South dakota, dog breed ban pierces the heart of the heartland

“Breed specific laws are not based in science. [Laws] banning breeds will not make you safer, and the illusion that they will do so is dangerous to humans and unfair to dogs.” Dr. Karen Overall

I’ll admit to having more than a bit of trouble writing this story. It kept morphing itself into a full book chapter, not a tight little web article. ‘Just the facts mam.’ Brevity has never been my forte and a breed ban in my own back yard – the State of South Dakota, definitely provided me enough ammo for a thousand satires. But, here you have it.

The whispers are true. Leola, South Dakota has indeed, tragically, passed Breed Specific Legislation, banning certain ‘types’ of dogs in their town. A summary of the details are as follows:

* The breeds involved are pit bulls, bull mastiffs, Rottweilers, Doberman pinchers, German shepherds, and any mixes of those breeds.

* Dogs of those breeds already registered to town residents are “grandfathered” in and not subject to the ban.

* According to with Mayor Dean Schock, whom I interviewed for this story, if there is a question of lineage in suspected mixed breed ‘offenders,’ a genetic test will be conducted (one step up on a few big cities out there).

* After the town council originally passed the ban a local person adopted a Rottweiler puppy, and had the law put before voters. The town’s citizens supported the legislation by a vote of 103 – 27.

* On a more progressive note, Leola does require all dogs to be spay / neutered unless a breeding license is obtained, so puppies will not be born to the banned breeds.

Those of us working with shelter dogs understand, or have access to information on, the innumerable flaws dealing with breed bans. We know the science does not play out. We know this seemingly ‘easy out’ ultimately causes more harm than good. So, I will not dive into that here. I will, however, briefly touch on some other points.

There was no preemptive incident, such as a dog attack, that spurred the town into reactionary legislation. Leola’s residents were simply worried that with children, joggers, and bicyclists around town a breed ban was needed to insure safety. The town folks requested the ban. Like most who understand the flaws and heartbreak of breed bans my blood was boiling at the legislation’s passing, but upon hearing of citizens actually asking government to take away individual freedoms my blood ran cold.

I immediately wanted to hire a helicopter and drop leaflets over the community. They would say, “Ban Chains, Not Breeds!”, “Fence in Your Yards, Not Your Liberties” or “Bad Owners Make Aggressive Dogs!” Lucky for Leola the high cost of gas kept me grounded. Grrr!

Readers may have noted the extremely odd presence of German shepards on the list of banned breeds in Leola. According to Mayor Schock a friend of his, who once worked with police dogs in Aberdeen, SD, had heard of an incident in where someone adopted a retired police dog and there was an attack. This third-party, partial account, of a one in a million shot, leading to outlawing an entire breed is the ultimate testimonial as to what happens once these dangerous, flood gates are opened. If I mentioned my own dog’s “issues” with the Mayor, would poodle mixes be next on the hit list?

That shot fired, I have to say, Mayor Schock was a very accommodating victim of my interview styles. He was gracious, well-spoken, and intelligent (German Shepard thing not withstanding). He requested a copy of this story be sent on to him and I fully intend to honor his request – including links to the article responses on the Best Friends Network. Let us not hate the town of Leola. Let us hate the lack of education on the subject of dog behavior and dog breeds that is the ultimate cause of Breed Specific Legislation. (That and a touch of human sloth.)

Preaching, tirades, and name calling will not help the dogs of my state. And, the dogs need your help! Practice kindness and education towards the Mayor, and through him educate Leola. Provide helpful links and share your knowledge. For other towns in South Dakota have contact Mayor Schock wanting copies of the Breed Specific Legislation for their own use. Impending regional tragedy has been unleashed. If we can’t convince citizens of the Heartland to protect their treasured freedoms, how can we win against big government?

A Final Thought:

To the people of Leola: Love Dogs! Hate Dogs! It makes no difference. This is also about responsibility, basic freedom, and setting a dangerous precedent for government and law enforcement, which will be open to all forms of abuse. Hold people to their obligations to raise animals that are not prone to aggression in the first place. (No chains, no cruelty, spay / neuter . . .) Hold all levels of government to the highest standards when protecting rights of individual Americans. Once police can enter our homes and kill our pets on suspicion of a lineage, there are few lines the government will not be able to justify crossing. Don’t let fear erode your Freedom. Find a better way!

City of Leola 602 3rd St Leola, SD 57456

A Final Final Thought:

A study by the Centers for Disease Control, “Which Dogs Bite?” found that chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite. The dogs most likely to bite are male, unneutered, and chained. Neither ‘unneutered’ or ‘chained’ is a breed. They are human failings. Any dog can become aggressive if the owner is irresponsible.

Okay, so it’s still too long. At least this article had half the satire and 30% fewer calories than my ordinary chapters.