When I started Dogs on Deployment, I had one intention in mind; help those on deployment find temporary homes for their pets. It didn't occur to me that there were so many problems that existed in the military-pet community, with no real resources to help. So here we are, trying to make change happen.
Recently, more and more owners of the infamous pit-bull have been registering for our site. Approximately 20% of our Pets in Need registered on Dogs on Deployment have been pit-bulls or another "aggressive" dog breed or some mix of. But unfortunately, our success rate for placing these dogs is not as high as other "non-aggressive" breed dogs. I can exactly pin point why when reading emails back and forth between Pet Owners and DoD Boarders. People fear these dogs. Their housing complexes don't allow them. They don't want to be responsible if the dog becomes aggressive. There is absolutely nothing wrong with someone not feeling comfortable boarding a certain type of dog. I personally would not feel comfortable boarding anything over 30 lbs; I have two dogs that pull as it is, give them 30 lbs more of pulling power and I would be keeled over in a heart beat. That is not the issue at hand. The issue is the organized discrimination against the breed. The issue is the bans, the lack of education and responsible pet-ownership, the lack of effective means of determining a dog's temperament rather than relying on the breed alone. Good dogs and responsible pet-owners are being punished for the unfortunate actions of the few, scum of the planet folks that choose to abuse these dogs and participate in heinous crimes. The worst, is when its someone that has faced the terrors attacking this country, when they come home, their war has only begun; now they are fighting for the right to keep their pet because its breed is considered dangerous by some influential circles.
When I think back on pets that have gone through our site and have really affected me, they are all pitbulls. The first were Aries and Artemis; two pitbulls that were abandoned by their caregiver in the dead of winter outside with no food, water or shelter while their owner was deployed. My first thought when I heard this story was, "Two pitbulls? Who will take two pitbulls?" It broke my heart at the prospect we might not be able to help them because of their breed. Miraculously, our networking efforts paid off, and they both went to a safe home until their owner returned.
Next came Diego. Diego and his owner I may never forget. After getting a desperate call from Diego's caregiver that she could no longer keep him in his owner's absence, we put out a plea, and a group of pitbull loving activists went to work transporting Diego from Southern California to Northern California, and organizing a heartfelt reunion for Diego's owner, supplemented by a BBQ and even media coverage. The relief was immense.
Most recently is Pele and Kekoa. A supporter posted a news story on our Facebook page of a military member who received orders to Hawaii, but owns two pitbull mixes. Each are over 9 years old and have always been family pets. But with the breed bans sweeping base housing like wildfire, their family dogs were not allowed to live on base due to breed restrictions. While the family could theoretically live off-base, their housing allowance is not enough to put them in a family home in a safe neighborhood with a good school district for their children. They were placed in the situation that no one should have to face; choose between rehoming your dogs, or living in a safe area for your children. They ended up having to rehome their dogs permanently.
We know as an organization specifically helping military families, we are not going to be able to end breed discrimination nationwide, but perhaps we can start within our internal community; the military. After all, the civilian populace looks to the military for social guidance. If the military ends breed bans, who knows who will follow. Hopefully everyone.
So we've started a petition with our partner Hawaii Military Pets – an active group in the military-pet community. Our goal is to standardized military pet policies. We don't want to just attack the ineffectiveness of breed bans, but also the lack of consistency on pet policies service and installation wide. A pet owner might be fine to have their three dogs on one base, but upon moving to a new base, they find out they are only allowed to have two. How are they supposed to prepare for this?
Since base housing has been privatized, each base housing group is able to establish their own policy, and unfortunately each one is difference. So we've started a petition to Congress to ask for standardized policies, and hopefully an end to breed specific legislation which attacks not only pitbulls, but rottweilers, chows, shiba inus and on some bases, German Shepherds, boxers, etc. Even if they keep breed bans, allow an option for exclusion through a Canine Good Citizen certification.
Here's some keen thoughts for policy change:
- If numerical limits from base to base are to be imposed, make them consistent.
- Weight limits due not dictate any problematic behavior of a dog. A Great Dane is the world's largest couch potato while a small terrier can be a flower bed's worst nightmare.
- Exchanging breed bans for an effective dangerous dog policy, targeting instead dogs that have has a record of bad behavior through dangerous dog registries, and if deemed effective and time worthy, temperament testing for "aggressive dog breeds."
- If breed bans are to remain imposed, make the list of breeds consistent from base to base. Allow an exception through a dog who has earned their Canine Good Citizenship despite any breed and a grandfather clause for dogs that have previously lived or are living in base housing.
- Requirements for current vaccinations, microchipping, and possiblealteration.
- Policy wide anti-tethering laws.
- Pet educational courses and resources for on-base families.
The above mentioned are my personal thoughts for what key leaders can consider when they write new regulations. None of us have the power to write the new policy, as that will ultimately be up to the higher ups. But we can vocalize our ideas in hopes that when we contact Congress and key leaders with this petition, that we can submit our recommendations in hopes of adoption.
And what will all this accomplish? IMPROVED MORALE! Security in your pet ownership rights. Knowledge that no matter where you go, the rules will be the same. That way, when you add a new pet to your family, you know exactly what you are getting into, and potentially risking.
We've started a Facebook page to help promote this cause and hope you'll join the fight against inconsistent policies. We're happy to note that other national organizations have taken notice of the problems of base housing, including Stubby Dog, a non-profit focused on changing public perceptions of pit bulls. They've asked for pitbull owner's personal stories from people in the military (past and present) who have (or have had) pit bull type dogs. We'll be doing the writing and need YOUR stories! Email me below.
We want consistency! We hope you pledge to help. Sign the petition here and please share with anyone who would like to support us.