Pitbull/mix Information Taskforce (PIT)
UPDATE -- NOV. 2009. OAK HARBOR HAS RESCINDED BSL! THANK YOU OAK HARBOR FOR SEEING THE LIGHT AND DOING THE RIGHT THING! GOOD DOGS LIKE SMILEY (WHO WASN'T EVEN A PIT BULL) WILL NO LONGER GET CAUGHT IN THE INHUMANE WEB OF BSL.
This entry on politicians is by PIT co-chair Barbara Moran, a journalist who covered animal-related topics for "The San Diego Union" and law-related topics for "The Atlanta Constitution." She freelanced animal-related topics for national magazines and newspapers including "Dog Fancy," "The Los Angeles Times," "The San Francisco Chronicle," and "ZooNooz." Her travels took her around the world, where she covered endangered species, including pandas in China. She has written extensively about animal control.
First -- an update. Speaking of politicians -- last week we looked at sheltering operations. We contend that nonprofits which pose as "minimum" kill operations, but do not really function as humane rescues are in violation of their moral, if not legal, responsibility. Now one federal legislator is proposing a bill "that would make it possible to regulate nonprofit organizations including penalizing charities that say in their fund-raising appeals they are raising money for a particular cause but devote very little of it to that purpose," according to the Monthly National Legislation Report. "The effort by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, is the first stab at putting the brakes on nonprofit organizations that spend a very low percentage of the money they raise on their charitable missions." If passed, this legislation could force organizations like WAIF to be more accountable to donors and prove they are living up to stated objectives (such as the ones on WAIF's homepage). This provision is part of Federal Trade Commission bill, S. 2831. You can email Senator Dorgan at email@example.com
Smart Legislators or Short-sighted panderers...
Smart legislators take the time to study and review laws and ordinances. They consider the long-term ramifications of their actions and try to govern as wisely as possible. Short-sighted panderers respond to rumor or false headlines and institute ordinances based on political expediency. This is why Oak Harbor, and WAIF, are setting up to get sued.
Responsible owners of pitbull like breeds, and other breeds targeted by breed specific legislation (BSL), are organizing, lobbying, and suing. One reason is that BSL doesn't work. Rather than target irresponsible people, it harasses good dog owners and victimizes innocent animals.
Here is the latest wrinkle -- genetics testing for dogs ensnared by BSL. Here is just one example involving a dog named Niko. Simple DNA tests are now available for dogs. They cost from $50 up and involve a swipe from inside a dog's mouth by a veterinarian. This USA Today story details the growing industry (story may be slow loading but it's worth waiting for). So if cities like Oak Harbor want to focus on restricting dog types, they better be prepared to start paying for DNA tests and facing related lawsuits.
Any animal control operation such as WAIF ought to be willing to DNA test a dog before labeling it a pitbull and sentencing it to almost certain death. But, for now, this probably won't happen because looking at a dog and guessing is cheaper and faster.
Because of the complications of BSL, many communities are ditching it in favor of the far more rational, fair, and less potentially litigious vicious animal ordinance. It is time officials in Oak Harbor and Island County do what's in the best interest of taxpayers and responsible owners and ditch BSL.
Otherwise more innocent animals will be seized and euthanized, and the potential for lawsuits against cities, counties, and animal control operations like WAIF will increase.
The whole point of BSL is to exterminate dogs based on breed or type. The concept of innocent until proven guilty does not even apply, which raises constitutional issues. A vicious animal ordinance, on the other hand, is less fraught with legal problems because it is based on case-by-case circumstances.
Recently, courts have begun awarding damages in wrongful death suits on behalf of pets. A woman in Seattle was recently awarded $45,480 by a Seattle district court judge for the wrongful death of her cat. Other successful cases have involved malpractice. What if an animal control facility kills an owner's dog and it isn't a pitbull or pitbull/mix? What if the justification for the death was a city's BSL? Could Oak Harbor even defend BSL with any provable statistics that it works?
One can only hope that here on the island, our tax dollars won't be spent defending wholly preventable lawsuits. Politicans need to get smart and adopt vicious animal ordinances rather than BSL laws as soon as possible. Or let's vote out the incumbents!
Until Whidbey Wakes UP, we are urging a national boycott of Whidbey Island as a tourist destination for any dog owner. Please ask your friends who own dogs to choose another travel destination. Whidbey Island does a very poor job informing out-of-towners what to do or where to go if their animals get lost. And lost pets or "strays" can be euthanized on the island after just one week! WAIF has no stray hotline, runs no lost pet ads in the newspapers, provides no information to visitors. A tourist's pet could just disappear forever. If it even looks like a pitbull or pitbull/mix, it's likely doomed. It's time tourists knew the truth.
Here is a partial list of blogs we are asking to help us spread the word (these websites already list Oak Harbor on their worst towns in America lists):
And please don't forget to attend the August 24th candlelight vigil to remember all the dogs wrongly killed due to laws passed by short-sighted pandering politicians on Whidbey Island.
"I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons."