A lot of our problems with dog legislation - whether or not to ban certain breeds, the tragedy of keeping dogs locked up for months and years at a time while their owners let their court cases drag on through the judicial system - as we're currently witnessing here in Halifax, (I would love to add several adjectives to that sentence, but I'll control myself), watching sitting time-bombs chained in back yards get loose time after time and picked up by Animal Control - and then returned to their owners because they have adequate shelter and water - but no life otherwise - could be so easily dealt with if we only changed the spotlight of where we've been focusing our legislation and energy until now.
Until now we've always focused on the dog - and banning the dog, or killing the dog - but what we need to do - is focus on the dog owner - because they are the CAUSE of the problem EVERY TIME. Without exception.
They may deny it - but it is true. Without exception.
A dog is not dangerous until they have a dangerous owner.
And how does an owner become dangerous? When they don't pay heed to laws that are already on the books - leash laws, muzzle laws that they've been mandated to follow - failing to train their dogs, contain their dogs - and most of all - failing to keep their dog SAFE. And by failing to keep their own dog safe - they are not keeping their community SAFE. And therefore they become dangerous dog OWNERS.
And that's what the government should be dealing with when they are writing legislation - not with the dogs.
There are some municipal governments who have figured it out - I have written about a couple on this blog previously - 2 of them are Los Angeles California, and San Antonio Texas.
In Los Angeles, one of the criteria for getting your dog back if it's been deemed dangerous is that the judge has to believe that you will not put your dog and the community in the same situations that you put them in before your dog was seized - and if the judge does not feel confident about that - YOU DO NOT GET YOUR DOG BACK.
I learned about that in the case of Jeff de la Rosa and his dog Stu. If any of you are wondering about what happened to Stu the dog - he is still alive, and living his life out at a place called "K9's Only" - as mandated by the City of Los Angeles. And NOT as mandated by Jeff de la Rosa.
In a post I wrote back in July I laid out how Los Angeles' legislation keeps dangerous dog owners from getting their dogs back - it's pretty good writing as far as I'm concerned - I hope our new dog laws get some of this written in here.
A post I wrote back in June talked about the case in San Antonio - it's at the bottom of the post, and it's about an article called "Holding ourselves accountable: Confinement" - it's also very good.
My Dad worked in the prison system for many years and he said that he never met one person who was incarcerated who was guilty of a crime - every person in there was innocent and had been convicted unjustly. A dangerous dog owner may tell you that their problems are caused by "lack of due process", "no appeal process", "fraud", "irregular/uneven enforcement of the law" - but I can tell you that I am 100% sure of one thing - there is not one Animal Control department in all of North America that caused a dog owner to let their dog attack another dog or a human without provocation - either on the dog owners property line or off of their property, who let their dog run at large, or failed to licence their dog. There is no animal control officer in North America who caused a dog to do any of those things.
There is only one human who caused that - and that is the DOG'S OWNER. If none of those precipitating things would have happened - none of these problems would have been happening to these long suffering and much maligned individuals.
With legislation that focuses on the dog owners - the dogs themselves don't have to suffer - they don't have to sit in a cage for 2 to 5 years waiting for the outcome of court actions. The owner can simply be declared unfit because the judge determines that the owner - because of their past actions - can't be trusted to make sane and reasonable decisions in the future - so they are not allowed to own dogs in the future.
In Los Angeles for example - once you own a dog who's been declared dangerous - you are personally BANNED from owning dogs. Isn't that fabulous? I think that's super. Of course - the next thing is enforcement - but that's another topic.
The dogs can be tested, rehabilitated - whatever is best for the dog - and get on with their very short lives. And society is all the better for it.
And we all sleep better at night. I like the sound of that.