Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Military Branch Bans Pit Bulls

On January 5, 2009 the Department of the Army sent out a memo informing residents of military housing that a ban on Pit Bulls (a term commonly used to describe American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers), Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Chow Chows and wolf hybrids would be taking effect across all US army bases. The wording in the memo actually reads "American Staffordshire Bull Terriers and English Staffordshire Bull Terriers" which is odd because there are no such breeds that go by those names. It seems that the people enforcing breed bans don't know anything about dogs... no big surprise there. Base housing for the army was privatized in 1996 and is run by six different companies. The Residential Communities Initiative (RCI) is a board with representatives from these companies who make policy decisions for the base housing they operate and are the ones ultimately responsible for this decision.
Air Force bases and Naval bases, like Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville NC, are following suit after a 3 year old was attacked by a dog belonging to non-military friends. A ban would not have saved this young boy, but the base is instituting a ban rather than addressing the problem of irresponsible pet ownership directly. There has been a ban on Ft. Bragg regarding Pit Bulls and Wolf Hybrids since last year.
Personnel who had their dogs registered prior to the ban can have them grandfathered in (exempted) from the ban. However, contrary to what many housing officials had originally told soldiers, moving from one base to another with a grandfathered dog is not permitted. Members of the military move frequently, so even a grandfathered dog is on borrowed time. The family will move eventually and be forced to find alternate housing off base or be forced to give up a member of their family.
There are reports of many members of the army moving to other bases and being told they could register their dogs, only to move into base housing an be told a different story. It is unclear whether or not housing officials were unclear about the rules or intentionally misled families to avoid making waves until the family would have no choice but to give up their dog or move off base.

Sergeant Stubby, decorated WWI veteran
A second major issue with these bans has to do with the problem of breed identification. How do you know a dog is a Pit Bull, a Doberman, a Wolf hybrid, etc.? According to the memo... it is a banned dog if base officials think it looks like one. Have you ever seen a mix between a Labrador and Boxer? I have and the resulting dogs look a LOT like... Pit Bulls. But they are in no way related. Any German Shepherd, once considered by the media to be one of America's most inherently "dangerous" dogs because of the years of selective breeding for attack work, could be called a wolf hybrid. Did you know that the black and tan pattern common to Rottweilers is also present in other breeds? Labradors come in black and tan! The color is not commonly bred for because it is not considered standard for the breed, but it does crop up from time to time and if you have a black and tan Lab, you'd better watch out. As far as base housing is concerned, you have a dangerous dog.

"The American Watchdog: We're not looking
for trouble, but we're ready fot it."
The last problem with these bans has to do with the rationale behind them. They fail to address the problem of irresponsible ownership and have nothing do with the actual behavior of individual dogs. A dog could be perfectly well-behaved and have no aggressive tendencies and still be confiscated from a soldier who has sacrificed for our country because of an imaginary threat perceived by a housing committee. A Labrador could be tied up in a backyard with no human contact, slowly becoming withdrawn, unsocialized, aggressive and neurotic, and nothing is done about it until it bites a child. Yet the neighbors well-trained Doberman is not allowed on base.
There is no proof that one breed of banned dog is any more dangerous than another breed that did not make the list (German Shepherds, Akitas, Boxers, Mastiffs, etc.) To protect people from dangerous dogs it would make sense to deal with dogs that are actually dangerous, strictly enforce leash laws and offer help to people whose dogs have or are devloping behavioral problems. Members of the military have little or no say in where they move and even though the option to live off-base is available, what if their dog is banned off base as well? What if they have a mixed breed dog and one day base housing officials come to their door and decide that, after years of residence and service from the soldier, the family can no longer keep their companion because they do not like how it looks? We owe it to our military service members to not put them in this position.
Months after the U.S. Army banned residents of privatized housing from owning "dangerous or potential dangerous" dog
breeds, the Marine Corps followed suit.

In August, the Marine Corps passed a rule that disallows purebred and mixed-breed Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and canine wolf hybrids aboard Marine Corps installations. However, residents who already own one of these breeds have 60 days to apply for and meet the guidelines of a "grandfather" clause waiver, which will be approved or denied by the local installation commander This will allow them to keep their dogs until Sept 30, 2012, after which they must get rid of their dogs or move to other housing.

The waiver requires dogs to pass a nationally recognized temperament test, such as the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen or the Delta Society's Delta Test.

Teena's comments; After all military does for us, this is how we treat their family and their animals... I think this whole Breed Ban is just the most ridiculous thought ever, and we should combat it by changing the breeds names. For example, we should now call Pit Bulls, Love Bullies, Rottweilers, Fern Der Welt (Aloof from the world), German Shepherd, Alsatian (since in the U.S. they are not recognized as the same breed as the German Shepherd), etc.

After all businesses do this all the time, when one is weak or has a bad reputation a healthier company will acquire them to use the strength of their brand and name recognition to leverage the business to better health. Businesses will often just change the weak business' name and start all over again. Why can't we apply this strategy in saving the breeds that are discriminated upon?

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