Presumably in response to a comparatively high volume of incidents involving dogs considered to be vicious, Watertown, Wisconsin’s Public Safety Committee is in the process of considering changes to Watertown’s vicious dog ordinance. The committee will formally review the changes this Wednesday, February 13th, at 5pm in room 2044 in Watertown’s Municipal Building located at 106 Jones Street.
If the committee approves of the proposed changes tomorrow night, the ordinance will be passed along for consideration by Watertown’s City Council. If the city council approves of the re-drafted ordinance in two successive meetings, the ordinance would then go into effect, meaning owners of pit bulls and/or pit bull mixes would have to post signs in their yards and muzzle their pets whenever they are not on their own property, among other things. In addition, owners of pit bulls and pit bull mixes may be required to secure and maintain at least $500 of liability insurance.
Owners of dogs that attack humans and/or other animals may also be subject to the ordinance if their pets bite another living being without a sound reason such as being deliberately incited or goaded by their victims. The dogs whose owners will be forced to comply with the ordinance regardless of their behavior are: American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, and any canine whose ancestry includes being mixed with a dog considered to be one of the two breeds just mentioned, a pit bull or a mixed pit bull.
As some of you may know, I, on occasion, travel to and attend city council meetings throughout Wisconsin to inform people about what I and Wisconsin Voters for Companion Animals perceive to be the danger of Breed Specific Legislation, or BSL, such as that being considered by Watertown’s Public Safety Committee tomorrow evening. The above disclaimer aside, David Brazy, in an article he prepared for wdtimes.com which is entitled, “Panel mulls vicious dog law changes,” paraphrased some comments made by Patricia McConnell, an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has penned thirteen volumes on animal behavior, as follows:
“McConnell…said whether or not a dog is a danger to humans is a function of how they are raised and trained.”
In an article I published on Examiner.com last year, I informed my readers about the decision of the National Canine Research Council, or NCRC, to support the findings of two vets who, working with a lawyer, prepared an article for the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. As part of their article, the authors included the following paragraph:
“Because new scientific evidence has called into question the accuracy of visual breed identification of dogs, our hospital has adopted a policy to not identify canine patients by predominant breed unless the dog is purebred, the predominant breed of the dog’s parents is known, or the dog’s lineage has been established through the use of DNA analysis.”
When I wrote my article about the NCRC’s decision last year, I included the following two paragraphs in my piece as an explanation for the organization’s choice:
“The NCRC supports veterinarians who refuse to label a dog whose heritage cannot be definitively traced back to a certain breed based on the animal’s physical appearance for several reasons. First, various studies have revealed that professionals who work with dogs, including veterinarians, often determine that a dog whose background is unknown consists of a combination of breeds that is contradicted by the dog’s own DNA. In fact, it is common for professionals to disagree about what combination of breeds a dog is comprised of when they are guessing about the same animal’s lineage.
Another reason… is to prevent animals who are misidentified as members of a breed believed to be particularly dangerous from being discriminated against. And finally, the NCRC supports…the statement because only precise breed identification may help a dog owner and veterinary care provider to accurately predict what health problems a dog may face throughout his or her life.”
I know some of you may disagree with my stance regarding BSL because you don’t like my writing style or, maybe, because you disagreed with the nature of some of my past work. Regardless of why you may or may not disagree with me, I would like to know how anyone can reasonably support BSL targeted at pit bulls or any other breed of dog when experienced, credentialed professionals such as Patricia McConnell and esteemed organizations such as the NCRC have provided and support evidence that undercuts the need for and express purpose of such legislation?
I strongly encourage the residents of Watertown, WI and every other community in which legislation that discriminates against a given breed of dog and their owners is being considered to attend their respective municipal meetings to protect not only their rights to responsibly own and care for a certain type of dog, but their neighbors’ rights to do the same.