Love Them to Death
There are a lot of challenges to being an advocate for dogs and for the human canine bond. We have to deal with a public who often has a distorted view of the risks of being with dogs and of their “cleanliness,” we also have to deal with people who don’t like certain dogs because of the way they look, we have to deal with politicians and media who couldn’t be less informed on dog issues, and we have to deal with anti-dog zealots who hide their hatred of people behind the appearance of those peoples’ dogs.
As if working against opposing forces wasn’t enough, sometimes we find the greatest challenges in the people and organizations that are supposed to be on our side. Like the Abominable Snowman, they plod around hurting and breaking everything with nothing but the best of intentions. Unfortunately the object of their “affection” is too often the victim of their “love.”
The biggest and most widely known animal organization that has blatantly anti-dog and anti-pet policies is PeTA. It’s well established that, seemingly paradoxically, PeTA actively campaigns against pet ownership, advocates for dogs to be euthanized as they did hereand here, and often partakes in the wholesale killing of pets themselves and encourages others to do the same. PeTA “loves” dogs so much, they’d rather see them dead than with people. They love them to death. But it doesn’t take a big national organization to do big harm in our communities. Unfortunately we can count on local groups for that as well.
Recently, in Missouri, the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation (MAAL) came out in opposition of a bill that would have preempted local governments from banning dogs based on their looks. In the process of their opposition, what initially looked like an organization that was just out of touch and behind the times was revealed to be something much worse. At first they claimed animal shelters needed to have breed specific policies (separate sheltering policies and adoption policies for dogs based on their appearance) because they cared so much about certain breeds and those breeds needed “extra protection.” These breeds extend well beyond “pit bulls” as MAAL was part of the brain trust that fabricated the ridiculous and fictional group of dogs they refer to as “power breeds,” basically a list of any dog they deem to be powerful and worthy of special considerations and includes all the usual suspects: Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, “pit bulls” etc. MAAL appeared to be stuck in the old school high-barriers-to-adoption sheltering model where fear of putting a dog in a bad situation paralyzes an organization, keeps countless dogs out of good situations and in shelters where they will eventually be euthanized (or wallow and waste away in a kennel for the rest of their life). Love them to death.
As MAAL was pressed and asked to explain the need for these extra protections the truth came out: they have to watch out for “those people.” You know, “those people,” you know them when you see them. They come in and look a certain way and obviously want a dog to increase their street status and to fill their grandiose vision of machismo. And here we get to the root of all breed specific policies: people. Wanting extra protection for certain breeds turns out to be less about protecting the dogs and more about the bigoted, classist and racist view that anyone who doesn’t have the white suburban look, and means and method of keeping and caring for dogs, doesn’t deserve to have one. And then the list of “power breeds” becomes not a list of dogs that need extra protection but rather a list of dogs that need extra consideration when black and brown people apply to adopt them.
With friends like that, who has time for enemies? Attitudes and policies like this, no matter how well intentioned, are paving the road to hell for countless dogs and are helping to maintain our color and cultural divide by discriminating against people because of the way they look. Trying to love something, and wrecking it completely, might be permissible for a giant Abominable Snowman who hasn’t had the time or experience to develop his social skills and understand his size and the harm he can do, but we should expect more of the organizations in our community who just come off looking like racist dinosaurs.