Indy Pit Bulls Get Reprieve

Despite the support and endorsement of groups like the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Indianapolis City Councilman Mike Speedy’s effort to pass Breed Discriminatory Legislation is dead. The City Council tabled the measure indefinitely.

The Indianapolis animal welfare community—including Indianapolis Animal Care & Control (IACC), the Humane Society of Indianapolis (HSI), Pit Bull advocates, and other dog lovers—celebrated victory. According to John Aleshire of HSI, “I am pleased and relieved to forward this email from Council Angela Mansfield with the news that the BSL ordinance proposed by Mike Speedy is DOA. It truly appears to be a dead issue and we can breathe a sigh of relief.”

The bill to regulate Pit Bulls was being supported by HSUS which claims to be against these types of laws, but was surreptitiously behind efforts to get it passed in Indianapolis. When challenged, HSUS denied it was supporting it claiming they were just offering “input” on the legislation, but the ordinance’s author had been referring critics to HSUS in an effort to win their support. And HSUS had been citing a similar Little Rock, AR ordinance as a successful model. In fact, Little Rock officials also offered input into the Indianapolis law, and suggested that this could be a first step toward an outright ban.

In Little Rock, animal control officers have been going door-to-door confiscating Pit Bulls who aren’t registered and, according to KC Dog Blog, media reports show many smiling, tail wagging dogs (which are now “potentially dangerous dogs” under the law) being taken away to their death. Even though thousands of Pit Bulls have been killed in Little Rock because of this, HSUS applauded enforcement officials in Little Rock for doing so, calling their efforts “meaningful.”

When the news broke of HSUS’ involvement, HSUS claimed it would no longer be a part of the effort, but further e-mails show that HSUS staff was still involved. E-mails going back and forth from Councilman Speedy and others who supported it regarding strategies to get it passed, included cc’s to HSUS staff.

In a desperate attempt to keep his anti-Pit Bull legislation alive, Speedy took the advice of HSUS and re-billed it as a pro-Pit Bull law, changing the designation “potentially dangerous dog” to “at risk dog.” He even claimed that “Pit Bull advocates have been giving their all for the last 10 years” to saving Pit Bulls with little progress. He thus claimed they needed “help” to save these dogs through his legislation. This proposition would be ludicrous if it wasn’t so disturbing.

First, this law was about harming, not helping Pit Bulls. Second, Pit Bull advocates in Indianapolis did not want his brand of “help.” Third, this notion in Indianapolis is a lie. Until the appointment of Doug Rae earlier this year to head IACC, Pit Bulls (including Pit Bull puppies) were automatically killed. Rae removed the blanket destruction policy in favor of treating every dog as an individual and adopting non-vicious dogs regardless of breed characteristics. In other words, dog advocates have not had 10 years to save Pit Bulls in Indianapolis. These dogs were being systematically killed by the City. For a representative of the City to then turn around and say you failed to save them from us and then use that as an excuse to enact legislation they did not want, is reprehensible.

Not surprisingly, PETA also supported the law. PETA has long called for the nationwide slaughter of all Pit Bulls in shelters. In fact, PETA’s dog killing apologist Teresa Chagrin wrote Speedy encouraging him to follow the Denver example and enact a full breed ban. According to Chagrin:

Denver’s law prohibits any person from owning, possessing, keeping, exercising control over, maintaining, harboring, or selling a pit bull in the City and County of Denver. A pit bull is defined in the ordinance as any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, an American Staffordshire Terrier, a Straffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of these breeds: I encourage you to contact [Denver officials who are] a wealth of information.

In 2005, Denver officials began enforcing a law making it illegal to have a Pit Bull as a pet. Denver newspaper reports describe police officers seizing friendly pet Pit Bulls from homes on threat of arrest. While groups like PETA whitewash the truth, saying that shelters are doing the “public’s dirty work,” the truth is more sanguine: the work is dirty, but it is not the public’s. In the case of Denver’s Pit Bulls, the lie is two-fold because people are not discarding them: government animal control and police agencies are taking cherished family members on threat of arrest—only to put the poor creatures to death.

While most national animal protection groups oppose these outcomes, PETA encourages other communities to do the same. They even supported a breed ban in Ontario, even though Ontario allows pound seizure. After 72 hours in a municipal pound, dogs are sold to any researcher from a registered research facility in Ontario for $6, if requested. In other words, despite the fact that the Ontario ban has caused family pets to be sold to laboratories for animal experimentation, PETA endorsed it.

So here’s a simple test to know whether you are on the right side of a sheltering issue. Do HSUS and PETA support your efforts? If so, you are doing it wrong. When dog killers, dog killing apologists, and those who testify in court or in the court of public opinion that dogs should be killed are applauding your efforts, it is truly time for change.