives to breed-specific legislation, such as breed-neutral laws.  Breed-neutral laws do not discriminate certain breeds and they hold owners accountable for their dog’s actions (ASPCA).

Another nonprofit called the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) was created in 1979 by animal law attorneys.  Its mission since its creation is to help animals, and sometimes their owners, fight for the rights they deserve through the legal system (ALDF).  The ALDF helped three owners of Pit Bulls in Denver fight against Denver’s ban in court in the case of Dias v. The City & County of Denver.  The ALDF challenged the breed ban by stating to the court that all owners of Pit Bulls are forced to get rid of their dog companions for no other reason than the fact that they are Pit Bulls or that they look like Pit Bulls. The ALDF also stated to the court that the ban does not require the Pit Bull to shows aggressive tendencies toward people (Senatori, 2009).  This is to say, that the ALDF believes all breed-specific legislations go against the 14th amendment, which states, “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” (Cornell University Law School).  However, the court believed that the plaintiffs did not have enough evidence to challenge the ban and dismissed their case (Animal Legal and Historical Center).

 The Best-Friends animal society is another large nonprofit organization that believes Pit Bulls have been stigmatized.  This organization believes that all animals deserve to be treated kindly, and have therefore, created a campaign called Pit Bulls: Saving America’s Dogs.  Through this campaign, the animal society is trying to get cities to adopt breed-neutral laws instead of breed-specific laws.  It has also created many programs to teach people how to train their dogs and how to better understand them (Best Friends Outreach).  There are many other websites and blogs that hold similar views as the previously mentioned nonprofits such as stubbydog.org, pitbulllovers.com, pitbullhappenings.com, pitbullpositive.org, pitiesincity, and Elderbull.  All of these websites and blogs feel it is their duty to make truthful information about Pit Bulls available to everyone (Peters, 2011).

Since the Department of Justice has recently passed a law that allows all breeds of dogs to be used as service dogs, the Pit Bull ban in Denver has gained another large stakeholder. Many people with disabilities find it unjust that they still cannot use Pit Bulls as service dogs in Denver.  In order to show their frustration with Denver, a large number of people with disabilities from around the country attended a rally at Colorado’s capital in January to protest Denver’s Pit Bull ban.  “I have scoliosis and spina-bifida,” said Sarah Carey, who uses a pit bull as a service dog.  “She helps me every day and it’s hard when I cannot take her places in fear of having her taken away and killed” (Young, 2011).

Other stakeholders involved in Denver’s ban against Pit Bulls are Doctors of Veterinary Medicine.  The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposes Denver’s Pit Bull ban because The AVMA does not agree with breed-specific legislation (Schultz,2006). Dr. Gail C. Golab, the assistant director of the AVMA Education and Research Division has concluded that, “”Breeds responsible for human fatalities have varied over time. Since 1975, dogs belonging to more than 30 breeds—including Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and a Yorkshire Terrier—have been responsible for fatal attacks on people” (Monti, 2000). The AVMA believes owners are responsible for the actions of their dogs and therefore, breed bans should not be used.  In order to promote their views about breed bans, The AVMA has created a dog bite prevention campaign.  The main purpose of the campaign is to teach people how to avoid dog bites and also to promote responsible ownership of dogs (Monti, 2000).

The final stakeholder involved in Denver’s Pit Bull ban is myself.  I am interested in Denver’s discriminating law because I have owned Pit Bulls since I was child. I have gained extensive knowledge on Pit Bulls due to the fact that I have been around them my entire life.  Therefore, I know that Pit Bulls are no different from any other breed of dog. Growing up, my family owned eleven Pit Bulls and not once was I attacked by them.  I believe the reason for this is because my parents made sure to obedience train and socialize all of our dogs.  

The main change I hope to mediate through my rhetoric is the abolishment of Denver’s Pit Bull ban.  If the ban is not abolished I will not be able to work and live in the city I planned on because I refuse to live without a Pit Bull. Though there are many stakeholders that are against breed-specific legislation, many of them are not focused on the specific problem in Denver. I feel that more rhetoric needs to be expressed toward the city council of Denver because they are more reluctant than other places to abolish the ban. It is clear to me after doing in-depth research on this topic, that the city council of Denver is not educated about Pit Bulls.  As Councilman Brown said, he feels that by banning Pit Bulls he is protecting the citizens of Denver.  However, Councilman Brown is only giving his citizens a false sense of security by using the Pit Bull as a scapegoat.  Therefore, the main thing I hope to add to the conversation through my rhetoric is a better understanding of the Pit Bull.

 My love and knowledge about this breed have the ability to empower and limit my credibility as a rhetor.  Since I have owned Pit Bulls, people might see my argument as bias. In order to limit bias in my argument, I have done extensive research that will support my first hand experiences. Through the use of research, I hope to ensure my audience that I am objective, which will make them more likely to make a change.

United We Stand Against The Pit Bull Ban

In 2010, the U.S Department of Justice passed a law that allows people with disabilities to have any breed of dog as their service dog.  The law further states that if a city has breed specific legislation they still must allow the banned dogs to be used as service dogs (“Nondiscrimination on the,” 2010).  Even though this law has gone into effect, the city of Denver refuses to allow Pit Bulls to be used as service dogs since they are under their breed specific legislation. The refusal of Denver to accept the ruling made by the Department of Justice has caused a great debate to resurface over Denver’s Pit Bull ban (Young, 2011).

Many different groups throughout America are trying to stop breed specific legislation which include the following:  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), The Best-Friends Animal Society, stubbydog.org, pitbulllovers.com, pitbullhappenings.com, pitbullpositive.org, pitiesincity, Elderbull, The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and many American citizens. Even though there are over ten different groups throughout America that are trying to inform people on the truths about Pit Bulls and breed specific legislation, Denver refuses to abolish its ban against Pit Bulls that has been in use since 1989 (“pit bulls prohibited,” 1989).  This makes it obvious that the course of actions these groups are taking separately is not creating change.  A new course of action must be pursued that involves the convergence of these groups and citizens to form one large group and voice.

History has proven that the only way people can create social change is by banning together and creating a loud voice that cannot be ignored.  This was the only way that the Women’s Suffrage Movement was able to force the creation of the 19th Amendment.  Many women in the early 1800’s did not believe that the constitution treated them fairly.  Women began to feel that their role as a homemaker and wife was limiting and that they deserved more.  In 1848, a group of men and women formed an organization that felt women deserved to be treated as equals with men, which included having the right to vote.  However, when the Civil War began the group split into two groups because they had different beliefs about the 15th amendment.  This caused the groups to lose their strong united voice, which in turn, caused their power to make change to be limited.  The two groups soon realized this and decided to look passed their difference and become a united front once again.  Once the group’s united voice was stable, they were able to get the 19th amendment ratified (“The Fight For,”).  This example shows that if there are many small groups trying to create the same social change, they will not be successful.  The best way to create change is by creating one large organization.

In today’s technology driven world, there is also proof that by joining together just through the internet can cause great changes to occur.  Change.org is an online advocacy platform that helps people create campaigns for social change (Tips and guides).  This website shows that there may be many people with the same beliefs and attitudes about a certain topic, but the only way they can create change is by coming together and forming a united voice.  For example, Bank of America was going to charge its customers five dollars every month to use their debt card.  Many people were frustrated by this, but Bank of America continued to implement the fee until Molly Katchpole created a petition on change.org.  Through the use of change.org Molly was able to get over 306,000 people throughout the United States to sign her petition in a very short time.  This petition caused Bank of America to abolish its five dollar fee (Katchpole, 2011).  This example shows that there may be thousands of people that believe a change is necessary.  However, until they form a united voice the change will not occur.

It is clear that the groups and citizens against breed specific legislation understand the reasons why breed specific legislations in discriminatory. However, there are still many people including Denver City Councilman, Charlie Brown, who feel breed specific legislation is an important law that protects the safety of many people (Young, 2011).  Since Denver City Council refuses to abolish the law, the only way to remove the law is by educating American citizens on the truth about breed specific legislation and Pit Bulls. As more people are educated, the voice of the group against breed specific legislation will grow louder, which will force the Denver City Council to abolish the law. People need to know that almost all scientific based research has found the following conclusions: breed-specific legislation does not prevent dog attacks, all dogs have the ability to act aggressively, and all breeds of dogs can be seen as safe if they have responsible owners and are adequately trained.  

In order to educate American citizens about breed specific legislation, organizations and citizens who are already educated must come together to form a cohesive campaign that illustrates the reasons why breed specific legislation should not be allowed.  The main point that must be expressed in the campaign is the fact is that there is no scientific data that supports the claim that breed specific legislation prevents dog attacks (Sacks, Sinclair & Gilchrist, 2000).  A study was done in the United Kingdom to determine if breed-specific legislation worked.  The study looked at veterinary records to determine the number of bites in a three month period before and after the legislation was passed.  The results showed that there were the same number of bites reported before and after the breed-specific legislation was put into effect (Best Friends Animal Society).   Another study on breed-specific legislation was conducted in Spain.  The study collected data on dog bite incidents from the Public Health department of Spain over a ten year time frame.  The results showed that the implementation of breed-specific legislation did not decrease the number of dog bites that were reported (Rosado, Belenguer, Leo´n & Palacio, 2007).  Statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have complied with the findings from the United Kingdom and Spain.  The statistics show that between 1995 and 2006, there were 273 dog bite related hospitalizations in Denver.  Whereas, Boulder, a city that does not have breed-specific legislation, only reported 46 (Davidson, 2010).

Another fact that must be expressed in the campaign is that the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) has proven that all breeds have the ability to be aggressive. The ATTS evaluates the temperaments of all purebred and mixed breed dogs by putting them through a series of confrontational situations. If the dog acts out in any way it fails the test.  The following are percentages of a few breeds that passed the test, which was updated in 2011: 79.9% of Collies, 82.4% of Dalmatians, 84.9% of Golden Retrievers, and 86.4% of Pit Bulls (American Temperament Test Society, 2011).  This data suggests that it is likely that any breed of dog can attack a person if the right conditions are present.  However, even though it is a proven fact that all dogs can act aggressively, Denver decided to only ban Pit Bulls.  In 1989, Denver decided to introduce breed specific legislation due to two fatal incidence involving Pit Bulls that occurred between 1986 and 1989 (Nelson, 2005). During that same time span, fatal dog attacks took place involving the following breeds: Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Huskys, Malamutes, and Saint Bernards (Sacks, Sinclair & Gilchrist, 2000). This data shows that there were many other breeds of dogs that had the ability to act aggressively; however, Denver decided to only put a ban on Pit Bulls.

The final fact that must be stated in the campaign is that that most dog attacks occur due to negligent owners. Data collected between 1997 and 1998 discovered that 86% of fatal dog attacks involved unrestrained dogs (Sacks, Sinclair & Gilchrist, 2000).  Many recent incidents in Denver comply with the finding of this study.  In 2005, there was a large number of dog attacks reported in Denver’s news that occurred because the dogs were not properly restrained.  For example, in January of 2005, two pit bulls were spotted wandering around a neighborhood in Westminster. They were reported to the police because they had been chasing after people and had attacked a cat.  When the police went to corner the two dogs the dogs began to run after the officers.  Therefore, the officers were forced to shoot and kill one of the dogs.  The reason this incident occurred was due to the fact that the owner of the dogs allowed them to escape from his home (“Pit bulls shot,” 2005).   If the owner had taken the correct steps in training his dogs the one dog would not have been killed.

 In another dog attack that occurred a year prior, a young girl was attacked by a pit bull that escaped from its house (“Pit bull killed,” 2004). This case also shows the reason the attack occurred was due to the negligent owner.  If the owner had been watching the dog it would not have escaped and attacked the young girl. These two reports, as well as many others, show that owners of dogs are the ones responsible for the attacks, as well as the ones who can prevent dog attacks by properly training and restraining their dogs.

In order to start this campaign, the main groups that feel strongly about ending breed specific legislation need to form a social media website, such as Facebook.  Facebook is an ideal way to reach a large audience since it has over 800 million active users, and more than 70 million languages available for its users (Facebook).  By creating a single Facebook page that is supported by the groups, the number of followers will increase drastically.  This is because people that support one group, but may not know about the other groups, will begin to join. As more people begin to join the Facebook page, those peoples’ friends will be notified about their actions and have a higher chance of joining the Facebook page themselves.

Once a base of followers has been established, the next step would be to influence state and city government official that breed-specific legislation is wrong and unconstitutional.  The first city that should be targeted is Denver.  This is because Denver is one of the most reluctant cites in America to terminate breed-specific legislation.   If Denver removes its breed specific legislation, it will make it easier to force other cities to remove it as well.  The best way to make Denver listen is by creating a petition through the use of change.org. This website allows people to create a petition about any issue, and then the website delivers an emailed letter to the targeted audience every time the petition is signed (Tips and guides).  The audience that should be targeted in Denver are the city council members that serve on the committee for health, safety, education, and services.  A link to the petition should be placed on the Facebook page so that all the followers can sign it. 

The next step that would need to be taken in this campaign is face-to-face interaction.  Due to the fact that not everyone has access to Facebook, it is important that those who do have access to the information online make it available to people that do not.  This means that members of the Facebook page should be told to go door-to-door to spread the truth about breed specific legislation.  If this is done, the group against breed specific legislation will gain even more members and more signatures on the petition.  As the united voice against Denver’s breed specific legislation grows, Denver will soon be forced to take action and fix the problem.

By educating American citizens about breed specific legislation more petitions will be signed, more rallies will be held, and more media coverage on the truth about Pit Bulls will be conducted.  If the Women’s Suffrage Movement could be done in the 1800’s without any technology available, there is no denying that a movement to end breed specific legislation is plausible.  All the groups and citizens against breed specific legislation can create a united organization through the use of the internet.  The united organization can then create a petition such as the one done by Molly Katchpole.  By educating American citizens of the three important facts about breed specific legislation more people will sign the petition and join the internet organization.  It will then be a matter of time before cities, such as Denver, will be forced to remove their bans against Pit Bulls as well as any other dog that is discriminated against under breed specific legislation.

Click here to sign the petition against Denver’s Pit Bull Ban

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s