I want to hear from YOU!

I have a question for you, my readers.  I’ve been tossing around this idea for a weekly post but I’m just not sure how well it would be received, so I decided what better way to find out than to ask you?

How would you feel about a weekly “take action!” type of post?

Buddy, a rescued houd mix, deep in thought.

Every week I would try my best to find items of interest around the country that my THPL readers may want to help make a difference on. What sort of items you ask? Things like proposed BSL, or tax dollar funded shelters that are not fulfilling their purpose of taking care of the dogs that come in their doors.  Along with posting the details of what is going on, I will also post contact information for the people involved so that you loyal followers can help make sure that our community’s voice is heard and maybe we can together make a difference.

So, what do you guys think? Is this something that you would be interested in and would be willing to take five minutes out of your day (maybe Tuesdays?  “Take Action Tuesdays!” has a nice ring) to write and try to make life better for some of our four-legged friends? Please comment below (or email me at morganrivera518(at)gmail(dot)com if you would like it to be private) if you would like to see and get involved with this weekly feature.  And please, if you think it would be too dull, or sad, or anything less than a great idea, I want to know that, too!  Don’t worry about hurting my feelings, just be honest.  The last thing I want to do is alienate anyone.  Thank you in advance for your opinions and honesty!

Smile, It’s Friday!

IMG_3448Thank you so much to everyone that took the time to read my super long post on Wednesday, and especially to those of you that took the time to also write letters to the people listed.  Based on some of the responses from ABC6 staff that I’ve seen, I think at the very least we ruffled a few feathers.  So, Maggie and I thank you!

Calling All Anti-BSL Folks

I became aware of this situation from one of my favorite blogs, Run A Muck Ranch.  They became aware of this through an Anti-BSL blog and then wrote about it on their blog.  All credit goes to them, I am merely doing my best to spread the word too because in my opinion, it’s shit like this that is really holding us and our beloved “bully breeds” back.  So, what is this all about?  Please watch this video:

http://www.abc6.com/Category/178006/video?clipId=8959457&autostart=true

“Son of a b*tch.  Great.  Here’s yet another negative story about pit bulls.  Why did that woman have to send her dogs to attack a reporter?!  Way to perpetuate the stereotype lady!”  I’m not proud of myself, but that was my reaction immediately after watching the video.  I’m willing to bet not many people will admit it, but it was theirs too.  And if I hadn’t taken the time to read the rest of what RAMR had to say, I would have only seen exactly what the ABC6 crew wanted me to: an innocent white lady being attacked, unprovoked, by two vicious pit bulls owned by a black lady living in the ghetto.

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Just another “vicious” pit bull, hangin out.

Let’s watch the video again and analyze it this time.  First we have the introduction: the reporter wanted to ask a “simple question” to the mother of a recently shot teen.  Wait a second.  I didn’t even really catch that the first time around because all I could think about was the “pit bull attack” I was about to see.  Ok, so we have a grieving mother on our hands.  I am only mother to my fur children and I can’t even begin to fathom the state I would be in if someone had shot them.  I can’t begin to put words to what she must be feeling.

The video starts, not as they are initially walking up to interview the mother, Ms. Lawrence, but at an undeterminable time later.  How long had they been there?  What did they say to her before they edited the video into the version we are watching?  Were they the only crew there that day?  Unlikely, since remember, this is the mother of a recently shot teen girl and the alleged shooter had just turned himself in.  So the very first clip is of the mother throwing a rock.  Then it shows the reporter walking up to the house…then it shows the same clip of the mother throwing a rock again?  Note the two dogs, sitting peacefully on the steps.  The mother is shouting, “Get away from me!” then she goes to get a bat.

So at this point, the crew had been told, by a grieving mother nonetheless, to leave her alone who knows how many times.  She threw rocks.  She got a bat.  Still the reporter was going to get her answer!  And remember, she isn’t harassing the mother of a recently convicted sex offender, drug dealer, or murderer.  No, she is harassing the mother of a victim.  The woman herself is a victim!  But dammit, Abby Niezgoda, reporter extraordinaire, has a right to know how she is feeling, and get her question answered! Ooookay.  Moving on.

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So, after yelling to “get away”, throwing rocks, and getting a bat, the mother tells the dogs to attack.  (Note that the dogs were just standing around loose up until this point, showing zero signs of aggression.)  They jump on Niezgoda, barking, and following her as she shuffles runs down the street.  There is a voiceover and Niezgoda says, “They bit my forearm.”

Ok, reverse and watch the “attack” scene again.  The dogs come out, barking, and really just trotting along.  One of them does jump up on her, and maybe nips her forearm, but then they basically just follow her.  I don’t know about any of you but the very first thought in my mind is that if the dogs really wanted to attack her, she would have been  flat on the ground the second they made contact with her.  Second, I’ve been bit by dogs before and let me tell you, I bled like a stuck pig.  I didn’t see a drop of blood, did you?  Third, and probably the most ridiculous, is Niezgoda’s attempt to run away.  She’s not moving at more than an awkward trot with those ridiculous heels on!  You mean to tell me these vicious, unprovoked dogs couldn’t catch her?!  Puh-lease.  What I see are two dogs that are reluctantly following the commands of their owner.  I like how they show the clip of her “running” and them “chasing” her a couple more times too, just for good measure.

The video ends with the reporter making sure to tell us that Niezgoda was on public property the whole time, she had to get a tetanus shot!, and there is a warrant for Ms. Lawrence’s arrest.  A warrant for her arrest.  Do I wish that she hadn’t decided to sic her dogs on the reporter?  Absolutely!  Do I think she was thinking rationally?  No.  Can I even imagine what she is going through?  No way.  Can you?  It’s funny how Niezgoda is portrayed as the innocent victim in all this, with our sympathies guided in her direction.  No sympathy for the mother of a shot teen who was just harassed at her home when she should have been left alone to grieve.

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Look, the last thing I’m saying is that what Ms. Lawrence did was okay, and yes, I do think she perpetuated some stereotypes.  Our dogs should never be used as weapons.  It is our duty to protect them at all times and at all costs.  But again, I don’t think she was anywhere near a rational state of mind.  She was provoked, how much, we don’t even know.  I think there was a hell of a lot of editing going on to produce the video that we all just watched.  Who knows what else happened that we didn’t see?  And now she is going to get arrested?  Actions absolutely should have consequences, so how about Niezgoda getting arrested too for harassment?  I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

And what is going to happen to the dogs?  I shudder to think of the possibilities.  So, here is what I think needs to happen.

1)  The dogs in the story are the ultimate victims.  They did not randomly attack Niezgoda.  They chased her down after their owner told them to.  They also came as soon as she called them off.  I think we can all agree that these are not the actions of vicious, unprovoked dogs, and also that they do not pose any sort of threat.  If Niezgoda had left Lawrence alone, after who knows how many times she told her to, this never would have happened.  It might already be too late for these dogs, and if so, ABC and Niezgoda should be held accountable.  But it might not.  If you are in the Rhode Island area, or know someone that is, I implore you to try and contact Animal Control and speak up.  These dogs do not deserve to die over this, and should be returned to the Lawrence family who has already lost too much.

2) I think Niezgoda needs to hear from the masses that what she did was wrong.  Through who knows how much editing, Niezgoda and ABC painted an ugly picture.  They want us to believe that this is just another story of a vicious pit bull attack.  These stories need to stop!  Until the media begins to report incidents like this more accurately, our dogs are in danger.  We need to all stand up and let our voices be heard.  Yes, what Ms. Lawrence did was wrong, but what ABC did is even worse because they are endangering not just those two dogs, but all pit bulls with this kind of inaccurate, lopsided, prejudicial reporting.  So, let’s tell them what we think of their actions.  Below is a copy and pasted list from RAMR of various outlets to contact.  They are all public information so no worries there.

3)  Everyone, please, think before you act.  As the owners of “bully breeds” our actions are constantly in the spotlight.  One wrong move and you never know just how blown out of proportion it might become.  Let’s all try and take some time over the next few days to do something extra public and positive with our pit bulls.  Maybe a walk through a park.  Post a cute picture online.  Just something to show them in a good light so that we can hopefully counteract a little of the most recent damage to our breed.

Thanks for sticking with me through that incredibly long post.  Below are the list of contacts.  Go.  Now.

*This information was made available from public sources, and as outraged citizens, you are entitled to make your opinions known.  Freedom of speech, just like freedom of the press, is guaranteed in the Constitution.  Your filling of Abbey Niezgoda’s inbox can’t be any more wrong than her refusing to leave a grieving mother alone who asked her to leave.   Unlike Ms. Lawrence, who never expected to be attacked by the press, public figures such as Abbey Niezgoda should expect people to express their opinions of her freely.

https://www.facebook.com/abbeytv

Twitter:  @abbeyniezgoda

e-mail: aniezgoda@abc6.com.

Please contact the ABC6 Executive Team and tell them that Abbey Niezgoda’s self-serving, unethical and despicable behavior should cost her her job.

Chris Tzianabos

Vice President/General Manager

ctzianabos@abc6.com

401-453-8000

Michael Troiano

General Sales Manager

mtroiano@abc6.com

401-453-8024

Beth Ulicnik

MultiChannel Manager

bulicnik@abc6.com

Web/RINC/Digital

401-453-8021

John Methia

Director of Broadcast Operations & Engineering

jmethia@abc6.com

401-453-8058

Robert Rockstroh

News Director

brockstroh@abc6.com

401-453-8036

Cindy Walsh

National Sales Manager

cwalsh@abc6.com

401-453-8026

Judy Shoemaker

Promotion Manager

jshoemaker@abc6.com

401-453-8158

Anne Marie Menard

Business Manager

amenard@abc6.com

401-453-8008

Contact ABC and let them know of the unethical means in which one of its affiliates creates news. (sorry, these are form contacts, but your voice is worth the effort)

http://abc.go.com/site/contact-us?nord=1

http://abcnews.go.com/Site/page?id=3271346&cat=ABCNews.com

If you are local to the Providence, Rhode Island area, contact the sponsors of ABC6 News and tell them you have a problem with a news station that tortures victims for a story, and ask that they pull their support until Abbey Niezgoda is fired, and ABC6 has issued a formal apology to Melissa Lawrence.

{Legal Issue} BSL Around the World

It’s been a hot minute since we did the last Legal Issue post so I figured it was time to get back to business!  This topic is one that likely hits home with at least a few of us: BSL.  A reader asked what International Laws look like and if BSL exists in other places.

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 You all remember the Lennox case, right?  In short, Lennox was removed from his home in Ireland after officials determined he was a “pit bull type dog”.  His family fought legal battles for two years, all while he was deteriorating in horrible conditions, along with support from people literally all across the world to save him–he had done nothing wrong.  You might remember seeing pictures of pit bull type dogs with the words “I Am Lennox” –this was done as a show of support.  Ultimately the family lost and Lennox was euthanized.  Up until this point, I can honestly say that I hadn’t really paid any attention to international BSL issues, but this case brought it jarringly to my attention.

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Obviously this is a huge topic that could literally fill books, so I asked Rich to kind of give us a condensed version of his research.  Without further ado, here are some “fun” facts about International Laws surrounding BSL:

You may think that our country’s unfair view on certain breeds is so far from the norm that it wouldn’t be duplicated in other countries. While this is a nice thought, the United States is far from being the only country that allows breed specific legislation to be passed by its constituent states. In fact some other countries have gone so far to enact federal BSL that touches every border of the country, and it’s not just pit bulls that are affected by these laws.

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For example, the United Kingdom has a law that prohibits four types of dogs entirely from the country. These are the Pit Bull, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasiliero breeds. The good news is that the area of Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom, is not affected by this ban. But the bad news is that Northern Ireland has enacted its own ban that includes these dogs (this is where the Lennox situation occurred). In addition to outright banning these breeds the UK law encourages voluntary microchipping of dogs and imposes severe penalties on owners of dogs that attack people (including prison time up to two years).

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Australia is another country that has a ban on these breeds. Additionally they also include the Perro de Presa Canario. For those that don’t know about these breeds that are banned, for the most part they look like Pit Bulls and Mastiffs, large dogs with defined muscles. Although the Tosa does not look like either type, it is apparently nicknamed the Japanese Fighting Dog. In Australia the importation of these breeds is banned, and any dog that was “grandfathered” in by being there prior to enactment of the ban, is required to be neutered, thus Australia is attempting to let the breed die out (completely die out!) in the country.

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Finally, a little closer to home the island nation of Puerto Rico has enacted a similar ban on these types of dogs (although it doesn’t appear that Tosas are included), banning the importation, sale, and breeding of these dogs. When this law was enacted it gave owners eight months to register the dogs that they already owned to “grandfather” them in. Additionally it looks like the legislators there saw the trouble that Miami-Dade had in court defending their ban on “pit bulls” as being too vague, and the Puerto Rican law defines Pit Bulls to include specific breeds, and cross breeds between them and other breeds. Also it gives a physical description of what the banned dogs look like.

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Unfortunately this is just a sampling of the breed specific legislation throughout the world, and there’s no end in sight. Venezuela has passed a law that will outlaw American Staffordshire Terrier and American Pit Bulls in 2014. This law was passed in 2010 and the delay in going into effect is probably due to the fact that it is an outright ban and there will be no “grandfathering” in.

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Rather depressing, isn’t it?  So what can we do?  First and foremost we can use our own dogs to show what great family members these “pit bulls” and other breeds really are; we can walk the walk.  We can also take the time to sign petitions against bans; we can ask our friends to sign these petitions as well.  We can write letters to legislators and intelligently and politely make a case for our family members.  We can get involved! 

The photos from this post are from the Pittie Party.  It was a wonderful event and if you are in the Tallahassee area and looking for helping throwing a charitable event you should seriously consider checking out my friends at Hire Wire Charitable Even Planning.  They rock; more pictures to come!  And a couple of the dogs featured in this post are available for adoption, so if you are in the market and one catches your eye, please get in touch with me!

 

Requiring Insurance? Solving Problems! Part II

Before we begin tackling the great issues that so many of you have raised, we thought it best to wrap up the idea Rich proposed on requiring insurance here.  There were rather mixed reactions on the initial idea and I again just want to say that it is merely that: an idea.  And one that I personally think at least warrants discussion.  Whether or not anything ever comes of it, I think it never hurts to discuss new ideas, think outside the box, and open ourselves to progress; after all, we all have the same end goal: happy, healthy, properly cared for and managed dogs.  I for one am open to any idea that helps us get there!  So without further ado, I give you Rich.

Roads

 Hello again THPL followers!  In the first part of this post I discussed three potential benefits of requiring liability insurance to be carried on all dogs regardless of breed or history. In this part I will present a couple of more benefits.

 First, just as a refresher the basic structure of the system that I proposed consisted of requiring all dog owners to carry liability insurance policies on each dog that they own. The only requirements of the policies would be a certain threshold coverage amount (the Tennessee bill that inspired this idea has a minimum policy amount of $25,000 though that seems high in my opinion) and that in order to insure the dog it has to be microchipped with the owner’s information (and proof of insurance).

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 Now on to the additional benefits:

 First, since the microchipping is a required part of obtaining the insurance this would dramatically cut back on the amount of legitimately lost dogs in the shelters. Additionally, as each dog is microchipped and the owner’s information is readily accessible, people may be less willing to leave their dog in a shelter drop-box, or just release their dog when their use for it has ended. Many people would not do these things if they could not do so with anonymity. Additionally, we can remove the ability of these people to do so with impunity, by requiring them to keep the insurance premiums current on any dog of theirs that ends up at a shelter, either as a drop-off or a stray, until that dog is adopted and has a new policy taken out on it.

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 While this may be hard to enforce in practice, what can be done is that the owner will be unable to receive a refund on premiums that have already been paid for a dog that ends up in a shelter. The shelter south of town here gets in a lot of Hounds at a certain time of year. The reason for this, Morgan has told me, is that hunters will get the dogs to help them during hunting season, and then at the end of the season they find it cheaper to just release the dogs into the woods than to feed them and keep them until the following year. By requiring premiums to be paid for a year at a time (a lot of car insurance companies require, or at least offer a discount, that you pay premiums six months at a time), and only offering a refund if a vet puts down the dog due to natural causes and issues a certificate stating such, we can at least keep them from doing this with impunity. Additionally with the microchipping and database with owner records, we could potentially keep track of which owners allow their dogs to go to shelters, and do not retrieve them when contacted by the shelter. Reputable breeders and shelters can then use this information in running their adoption programs. Thus owners will no longer be able to just keep their dog through hunting season and then release them with impunity; we will be able to single them out as bad owners, and refuse to let them adopt!  This would obviously extend beyond the “bad” hunters that I have discussed; they are merely one example.

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 Finally, a benefit that many may see as being the biggest of them all: ending BSL! I know, it’s a lofty goal, but I think that even if this will not end it, it will definitely be a step in the right direction. I’m going to start my discussion on this point with a little economics, so please forgive me. Currently owning any dog comes with certain externalities, namely the danger that your dog, if not properly managed, can cause bodily harm and property damage to those around you. Owning a “dangerous” or “aggressive” dog increases this danger, and many people automatically lump some breeds into that category, regardless of the behavior of the individual dogs. While the tort system has been able to transfer some of this risk back to the owner, it is not perfect: many people are “judgment proof,” meaning that they do not have enough assets to be able to pay for injuries caused by their actions. When these judgment proof people own dogs, the risk of attack is borne completely by those around them. Requiring insurance coverage transfers the risk back to the person that is engaged in the risky activity, the dog-owner.

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 Now, I think it is fair to say that BSL is caused by emotion and fear. Fear that a specific breed is going to cause damage or harm and leave the victim paying the cost. By enacting BSL, or more specifically Breed Bans, the citizens of counties (or cities) are essentially saying that they are not willing to bear the burden of the risk of having these dogs in their borders. Requiring insurance transfers this monetary risk from the victim to the owner, the one that should bear the risk of engaging in the activity. While many will argue that you cannot put a price on a human life, or disfigurement caused by an especially gruesome attack, the incentives provided by insurance companies for responsible dog training and ownership should decrease both the frequency of attacks and the severity of the ones that do happen. Eventually voters may see that BSL is unnecessary and vote to end it, or fail to enact it in the first place.

 This ends my two part discussion on the benefits of requiring dog owners to carry liability insurance on their pets. I think that the benefits would far outweigh the added costs of ownership, what do you think?

Nala

 Don’t forget!  Leave your suggestion for a post in the comments now through Thursday and Morgan will donate 1 lb. of food to Last Hope Rescue! 

FUNdraising For Food!

Like I mentioned yesterday, I am on a bit of a mission to re-vamp the blog.  Since my current foster, Maggie, has been with me close to a year now, I feel that I have kind of ran out of interesting foster related stories to tell.  This is not to say I don’t still want to promote fostering, because believe me, I do!  It’s just to say that in the interest of continuing to do as much good as possible with this space, I think I need to change it up a bit.  And since I have an (almost) attorney at my disposal wanting to help, I figured why not take full advantage and dive into some legal issues while continuing to promote the “bully” breeds I love and of course, fostering?

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Nala, available for adoption through Last Hope Rescue.

I was inspired to start blogging by Love & A Six-Foot Leash and frequently stalk enjoy their blog.  They do this adorable thing where they take questions from fellow bloggers and their dogs “respond”.  Recently another blog that I love, Mr. and Mrs. & Nola Kisses, sent in a really great question: How do you get famous (i.e. more followers)?  Being such a popular blog, this was a great question for them to answer.

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Maggie, also available for adoption through Last Hope Rescue.

I mentally checked off their suggestions: high quality photos (ok, no more iPhone pictures, duly noted!), post regularly (workin’ on it!), write from the heart (oh, I’ve got that one covered–see here for a prime example of writing a tough post), network (noted!), think big (I’ve already written some pretty controversial posts but this is the direction I’m really hoping to head), and finally, host fundraisers, contests, and giveaways…which leads me to today’s post!

It’s time to FUNdraise up in here!

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Maggie, Nala, and (unadoptable) Tag basking in the sun.

As you may or may not know, I foster through Last Hope Rescue, which is an awesome local rescue that pulls dogs from high-kill shelters like Wakulla that I have frequently talked about, as well as many others.  If I’m going to do a fundraiser, it is without a doubt, going to benefit them!

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Nala’s cherry eye was fixed a couple of days after these photos were taken. Thank you Last Hope!

So here’s the deal: We are doing our own version of “Kibbles for Comments”!  You may have seen this idea around town the blogging world, and I love it, but I can’t just do the same thing as everyone else.  Oh no!  I am going to make you work for it too.  Since I have the brilliant mind of Rich at my disposal eager to help, I want YOU to comment with any legal type suggestions (dog related of course!) for future posts. Together we will research and do future posts dedicated to the issues you raise!  Think of things like, “There is a proposed bill in _____ city and I don’t understand it, can you explain it?”  Feel free to get as creative and in-depth as you want.  We welcome the challenge!  And don’t worry, there will still be plenty of silly posts in the mix too.

For every “legal” suggestion we receive in a comment for the next week, we will donate 1lb. of dog food to Last Hope Rescue!  Now go tell your friends, please!

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Foster mom tells me there are lots of dogs in need of food. Please help her help them!

Requiring Insurance? Solving Problems!

Before I get started, brace yourself, it’s about to get controversial up in here!  Also, all of the dogs featured in this post are pit bull type dogs (and therefore potentially are risk of BSL) that are currently living in the shelter south of Tallahassee that I have frequently mentioned.  They are all in need of homes so if one catches your eye, you know the drill–let me know!

Shilah

Shilah…have you ever seen a sweeter face?!

While taking the crew on our evening walk last night Rich asked me if I had heard the news about BSL Tennessee.  “No?  What happened?”  Essentially, they have proposed a law which requires the owners of dogs deemed “aggressive” as well as all pit bulls to carry insurance on that dog.  My response was “Well, I think that is acceptable if the dog has done something bad enough to be deemed aggressive but it’s bullsh!t that all pits automatically require this.”  (Side note: I have a friend with a dog that is labeled “aggressive” because it was there when another dog killed a third dog.  It did not actually do anything but she was given the choice of labeling it, and therefore submitting to various requirements, or putting the dog down.  We could go into a lengthy discussion here, and obviously I am leaving a lot of details out, but I know that she appreciates the fact that she was given this option and thus given the choice to keep her dog alive and in her home.)  So we began discussing this whole insurance requirement and Rich said, “You know, if ALL dogs required insurance, we could solve a lot of problems.”  Uh, come again?

Rich said that he had been giving it a lot of thought all day and the more he talked, the more I realized, he’s brilliant!  Ok, I already knew that, but I did begin to see that he actually had a really good point.  Everything he was saying made sense and I think he really might be onto something.  So, I’m going to let Rich explain exactly why requiring insurance for all dogs might actually be a way to solve, or at least begin to seriously address, so many of the issues that we as dog lovers and advocates are working to correct.  Without further ado, I give you Rich and his analytical mind!

Tyson

Tyson – I LOVE this dog and would make her mine in a heartbeat if living conditions were more conducive.

Hello THPL followers! This is my first blog post (ever) so forgive me if it’s not up to the usual caliber that you’ve come to expect from this fine publication.

Most days I tend to go to Yahoo! and check to see what headlines have popped up in the past day. Today while I was there I saw something along the lines of “Tennessee Pit Bull Law” in the Trending Now box. Clicking on that I found myself reading an article about the proposed law, which Morgan explained above. (Note: this is not the original article I read on the bill, but it covers the same ground.) My initial reaction was not one of disgust at the singling out of Pit Bull type breeds in the new bill (which, by the way, was a recent addition to the bill and was not in the original draft of the bill), but rather I thought that this proposed law may actually accomplish some good. As the linked article points out, some people in Tennessee are against the bill because it amounts to discrimination based on the ability of the owner to afford an insurance premium. They also argue that the real problem with Pit Bulls that cause damage is the “thug” mentality of owners that raise (or rather manage) them to be vicious, and by requiring this insurance based on the dog breed and not the proclivity of the owner is treating the symptom instead of the cause. As it seemed to me that these arguments are not entirely consistent with each other, I thought that it may do some good in Tennessee.

Neddie

Neddie

I know that this thought runs contrary to everything that you’ve read thus far on this blog, and I decided that I owed it to my amazing fiancee and sweet Pit Bull, Maggie, to consider the bill from the perspective that BSL in all forms is wrong and tantamount to racial discrimination. So on further consideration I decided that this bill was wrong! However, I made this decision not because it goes too far in requiring the insurance for Pit Bulls, but rather because it does not go far enough: the law should apply to all dogs!

As Morgan has written about time and again, there are many problems that are out in the animal world, such as over-population, under-socialization, and mis-information. Requiring every dog owner to carry a policy on each of their dogs can help to mitigate each of these problems (and many more) by incentivizing dog owners to act responsibly. First I will propose a basic shell of the law as I see it, and then I will show how I think it can help address these problems.

Troy

Troy

It is a basic system that requires every dog owner to carry general liability insurance on the possibility that his or her dog will cause either personal or property damage. This is basically the same as requiring every car owner to carry property and personal injury protection in order to get a license plate for the car. As part of getting the insurance coverage, each dog will be required to be microchipped with the owner/policy owner’s information. The microchip’s serial number will be placed in a national database that will serve as proof of the insurance and expiration dates, even if the owner does not carry an insurance card on them. The $25,000 of coverage that is required by the Tennessee bill may be a little excessive though (the state of Florida only requires $10,000 of PIP coverage on your car!), but the coverage should be a sizable amount.

Okay, now for what I think the benefits of this system will be. First it incentivizes responsible owner behavior. As the insurance premiums will be decided by the insurance market, the insurers can offer discounts based on what they think will reduce the possibility of having a claim filed based on each individual dog, think of these as “safe driver” discounts offered by car insurers currently. This can include things such as a small discount for having a dog complete a certified obedience course or for being spayed/neutered, a larger discount for completing a canine good citizen course or being certified as a therapy dog, and even a discount for the owner completing a course in being a good owner. Breeds of dogs may also be taken into account by the premiums set by the insurance company, but insurers are very good at using actuarially sound principles to set their premiums. Thus the insurers would actually use hard data and statistics on which breeds are more likely to be aggressive rather than emotional reactions based on perception. Then we may see Pit Bull owners get a break compared to Collie owners.

Sally

Silly Sally!

Also by requiring coverage for each dog owned, this can help the over-population problem by causing people to think twice about taking a dog that they cannot afford to insure. If people know that there will be a guaranteed cost with each added dog, they may also think about the other costs that can creep up with owning one or more dogs. I shudder to think about what would’ve happened if Morgan and I did not have the money to cover the vet bills after our two girls got into it last month. For many owners the an unexpected cost can mean that they will have to beg a rescue to take their dog, will abandon the dog at a shelter, or will opt for the dog to be put down by the vet in lieu of having to pay thousands of dollars in vet bills. This insurance requirement can at least get them to consider the potential of unexpected costs before choosing to get a dog. Additionally the requirement to insure each dog can dissuade owners from becoming animal hoarders and acquiring an unhealthy amount of dogs. This is not too mention the money that can due to someone for their health bills if a dog did snap and bite a stranger.  I know Florida, for one, has a strict liability law when it comes to dog bites/attacks. An owner need not know that a dog is “aggressive” or “dangerous” in order to be held accountable financially when an injury occurs. So this really is a cost that can come out of the blue!

Champagne

Champagne

Although I see many more potential benefits of requiring insurance and establishing a national database where vet records and insurance coverage status will be linked, I feel like this post has gone on long enough, so I will finish with one final point: addressing the owner problem. By requiring insurance for dogs the owners that cannot afford the insurance will be priced out of owning a dog. As there may be a link between the “thug mentality” and lower income (not claiming that there is, just that it has been suggested before), requiring dog owners to pay premiums to keep the dog, we may eliminate some of the less desirable owners from the potential owner pool. I know, some of you are probably wondering about the potential owners that do not have a lot of money in their checking account, but have a lot of love to give a dog and would treat it like part of the family. However, I think that this will encourage people to foster dogs! Like companies that are in the business of using a lot of cars (trucking companies, car rental companies) can acquire fleet coverage from car insurers, rescues could perceivably get “fleet” coverage for their dogs, where they would pay less in premiums per dog than if they were owned by separate individuals. And, as part of getting this fleet discount, rescues would be required to check into the suitability of potential fosters and vouch for them.

Phew, sorry for the long post. As I said I have many other potential benefits under this system, and I may put them in the comments, or in a follow-up post so stay tuned! Thank you for sticking with me and indulging me on my first post.

Group

Seriously, look at this group of beautiful, awesome dogs!

See?  Told you he’s analytical!  I suppose getting a law degree will do that to a guy though.  I do believe that there will be a follow up post to this one because Rich really did only touch on a few of the issues that we talked about on our walk.  He’s actually very excited by this topic and has been talking about taking it further and attempting to get a paper on this topic published, which would be super duper awesome because if that happened, it would reach so many people.

So I’m curious, what are your initial reactions to this idea?