In Memory of Lennox/BSL Sucks

Friday, July 13, 2012

This is Lennox.

I got the photo from the Telegraph; they got it from wherever that watermark says I guess.

Cute, isn't he?

On Wednesday, the Belfast City Council executed him, after two years of legal battles, even though dog trainer Victoria Stilwell offered to pay to move him to a sanctuary in the US.

Not because he was vicious, not because he bit anyone, not because there was no room for him in a shelter -- he was a sweet, loving dog with a family.

No -- they killed him because he looked like a pitbull.

Looked like a pitbull.  He was actually an American bulldog/lab mix.

I find this absolutely sickening.  This dog wasn't being judged on his behavior, his owner's behavior, or even his actual breed (although I think that would have been dumb too) -- he was judged simply because he looked like a breed known to be vicious.   Simply on appearance.

Do you know what this reminds me of?
The Holocaust.

(And yes, I realize it's not quite that extreme, but the same principles apply).

We didn't think it was okay to let Hitler kill all the Jews, so why is it okay for us to kill specific breeds of dogs some people find unpleasant?  Just as you can't generalize an entire race of people (although many people do), you can't generalize an entire breed of dog.  I've known some super sweet Rottweilers, and I've never once met any pitbulls that were anything but loving and sweet.  I have, on the other hand, known some extremely mean poodles and Dachshunds (heck, there are two mean little Dachshunds downstairs right now).  You can't say all pitbulls are vicious, because it's simply not the case.  And killing dogs that aren't pitbulls simply because they look like pitbulls? How is that even okay with anyone?  That would be like someone coming up to me and telling me they're going to kill me because I might look French or something.  Not cool.

And the sad fact of the matter is that there's a ton of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in effect, even in America.  And some of the breeds affected may surprise you.  Think it only affects "vicious"-looking breeds like pitbulls and Rottweilers?  Think again.

A few of the breeds discriminated against in the US (and this isn't even close to all of them -- there are over sixty more):

Airedale Terrier

Alaskan Malamute

American Eskimo Dog

Australian Shepherd

Boston Terrier

Golden Retriever


Labrador Retriever



Siberian Husky

Oh, and this little guy.

Yup, that's right.  Australian Cattle Dogs, of which my very own Archie is 1/4, have legislations against them in this country.  If people are willing to kill Lennox because he looked like something he wasn't, they'd probably have no qualms about hurting my precious little guy because he's 25% something they find offensive.

I'm not okay with that.

So what can be done?

We need to fight BSL and call for a change.  We need laws that hold dog owners responsible, not dogs.

A few years ago, Calgary enacted a law that I think would be good for the US as well.  They decided to focus more on educating dog owners than threatening them.  It's called the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw.  It requires pet owners to have a license and ID for their pets; have their pets spayed or neutered (Bob Barker would approve!); provide training, socialization, proper diet and medical care; and to not let their pets become a threat or a nuisance.  They make sure these things are upheld, and intervene when they need to, and it's done wonders for the city.  In 2009, 86% of dogs picked up by animal control were returned to their families, and only 5% of dogs were euthanized.  Calgary is a big city -- over 1 million people -- but in the same year, there were only 159 reports of dog bites, and 101 didn't break skin.  Those are awesome statistics, better than any others in Europe or North America. (info from National Canine Research Council)

So work with advocacy groups, write letters to local government and/or Congress, educate others about BSL and pet ownership, share Lennox's story  -- anything helps!

While we can no longer help Lennox, there are plenty of other dogs we can help.

Rest in peace, buddy.

For more information about Lennox's story and BSL, check out these resources:

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  1. I'm super confused about the restrictions on most of these breeds. Maybe because of one instance of an abusive dog owner and a dog bite? I would like to know where they are banned. Most or all of these breeds are still in the National Dog Show, so it is at least not a universal thing. I do think dog (and cat) breeding should be restricted due to pet overpopulation, but it doesn't make sense to ban the ownership of entire breeds.

    BTW I didn't know Archie was 1/4 Australian Cattle Dog, that's cool - my dog is mostly that breed if not fully (I usually call it a blue heeler or red heeler depending on the color) and they are super sweet, loyal, energetic, and smart dogs. Very protective, though, so I can imagine them biting easily, but only if they are trained to do so or abused.

    1. And I should add that I love the idea of licensing pets for a small fee, especially dogs, but I think it would be great for cats too if they were required to be spayed or neutered. And have owners train their dogs - ownership of a dog can be 10x more amazing if they are properly trained!

    2. No, it's definitely not universal. Most states have at least a few cities that have BSL. Here's a list

      Some places have complete bans, where you can't have one within city limits, and some places just have restrictions, which can vary; sometimes it means your dog has to stay on your property except to see the vet, it can mean your dog has to be muzzled off your property -- it just depends.

      Yup, he's part cattle dog. I always grew up calling them heelers too, but it seems like everyone only knows them as cattle dogs or heelers, so I picked one. His mom is half blue heeler, half Basset hound. You can't really see it in him much though -- you can KIND OF see it in his face, and my mom swore up and down she could see some spots through his fur (I think she's kind of crazy), but the Dachshund and Basset definitely overpowered the cattle dog. He's a really interesting mix; people are always really surprised when I tell them what he is. Tons of people thought he was a chocolate lab when he was little.

      I agree that cats should be spayed and neutered too -- we could avoid having to euthanize so many animals if they weren't reproducing at a ridiculous rate.



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