So out of touch it’s beyond belief

As Jeremy reports, An Act Further Regulating Animal Control means that Worcester’s ludicrous pit bull ordinance will likely be no more in the very near future.

A couple of Fridays ago, I was at Elm Park with my young son.  We were sitting close to the playground area.  A man came by with his small dog.  He proceeded to let his dog off-leash, and sicced his dog on any squirrel in a thirty-foot radius.

The dog was running loose all over a play area for children, teeth bared, and didn’t come back to his owner on the first, second, or third call.

Later on that same day, we were walking to the Common.  On the sidewalk, a man had a muzzled pit bull on a leash.  The dog had a big grin on his face — despite the muzzle — and seemed well-socialized.

I was extremely concerned about the first dog — all 10 pounds of him — and not at all concerned with the much-larger pit bull.

Because dog behavior is largely about the owners.

So, no, Councilor Eddy, it is not the MSPCA who “has been so out of touch on this it’s beyond belief.”

It’s the vast majority of last term’s City Council, who voted for a deeply flawed ordinance.

Hot on the heels of the likely demise of the pit bull ordinance is news that the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District has to implement the stricter discharge limits they’ve been fighting the EPA on for years.

This means that ratepayers will likely have to pay a bit more on their water bills, and that frequent listeners to City Council meetings will hear more of the phrase “biased science” than usual.

Not to sound too superstitious, but don’t these sorts of things always happen in threes?

What could the third sane decision about laws in the city?

Who can facilitate Worcester dog adoptions?

According to Hank Phillippi Ryan, not Barton Brook Kennels.

This is a topic someone had asked me about and I hadn’t had the time to look into.  [Note that this TelegramTowns article indicated that BBK could not adopt these dogs out.]  I’m really glad Channel 7 did a story on it.

Essentially, though Barton Brook Kennels takes in Worcester strays, it does not have a license to adopt out dogs.

So — who’s facilitating the adoption of Worcester strays?

Worcester Animal Rescue League.

As regular readers (or anyone who knows about dogs in Worcester) may remember, WARL lost/didn’t reapply for the contract as the city’s designated dog kennel because they strongly opposed the completely ridiculous pit bull ordinance.

Yes, this is the same WARL that Councilor Eddy spoke so poorly about at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting (emphasis added):

J.O’Brien would like the city to work with local animal shelters to allow a check box on dog licenses that would let owners make a voluntary contribution to local shelters. Eddy wants to know if this is the Animal Rescue League, who “made a public ultimatum in the paper” saying if the pitbull ban went through they wouldn’t take city pitbulls. O’Brien says it would go to any organization that works with the city’s animal control office, so long as they filed an RFP for them. Eddy wants a list of how many organizations would fit this criteria.

It seems like WARL is stepping up to the plate, as they always do, despite the criticism of an elected official who shoved a pointless and unenforceable ordinance onto the books.

I believe Barton Brook Kennels is still on a month-t0-month contract with the city.  Someone should be asking why we don’t negotiate back to WARL.

Updated, 8:02 – I looked at the city’s contract report, and saw that Barton Brook Kennels has the contract for Animal Shelter Services/WPD until November 2013.

When this contract is up for renewal, we should definitely look back into WARL and get a reckoning of how successful (or not, as I suspect) the pit bull ordinance has been.

Not that anyone’s surprised…

A year ago, I asked whether an ordinance restricting pit bulls would cause folks to leave more dogs at the WARL.

Well, it’s not just the WARL: other area shelters are finding an increase in pit bull relinquishment.

A couple Saturdays ago (May 14) I was driving downtown and there was a walk-for-something-0r-other going on, and one of the walkers had her pit bull on a leash.  No muzzle. 

The world didn’t end.  Heck, there were police all around and no citation in sight.

Perhaps they didn’t notice the dog.  Perhaps it wasn’t worth making a scene.  Or — perhaps — decently behaved dogs that are controlled by their owners on a leash just aren’t a problem.

In five or ten years, we’ll likely realize that this ordinance was a bad idea and we might even elect a few folks who might have the intestinal fortitude to scrap it.

But it won’t be an I told you so moment.

In the intervening time, there are and will continue to be animals who will suffer for no reason other than their appearance.  This is and will continue to be unfair, and will not get us any closer to having better owners and safer pets.

Worcester Responsible Pit Bull Owners

Friend of the blog Pam has created a Facebook group for Responsible Pit Bull (and other bullied breed) Owners (and supporters) to network. 

From Pam:

I hope that together we can work together to:

  • encourage responsible ownership
  • rehabilitate the image of pit bulls, at the least in the city
  • sway our City Council that BSL is not effective

It is my hope that once the weather is nice we can all have an actual face-to-face meet up for all to network, City Council invited as well (though I doubt they would care).

(Hey, it’s an election year — they might care!)

Anyway — I encourage folks to join the group and pass on the message.  We need to stop looking to “quick fixes” that do nothing — and start making Worcester a model community for how to encourage responsible pet ownership.

Let the scapegoating commence!

Last year, we were told that there were 122 dog bites reported in the city.  If we assume that the population of Worcester is about 180,000, that means that you have a .06% chance of getting bitten by a dog (or, at least, getting a bad enough bite that you’d report it).

According to the CDC, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the US, and 800,000 seek medical attention.  That means that on the US as a whole, you have a 1.5% chance of being bitten and a .26% chance of needing medical attention from a dog bite.

Which means that Worcester seems safer, dog-bite-wise, than the country as a whole.

We were also told that 56 of those 122 bites were from pit bulls.  That means you’ve got a .03% chance of being bitten by a pit bull if you’re a Worcester resident.

As a result of these shocking statistics, the City Council decided to make sure that pit bulls are muzzled when off their property, that pit bull owners pay an additional licensing fee, and other measures that do absolutely nothing to stop biting incidents.

In anticipation of tomorrow’s implementation of the pit bull ordinance, WorcesterWired had a long article about a woman who was attacked by a pit bull.  The Telegram [behind the paywall] also reports that a pit bull was stabbed to death after attacking another dog.

What neither of these articles tells us is if the dogs were unneutered males.

The CDC says that “there is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.”  The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) can tell you that “intact males are … involved in 70 to 76% of reported dog bite incidents.”  (I recommend reading the AVMA’s A community approach to dog bite prevention for a more comprehensive discussion of this topic.)

We don’t know how many dog bites in Worcester were caused by dogs off their leashes (because this is, of course, under the original ordinance).  We don’t know how many dog bites were caused by dogs on their owner’s property (which wouldn’t be affected by either ordinance).  We don’t know how many dog bites were caused by unneutered/intact male dogs. 

We don’t know any of these statistics because the City Council didn’t want to consider them when drafting this ordinance.  We continue to get news stories with “pit bull” in the title, instead of “intact male” or “unleashed dog” or “unlicensed dog” or any of a number of factors that are just as relevant to the issue of dog bites.

We need statistics to be kept that don’t just include the breed of the dog, but the location of the attack, whether the dog is licensed or unlicensed, fixed or not, healthy or unhealthy.  We need a news media more fully committed to giving the public an accurate depiction of the factors that lead to a dog bite.

We need a massive public education campaign about spaying and neutering dogs.  Frankly, I think we need to start identifying unneutered dogs in the same way we’re currently identifying pit bulls and offering real incentives (not $3 off a dog license) to those who spay and neuter their pets.  We need a thoughtful, rational approach that is lasting, not a quick fix that doesn’t have long-term goals (like increasing spay/neuter rates).

I know that what we need and what we’ll get are two very different things.  But a girl can dream!

Pit Tip

I’d been meaning to publish a tip that an anonymous reader had to say about pit bulls:

“Contrary to the city councils’ belief, veterinarians rely on dog owners to determine what breed of dog they have.  Every vet I have ever met also loves pit bulls and hates BSL.  I hope the number of registered pit bulls drops by at least 50% next year.”

Now, I’m not advocating deception, but there are plenty of folks out there who own mutts that may have been called a pit bull when the dog was initially adopted.  If you don’t feel your dog belongs in that category, discuss it with your vet.  (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if I had a penny for every German Shepherd or Golden Retriever labeled as a Chow Chow on Petfinder, I’d be a rich woman.  This isn’t about deception, it’s about correcting a label a shelter may have assigned a dog.)

In related news, Brattleboro licenses both dogs and wolf-hybrids.  Really.

Balancing Worcester’s budget over breakfast

As a reminder that you should show up at tomorrow night’s City Council meeting (6pm, Esther Howland Chamber) regarding the proposed pit bull ordinance, here’s an actual conversation that occurred in my house this morning.

Me: “The City’s looking for bids on animal shelters for $50,000.  Who else but WARL is qualified to do that?”

Husband: “Well, all they really need is $500.”

Me: ?I?

Husband: “They give Bill Eddy $500 to buy a .45 pistol.  Every night after supper, he can shoot a few pit bulls and leave them on his front lawn for DPW to pick up in the morning and throw on the compost pile.”

(a few minutes later)

Husband: “Make that $600 and we can throw in a silencer.  That way we won’t have any neighbor complaints.”Puppy Doom

Lest you think that the only insults in our house are directed at city officials…

This morning I complained that my closet was too full.

My husband noted that I’m becoming the Imelda Marcos of pantsuits.

Just one more thing I have in common with Konnie Lukes!