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Stop Breed-Specific Legislation in Tennessee

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May 23, 2005

I am a resident of Sumner County, Tennessee. I have owned, or my family has owned, various breeds and mixes of dogs throughout my life, including beagles, a redbone coonhound, a collie, a German Shepherd mix, a yellow lab, a Great Pyrenees mix, and a Belgian Malinois. Currently my family and I own a boxer (adopted December 2003) and an American Staffordshire Terrier (adopted October 2004).

We first learned about AmStaffs by watching AKC dog shows on Animal Planet. We would look for dogs we liked, and then research their breed. After months of research utilizing the internet, breed magazines and books on dog breeds, we decided that the AmStaff was the family dog we were seeking. We had found our boxer, Duchess on Petfinder, so we checked there first to see if there were any AmStaffs listed in our area. We found Bo at Bless-the-Bullys in Cookeville, Tennessee.

I have always been opposed to breed-specific legislation (BSL) pertaining to any because it demonizes the entire breed of dog instead of targeting the individual dogs (regardless of breed) and owners that actually cause problems. But at the same time, I never thought I would have to deal with that, since most communities are better educated on the matter and adopt "dangerous" dog ordinances that are objective and take into account the actual behavior of individual animals, whatever their breed, as the American Veterinary Medical Association and many other professional organizations (see links on main page) recommend.

Boy, was I wrong. Mr. Roland Mumford, a commissioner in Sumner County, recently proposed a resolution to the commission that would form an ad hoc committee to study animal control issues and "vicious" dogs, in particular. This resolution, which in and of itself is fine, passed on May 16, 2005, and the committee is in the process of being formed. The problem, however, arises from Mr. Mumford's statements that he is "going after the pit bull species." In his vision for this ordinance, owners of what he deems to be "pit bulls", and ONLY "pit bulls", will have to register their dogs with the county as being "vicious," regardless of the dog's history of behavior. No other dog owner will have to register their dogs. Also, owners of what he deems to be "pit bulls" will have to carry liability insurance on their pets and will have to muzzle their dog if it is off their property. This is totally unfair and a violation of the owner's 14th Amendment right to due process and equal protection under the law.

"Pit bulls" are not the only dogs that have been targeted by BSL. Rottweilers and Dobermans are, traditionally, the other breeds most targeted by BSL. But if there is not a state law on the books prohibiting local governments from enacting BSL, then ANY breed can be targeted. For instance, Pomeranians were recently declared vicious in Australia because one bit a police officer.

In the course of conducting research to (1) counter Mr. Mumford's erroneous statements regarding "pit bulls," and (2) show that BSL does not work and is a violation of the owner's 14th Amendment rights, I discovered that there are currently 13 states that prohibit local governments from enacting BSL. I want to make Tennessee the next state on that list. If we are going to make Tennessee the next state, we need to band together as dog owners and rescuers, regardless of what breed we personally favor, to fight this injustice that discriminates against good dogs.

Please contact your local state Representative or Senator and ask that they support a law prohibiting local governments from enacting BSL. Contact information is located on the "How You Can Help" page. You can also e-mail me for an e-mail list that includes ALL state Senators and Representatives. Let them all know that dog owners support legislation prohibiting BSL!

Thanks for taking the time to read this page.

boandduchy.jpg
Bo and Duchess - Christmas 2004