Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BSL not just for Marines/Push for Worldwide!

Well, the cat is out of the bag so now might be the time to let you all know it's really a Tiger!

In May, Ft. Bragg put word out to their residents in military housing that several breeds would be banned. There was a grandfather clause for existing dogs, but new residents would not be allowed to move into housing with their dogs of the listed breeds, even if they were moving from other bases. Upon learning of this from a close friend (it was not published anywhere but a flyer to residents), I immediately contacted a few folks and we began recruiting the "best of the best" of the BSL fighters around the country. I contacted the Garrison Command office at Ft. Bragg and they started their bureaucratic run around. They initially indicated that their decision was based on the input of the base veterinarian and the AKC 20 year bite report. Only problem, there is no such report??? They initially stated that they were open to information and would examine anything that was sent to them as long as it was 1. A published report (nothing just cited from the internet) and 2. The authors/authorities would be available to verify the findings.

We began contacting authors and experts in the dog world and much appreciation goes out to them, as not one person declined to get involved. The list was long and impressive and first up to bat was our personal hero, Ms. Karen Delise. Imagine my dismay when the CSM would not even take her call. Karen was able to reach the base veterinarian and learned that no report was used, in fact, her only input was that she was asked which breeds were most commonly banned and she replied "pit bulls and rottweilers".

It started to become clear very quickly that the officials at Ft. Bragg were not open to discussion. Even worse, when speaking to CSM Sheehan I learned that the military was planning to implement BSL military wide - this means every base in the world! I was utterly dumbfounded that one woman would make this decision that would hurt so many of our brave men and women in uniform. I prepared a letter citing all of the states that prohibit BSL as well as the Supreme Court (state and federal) decisions that had struck it down. We maintained that these soldiers are only residing on military bases to defend this country, and at the very least, they should be afforded the same protections given to them by their home states of residence. When asked if she had read and reviewed the letter, CSM Sheehan's reply was, "The Military does not have to abide by The Constitution"!

What ensued at Ft. Bragg following the ban can only be described as chaos and any one with one iota of common sense would think that they would not even attempt to pass this at other bases. Neighbors began calling the MPs and the Housing Office to report other residents hiding banned dogs. What was quickly learned is that the dogs were either properly registered before the ban or that, in some cases, the people did not even own dogs but that disgruntled neighbors or other soldiers were just trying to cause them trouble. People walking their dogs were told that their dogs were banned, even though they were not even the breeds on the list. People began calling with annoyance reports right and left and rather than investigate fairly, the base just started adding dog breeds to the banned list. An official list is hard to come by (as it's changing so quickly) but at this point these breeds are banned or are being discussed being banned:

Pit bulls (Amstaff, Bull terriers and APBT)
Great Danes
All dogs over 50 lbs must have their CGC certification (this is already in effect)

The flawed thinking of CSM Sheehan was that if they banned these dogs on Ft. Bragg first then people would not acquire the dogs and then they would not be impacted when they moved. WRONG! Most military families move every 2-3 years so the number of dogs already owned and loved that will have to be surrendered is astonishing. Hard estimates are hard to come by, but to say that the numbers will reach the hundreds of thousands is not an exaggeration based on the registration numbers of these breeds on bases that released the info.

Last month, Ft. Hood, TX passed the bans, followed by Ft. Riley. The ban was already in place at a handful of bases but now the Marine Corp is considering encompassing their bases in one fail swoop as are the Air Force and Navy.

Now, the initial thinking might be that unless you live on a military base this doesn't affect you - think again. This hits every state and country in the world and the ramifications are wide reaching. The most detrimental effect will be on the morale of our fighting men and women at a time when we need them most. In so many cases, the dog of a soldier may be all that they have left. The wars have caused divorces and separations to skyrocket. Even for couples that have managed to stick together, the family dog is often the greatest source of stress relief and therapy they have. To thank these men and women for serving their country by taking away their loved family pets is despicable!

Additionally, this can be interpreted as the Federal Government putting their stamp of approval that some breeds are inherently dangerous. Cities surrounding these bases may start to pass BSL on this notion. Once those cities fall, the ones next to them might pass it and then the next and so on and so on.

None of these reasons even addresses the thousands of dogs that will now be surrendered to an already drowning rescue system. Cities around military bases are utterly inundated with surrendered dogs as it is. This does not bode well for the adoption chances of these family pets. There is absolute NO chance for the pit bulls in this area as the shelters do not adopt them out due to the horrible blight of dog fighting in the area. This holds true in many areas ,especially in the South where some of the largest bases are located.

This leads to the obvious question of "What can we do?" It has become clear that the military has no interest in democracy when it comes to this issue. This is going to have to be taken out of their hands and put to our elected officials if we hope to make any headway. Now is the opportune time to contact those officials up for re-election as well as those opposing them (all Senate seats are up this year). Call them, write them, stop them while they are out stumping and tell them what is happening. Let them know that to allow this to happen to our soldiers is unacceptable to you as an American and as a voter! Recruit your friends and family to do the same. This is no longer about dogs - this is about protecting those that protect us!

Keep in mind that our soldiers can't fight this alone and in some cases not at all. There is no free speech on a military base. When soldiers here were attempting to organize an off-base, out of uniform protest, they were told that they would be facing an Article 32 (the military jargon for free speech equates to causing trouble). Simply moving off-base is not an option for some. Many of those in base housing here have come with their families to go through selection for Special Forces or to attend special schools. They are not in a position to sign a lease, as their time here is unpredictable (the same holds true for Ft. Hood where soldiers go for medical schools). There are many people who prefer base housing for the security it provides when their spouses are deployed as well. They should not be forced to choose between that security and keeping their dogs.

I know this post is extremely long but I actually have given you a very abbreviated version of what has transpired and been exchanged.

Please tell your Congressional Reps and Senator how you feel - tell them today!

Find your legislators by clicking here!

~ Lynn


Andria said...

This just makes me so sad to think of this happening, and to have to give up your dog without the choice is devastating to so many people. I am so glad to see that there are still people out there willing to fight and stand up for these dogs that are defenseless to what is happening around them. I wish people could see all the good these dogs have done from therapy to search and rescue, instead of focusing on a bad stigma!

Anonymous said...

This is a perfect case to get the media involved in. It worked with the Baghdad pups. Military was refusing to let them go and then the press got wind of it and it became a national story. Amazing what a little bad press, at a time when the military can least afford bad press, will do in persuading them to change thier ways. I would love to see Sheehan defend her "military doesn't have to follow the constitution" quote on television. It's not true and her superiors would be appalled to see her face and hear that quote on television. We need a serious reporter to get this story on the news in her area.