An Open Letter to McDonald’s and Cities with Unfair Breed Specific BansPublished February 9, 2012
The implication of course is that petting a pit bull is “risky,” while eating at McDonald’s is not.
The ad may have been local to the Kansas City market, but the reaction was not; as soon as news hit the social media sites, angry pit pull advocates everywhere bit the ad in the butt, so to speak.
I was a little surprised when I learned the ad was running in my own hometown, but after I thought about it, I shouldn’t have been. I was once an animal lover that fleetingly allowed the media hysteria about pit bulls to almost influence an opportunity to know and love one of these dogs.
On a summer evening in 2007, while driving down a rural road in my hometown of Kansas City, Kans., I looked in my rearview mirror to see a white luxury car speeding up behind me. Behind it, in the glare of the setting sun, I saw a sight that immediately brought me to tears.
A white and black spotted dog was running at full speed, trying in vain to catch the car. A moment earlier, we had passed this car on the shoulder of the road. Two people were standing outside, one of them holding the black and white dog on a leash.
“Those (expletive) just dumped that dog back there!” I told my husband and a family friend who was helping us load our belongings for a move to our rural lake property. I slowed down, but the car behind me did not, speeding up and passing us as the dog finally gave up. I saw it disappear into a drainage ditch.
Crying and angry, I found a road and turned around.
I drove slowly and finally saw the exhausted dog curled up in the ditch, still heaving heavily on this humid June night from the effort to catch its owners. I got out and approached the dog and then I realized it wasn’t a Dalmatian, as I had thought.
“It’s a pit bull,” I said over my shoulder to my passengers.
I stood there and sighed. We certainly didn’t need a fourth dog and we certainly did not need one that could be potentially dangerous.
Pit bull or not, I could not just leave this poor animal on the side of a road. I approached and the dog barely lifted its head and growled, scared and confused at its predicament. I backed off, even as a seasoned pet owner and advocate, I hadn’t been around that many pit bulls.
Was the media hysteria right about them? Should I be more afraid of this dog than any other stray I would encounter?
Our friend, from another area of the country and obviously not tainted in his thinking about pits, approached the dog, spoke to her and confidently scooped her up, brought her back to the truck and placed her in my husband’s lap.
Kansas City, Kans. has on record one of the oldest and most stringent Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) laws in the country. Despite those laws, an elderly woman working in her garden that summer died of a heart attack after two pit bulls jumped her fence and confronted her in her yard.
Animal control in the city then embarked on a mission to ensure the ban against pit bulls was being enforced. Local news stations showed officers going into homes to confiscate pit bulls and their puppies, which would then be killed at the local animal shelter.
The media hype surrounding the story panicked the public and pit bull owners who had the dogs in violation of the ordinance were also fearful. They faced fines, as well as seeing their beloved four-legged family members carted off for a one-way ticket to the kill shelter if they were found.
We believe the dog we encountered on the side of the road was a victim of that panic.
There are approximately 650 cities and counties that regulate pit bulls, as well as U.S. military bases, despite the evidence that like in Kansas City, Kans., BSLs are largely ineffective and targets and punishes innocent animals rather than irresponsible owners.
One of the representatives of BADRAP, a pit bull rescue and advocacy group located in the Bay area of California, once told me during an interview that while driving with the survivors of Michael Vick’s infamous fighting operations from Virginia to California, they stopped to let the dogs out on leashes for a potty break in a county with BSL.
She was approached by a local warning her that she should be careful as if she was caught by authorities with the dogs, they would be confiscated and euthanized.
Those dogs, now serve as ambassadors for the breed as certified therapy dogs and canine good citizens.
Some cities and states are beginning to realize there are more progressive ways to deal with truly aggressive dogs, rather than targeting innocent ones. The Florida state legislature is the latest group of law makers expected to repeal the 20-year-old pit bull ban in Miami-Dade County, where thousands of innocent dogs have been killed to enforce the law.
We named our black and white pittie Sade. She believes she is a 60-pound lap dog, sleeps with our red Dachshund, Molly, and has charmed everyone who has met her; I’ve even had people want to take her home.
A good family friend, formerly apprehensive of pitties, now calls himself her “Uncle Mike” and asks about Sade every time we see or talk to him.
So listen up, McDonald’s and law makers.
This is what people should know about petting a stray pit bull: No more caution is needed to pet a stray pit bull than approaching any other stray dog.
Really, if the truth was scientifically analyzed, petting a stray pit bull would be less risky than eating fast food.
We hope they will someday get the message on the pit bulls, anyway, for all of the Sade's out there that have been killed or abandoned in fear.