Thursday, April 19, 2012

What were they thinking?

I am sitting here writing this blog entry on the night before a meeting of the Safety Council of the largest city in the county where I live.  That would be the city of Ashtabula in Ashtabula County, Ohio in case you are curious.  The city of Ashtabula currently has a law in place that bans ownership of "pit bull" dogs within the city.  According to my sources, one of the topics that will be discussed at tomorrow's meeting of the Safety Council is the fate of this law.  There are some very good people who are trying to get the ban against pit bulls abolished and I applaud their efforts.  This topic is especially relevant because of what happened yesterday during my work day at the clinic.  I had one of those moments in life where you think about a particular law that is in place and say to yourself "What were they thinking?".

I walked into the clinic yesterday morning and my surgery case I had scheduled for the day had already been admitted to the hospital.  The dog's owners are very nice people.  The dog I am sorry to say is not so nice.  Oh it may be nice to people that it knows, but it is not so nice when it is around the strange workings of a veterinary hospital.  Some dogs come to the vet office and are what I call "eternally happy".  This is the majority of dogs we see.  They wag their tails and love being petted.  Some dogs come to the vet office and are fearful, but even though they are scared, they sit still and just wait for the horrible experience to be over.  These dogs will often warm up to us if we are slow and take time to get to know them.  Then there are the fearful dogs that do not back down.  These dogs are a small minority, but they do present certain challenges.  They have learned that if they are scared of strangers and if they attack then the strange people will go away.  These dogs are dangerous and such was the case with the dog that was in for surgery yesterday morning.  This dog would just as soon eat my face, my technician's face or any other face of a strange person at a vet hospital.  It didn't help that the dog weighed about 100 pounds to boot.  Fortunately I work with some of the most talented animal handlers on the planet and we were able to get a muzzle on and treat this dog with what I call "no muss, no fuss".  The dog did not freak out at all and no one got bit.  But in spite of an uneventful visit to the vet, this dog is dangerous.  It is not however a pit bull so anyone that lives in the city of Ashtabula, Ohio could legally own this 100 pounds of accident waiting to happen.

My last appointment of the day was a stray dog that was rescued off the streets of Cleveland.  The dog was pregnant at the time of rescue and a wonderful woman who lives in my neighborhood took her in.  This woman has rescued many dogs and is very good at placing rescued dogs in good homes.  The dog had her puppies and Momma dog and her pups are being cared for until the puppies are old enough to be placed into new homes.  Then momma dog will be spayed and she too will find a new home.  Anyway, momma dog came to the clinic to get her vaccinations.  I walked in the exam room and she immediately walked over to me, wagging her tail and wanted to be petted.  I sat on the floor with her and she licked my face.  Then she rolled over next to me so I could rub her belly.  This dog was in that first category of dog that I talked about.  She was "eternally happy".  I did a physical exam while avoiding the slurping tongue.  I administered three vaccinations while she happily ate treats out of my assistant's hand and without any restraint at all.  Momma dog was one of the friendliest dogs I have ever met and I have met a lot of dogs.  Momma dog is a pit bull.  She cannot be adopted by anyone  who lives in the city of Ashtabula.

And so there is my "What were they thinking moment?".  If I lived in a city neighborhood and had a choice between my neighbor owning the 100# accident waiting to happen or the friendly pit bull, is there any question what I would choose?  Or what any sane person would choose?

I always wonder how a city council votes for a breed specific ban in the first place.  If I were on a city council and I was getting ready to make a new law, I would consult with people who were experts on the topic.  If I were making a law concerning, let's say, safety of drinking water, I would consult with people who have degrees and work in the field of water quality and public health.  If I were making a law concerning education, I would consult teachers and other educators.  Who would I contact if I were considering enacting a law concerning dogs?  Well, that would be dog experts such as veterinarians, trainers and those who run animal shelters to name a few.  I would not ask the public.  I would not ask the police department.  They are not experts on dogs.  And the funny thing is that almost across the board, dog experts are against banning specific breeds of dogs.  So how do these laws get passed in the first place?  Someone is obviously not listening to experts on the subject.

Things that have happened in the past though are just that: in the past.  Wrongs can be righted.  The State of Ohio just recently removed the words "pit bull" from the state's dangerous dog law.  It is time for local communities to step up and do the same.  You don't ban cars because some people are dangerous drivers and you don't ban specific breeds because some people own dangerous dogs.