August 11, 2006
Is breed specific legislation really a good idea?
by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
As I watched the furor over pit bulls ensue on
the evening news, I saw a woman spout at one of the city council
meetings — “Yes, we’re talking about pit bulls, if it were
Rottweilers hurting people, we would be wanting a ban on Rottweilers.”
Ah-oh, here we go, I thought.
my mother that very evening, “I wonder how long it will be before
they start coming after the Rottweilers?”
wasn’t long after that a Rottweiler mauling ended up on the evening
course, as a dog lover, I had always been concerned about the
implications of breed specific bans but when I actually heard
someone talking about Rottweilers, it hit home. It’s like the story
about the Holocaust where the writer says, “They came after the Jews
and I did nothing, and then they came for the homosexuals…” and on
and on until the writer found himself targeted.
a Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix. There’s no mistaking the
Rottweiler, she has a big box head and has the black and brown
markings, and spotted black and pink tongue.
Emma is the sweetest, most loving dog you would ever want to meet.
My mother, who has been afraid of large dogs all of her life, loves
Emma and will let her give her sloppy wet kisses on her face.
not blind to the fact that Emma can be the most loyal and a vicious
dog if something is trying to hurt my family or me. I know, because
she already has saved my life once.
a horse that came after me, picked me up by my collarbone and threw
me back 4 feet to the ground. The horse then charged me while I was
lying immobile on my back with the wind knocked out of me. I imagine
she would have stomped me and kicked me had she gotten that far, but
a snarling, barking and biting Emma put herself between me and sent
the horse packing. With the exception of that one time, Emma went to
the barn with me everyday where we kept our horses. In 5 years, Emma
didn’t bother another soul, human or animal.
realize not all people see Emma the way we do — they don’t know her
the way we do. They do not see her giving kisses or playing gently
with her two much smaller Dachshund “sisters” on a daily basis.
know that dog has Rottweiler in her?” my best friend asked upon her
first visit to my home after Emma wandered to our home as a stray.
friend was misinformed, based on hype and misinformation about the
breed spread in the neighborhood where we grew up in the 1970s and
‘80s. By the time my friend left our house after a two-day stay, she
was almost ready to take Emma with her.
also chased a child down the street once when she got out without
her leash, not because she wanted to hurt him, but because his
running away screaming made her think he was playing chase with her.
After a sit-down with his father, the boy was patting Emma and she
was licking him. It is because of this menacing persona that others
see that we carry a muzzle in our car when Emma travels with us. We
wouldn’t want a frightened police officer to shoot her should we be
not a nut advocating that animals run free, I’m a responsible animal
lover. Like any rational, compassionate human being, I am horrified
by the maulings that have taken place around the metro this summer.
I am truly concerned about the problem of vicious dogs, and my heart
and condolences go out to the victims and their families.
tragic that Jimmie May McConnell was killed last month in Kansas
City, KS. No one should meet his or her end in that way. I also
agree that the dog involved in that mauling — or any unprovoked
mauling — should also be put down; there is no room in our society
for dangerous dogs.
common sense tells me that breed bans do not work. I am not the only
one that does not support breed specific legislation for any breed;
many animal rights groups, breed fancy groups and the American
Kennel Club also do not support this type of control for potentially
Unfortunately, through time, in addition to Rottweilers, other
breeds have gotten bad reputations due to bad handling — including
Akitas, German Shepherds and Dobermans. All are fierce and loyal,
and all can inflict certain damage upon attack, but that doesn’t
mean that all are bad dogs
flip side, I have not seen breed specific bans on Dalmatians, one of
which attacked and mauled me on the face when I was four or a ban on
Cocker Spaniels, a breed so popularized and inner-bred during the
1960s and ‘70s that it created a whole generation of dogs with
severe personality problems. I personally know of two people who had
what I would consider “vicious” Cockers that attacked their owners.
People would think those bans ridiculous.
same should go for the terriers lumped into the category of being
“Pit Bulls.” Evidence can be found of that from some of the famous
pit bulls that we all know in movies and television — Helen Keller
owned an American Pit Bull Terrier as one of her eye dogs. Petey,
the dog that played in The Little Rascals in the 1930s,
Spuds McKenzie in the 1980s Budweiser ads and more recently, the dog
on the UPN show Veronica Mars is a pit bull. The American
military even used the dogs’ image in their war posters in the early
1900s. Finally, the dog used in the Target store ads is a dog
sometimes used to cross breed to get a pit bull.
Life Magazine recently highlighted a photo gallery of shelter
animals; many of them were pit bulls. One of them, it said, was
adopted and trained to be a therapy dog. How many of the thousands
of dogs that Kansas City area shelters have been killing these past
few months could have been adopted and trained to do good? How many
good dogs were killed in an irrational atmosphere of fear and
do these bad dogs come from? The come from bad owners.
Unfortunately for the terriers, this breed has not only long been
used in illegal dogfights; they have become a “status” symbol for
every punk gang member and drug dealer across the country. They’ve
been used in hip-hop videos to promote this status.
acquiring these dogs, these thugs “train” these beautiful animals
through abuse and deprivation of food, water and shelter. Many, like
the dogs that were allegedly in the yard next to McConnell’s, are
left to their own devices, becoming agitated, less socialized and
more aggressive the less they are cared for.
a societal problem, not a breed problem. And there are many societal
reasons that the vicious dog ordinance, otherwise known as the pit
bull ban in Kansas City, KS, has not worked for the past 16 years.
the ordinance does not address the poverty issues or drug problem in
the county. It is common knowledge that while Wyandotte County’s
reputation has improved through the years, poverty and everything it
breeds is still a huge problem (I am not only a native Dotte, but a
life-long resident). It also does not address the illegal dog
fighting trade. People say this is a shady world that is hard to
infiltrate. If our government can infiltrate terrorist cells and the
mafia, they could infiltrate and bust the rednecks and criminals who
use and train dogs to kill one another.
the ordinance does not address the basic issue of educating the
public about dogs, the overpopulation problem and responsible
ownership. Most of this can be attributed to funding. I have written
several stories in Wyandotte County about animal control and the
efforts of the former director to attend public meetings and
neighborhood groups. That director did the best with what he had to
work with. He also had a no-nonsense approach for anyone who brought
in a litter of puppies to the shelter.
people tell me they wanted their children to see the miracle of
birth, I invite them back on a Friday so they can see the tragedy of
death,” he told me more than once.
there on a Friday and unfortunately saw it for myself; 80 percent of
the animals (at that time) relinquished to animal control in that
city end up euthanized. The city has managed to drop that number to
about 70 percent. And even for the animals adopted, animal control
had no funds to require adopted animals to be spayed or neutered, or
hire a professional to perform the procedure, so people who adopted
animals could let them breed again.
not requiring animals to be altered before adoption, the Unified
Government failed to pass any ordinance that would require any
animal owner allowing animals to breed to obtain a breeding permit.
This could have cut down on the number of unwanted animals in the
county and possibly identified some of the people breeding dogs for
the drug and dog fighting industries.
of doing any of this, in 1990, they passed a knee jerk reaction to
humans treating a breed of dog badly by punishing the breed. And
instead of taking another look and immediately passing good
legislation and funding better animal control laws, as was
recommended by a mayor’s task force over two years ago, they’ve ran
through the city, acting on tips about the specific terrier breed
and brought hundreds in to meet that tragedy of death.
don’t just blame our lawmakers. Animal rights groups and breed
advocacy organizations should be doing more to educate the public.
Maybe they could get hip-hop artists and music television on board
for a broad public service program.
blame all of “civilization.”
when our society realizes that animals are not disposable and until
our lawmakers start enacting laws that punish abusers and people who
engage in the barbaric ritual of dog fighting, place tight
restrictions on breeding and enact spay/neuter laws on all animals
not registered to breed, we will continue to have these problems.
everyday for the people these dogs have attacked. I pray too for the
safe journey of the souls of the good dogs who have been caught up
in this tragic summer.
question is now that municipal shelters have killed literally
hundreds, possibly thousands of pit bulls and more municipalities
have placed bans on one particular breed, what will be the next
breed the hooligans in our society choose as their next status
that it isn’t too late, that I didn’t sit doing nothing for too long
while they took other people’s dogs. I look at Emma and put my face
next to hers, let her give me kisses on the cheek and I rub her ears
and hold her tighter because I just don’t know when they will decide
to come for her.
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell can be contacted at