There is a bill before the Virginia General Assembly this session that could provide a very important step toward saving the lives of dogs and also conveying the right message to the public about certain breeds. It is House Bill 429 and, if passed, it would clarify that, under Virginia law, pounds and shelters cannot set policies to take the life routinely of every member of any certain breed of dog. It would also prohibit policies that no dogs of a certain breed may be adopted out. Of course, the primary focus here is the pit bull which is a breed that has suffered terribly at the hands of cruel humans who have forced them into animal fighting and its related abuses. Because of this, irrational fears have developed among some people that all pit bulls present a danger and there are localities that have taken steps to invoke blanket bans on them and to adopt policies that they must all be euthanized and may not be adopted out from shelters. This is a hysterical reaction to a problem that should be addressed at the source – with tough prosecution of animal fighters. Not by persecution of innocent dogs.
Any breed of dog, whether it be pit bulls or poodles, has great members and bad members and lot of members in the middle. They cannot be lumped all into one characterization any more than it is a fair thing to do that with regard to large groups of humans. It is the essence of bigotry to believe that all members of any one group have the negative traits that may have been identified in a very few members of the group. There are many pit bulls that are lovely and well behaved dogs that will make wonderful pets for families. We know this because many of that kind of pit bulls have been lovingly cared for at the Richmond SPCA. It would be shockingly unfair for them to be killed as a result of bigotry or hysteria. In addition, many dogs have physical traits that may appear to be similar to a specific breed but, in fact, are not a member of that breed at all. Without a DNA test, we cannot even be certain what dogs are of a particular breed.
It is our hope that House Bill 429 will be passed by the General Assembly this session. The bill is being pursued now because a recent court decision has indicated that such blanket bans and policies requiring the killing of all dogs of a certain breed is otherwise permissible under our state law. We would welcome any help that you might give in letting your Delegate and Senator know that you support House Bill 429.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her complete blog, or that of our other bloggers, please click here.