LETTER TO CANDIDATES ON 2022 PG BALLOT
Sent to each member of the PG County 2022 Ballot (County Executives, Councilmanics, Legislative Districts and Sheriff Candidates) Some edits are made specific to each candidate based on their priorities/platforms.
We understand, that if elected, there are numerous human, social, health and infrastructure issues that will face you in your term ahead. The issue of breed specific legislation may seem minor, but its effects are far reaching and continue to waste money and resources that are better used on one of the many other issues facing PG county.
Breed Specific Legislation (aka the pitbull ban) has been enforced in PG county for 25 years. Thousands of dogs have been removed from homes, or languished in the shelter after being found stray (potential owners fearing large fines or jail time if they were to claim their dog), and euthanized. While PG county now allows specific rescues to foster and adopt these pit-bull type dogs to families out of PG county, the number of pit-bull type dogs in the shelter continues to surpass the number of available homes.
PG hired task forces, and those hired by other jurisdictions who were investigating implementing BSL, have revealed that the cost of this failed project has exceeded 13 million dollars. That is taxpayer money the county can have back for schools, elder care, vaccine programs, reentry programs, domestic abuse, roads, cleaning.... a litany of things that are important and deserve that money more than a hastily passed, fear driven ban on house pets.
BSL has numerous flaws. For a system claiming to be in place to protect the public there has been NO increase in public safety from this ban, no reduction in dog bites. The crowding of pit-bull type dogs in the PG shelter indicates the desire of the public to still own these types of dogs, but as banned dogs can not comfortably be taken to PG county vets for fear of being reported, this leaves most of them unfixed with unregulated breeding (continuing to compound all sorts of problems!). No vets also means unvaccinated and more likely to catch diseases and suffer, or even spread diseases to other dogs and humans. No county resources for pit-bull type dogs means no training and no opportunities for socialization. Further complicating the issue is the fact the term “pit bull” does not denote a specific breed and there is no agreed-upon definition of “pit bull-type dogs” – not in science, the law, kennel clubs, or animal shelters. Even if pit bull WERE a breed, studies show that "experts" determining a breed based on visual assessment are wrong more often than they are correct when comparing their visual assessments to DNA testing.
But all of the above flaws are moot when you consider the fact that matters most is the one proven over and over and over again since breed bans started becoming popular in the 1980's (German Shepherds, Doberman and Rotties have all been through this as well) That one fact that matters is that there is not a single peer-reviewed study which concludes that any one breed or dog type is "inherently more dangerous" than any other breed.
We are PB proud. We are PG county residents. Some of us volunteer in the shelter and see first hand the mislabeling, poor care and bias against these dogs- many of which evaluate higher on temperament testing than some of the "adoptable" dogs in the shelter. We hear stories from the public and people who left PG county because of this ban. People who chose to not move their home, business or family to PG county because of the ban. Families gutted by having their family dog removed from their home based on appearance alone.
As we continue to look at the issue nationwide, Less than 4% of North American jurisdictions hold BSL anymore, mere 700 cities (with cities dropping off that list regularly. Since 2019, 64 other cities have repealed) 18,800 other jurisdictions have breed neutral laws that target enforcement of dangerous dogs and responsible owners. We urge PG to go the same, appropriate direction. We are here to help PG county establish and enforce breed neutral laws that will increase the safety of the citizens and be more humane to the animals. We will help research and create practical laws. We pledge to offer free training in all neighborhoods, assist with spay/neuter services, socialization and proper vetting schedules.
We want to help you REPEAL BSL and support you and the community in the creation of a county-wide, diverse and robust human and animal support plan-- at little to no cost to the taxpayers. We want BSL repealed and we want to partner to create the change to have a healthier and safer county for us all.
We would be thrilled to speak more with you on any of these issues and our individual members and volunteers will vote for the candidate(s) who are willing to work to end this 25 year national humiliation of ineffectiveness and move us to a more humane, appropriate, effective system.
Thank you for your time!
TESTIMONIES TO COUNCIL
April 26, 2022
Budget Listening Session
OFFICE OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT LETTER
Sent to OMB before their Feb 2022 budget hearing.
To my elected representatives-
Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in our county is a waste of our taxpayer money and public service resources. Jurisdictions across the United States and Canada have repealed their BSL after proving factually the legislation was based in fear over facts, financially wasteful, and did not yield any changes to citizen safety. https://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/breed-specific-legislation-is-myth-based-and-ineffective-according-to-the-american-veterinary-society-of-animal-behavior-avsab/
If BSL worked our shelter would not be overflowing with these blocky headed-dogs. Breed Specific Legislation does not stop the ownership of these dogs, it simply pushes them into the shadows and invites irresponsible ownership and animal abuse without repercussion. Making a “pit-bull” illegal reduces the vetting, exercising, socializing, and licensing of these dogs who are being discriminated against based on nothing other than their appearance.
There is not a single breed of dog that is factually “inherently dangerous”. Professionals in animal behavior and animal experts have proven time and time again that each dog is an individual. It has been shown that many of the fears surrounding these dogs a layperson would identify as a “pit-bull”, are based in urban legends, click bait articles and intentionally fear-mongering propaganda.
Additionally, it is impossible to determine a dog’s breed based on visual assessment alone, which furthers the argument of how our county is determining what a “pit-bull” is, and which dogs are allowed to live in the county and which are not. (https://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/visual-breed-identification/)
The PG shelter staff and volunteers temperament test all the dogs, regardless of physical appearance, and note that most of these which were looked at once and labeled as “pit-bulls”, are genuinely great, friendly, people-loving animals. In PG, some of these dogs are lucky enough to be pulled by an available rescue and move to a neighboring county where they thrive in a loving home. Their successes after being adopted should be proof enough that no creature should be judged solely on appearance. No creature should have their life snuffed out because of how they look.
Better use of these taxpayer funds would be to end BSL in PG county and place efforts on promoting responsible ownership, advocating for resources to help owners, educating the public and sponsoring spay and neuter outreach.
The dangerous dog law that PG county has enacted is an excellent start in increasing public safety. Ending the vilification of a single creature based on it’s looks frees up that money and personnel to create and enforce responsible dog ownership laws. These laws should focus on spay/neuter requirements, licensing and vaccination, training, community education and the other factors which reduce dog bites from all dogs and actually increase the safety of our community.
As reference, the state of Michigan has some of the most progressive responsible ownership laws in the US, some of the highest “pit-bull” populations and some of the lowest dog bites and dog-related fatalities. https://www.animallaw.info/statute/mi-dogs-consolidated-dog-laws#:~:text=Under%20the%20dog%20law%2C%20it,by%20his%20or%20her%20owner.
I do not want my taxes to contribute to archaic, myth-based legislation that harms our families and communities. Please repeal BSL and use our funds to enhance and improve our community.
LETTER TO EACH COUNCIL MEMBER
Sent to each council member in Feb 2022. (Some edits made in real time based on previous support of BSL)
As you search the internet for information on the effectiveness of Breed Specific Legislation, Prince George’s County, MD is all too prevalent a finding as an example of how BSL is wasteful and harmful to communities.
I am a District 8 resident, homeowner, small-business owner, and voter. I am urging you to fight to repeal PG’s ineffective and inhumane breed specific legislation.
BSL is often created in fear as an immediate reaction to a terrible, high profile issue, as is the case in PG. I understand that when this ban was put into place 25 years ago the council believed they were doing what was best for the safety of the community. In the last two and a half decades mountains of evidence have proven over and over again that this is not the case; that BSL is a waste of our money, time and a strain on an already underfunded and overworked animal control system. Continuing BSL is humiliating on a national stage and truly ridiculous when you look at the evidence against it, with no evidence for it.
BSL expects a human to look at a dog and be able to determine its breed. This is proven nearly entirely impossible. A study published in 2015, explored validity of visual breed identification when compared to DNA. Those researchers specifically focused on visual identification of “pit bull-type dogs” due to this terminology used in bans. Because the term “pit bull” does not denote a specific breed and there is no agreed-upon definition of “pit bull-type dogs” – not in science, the law, kennel clubs, or animal shelters – the authors defined the term for this study to include Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, and American pit bull terriers (much like PG law).
These studies involved shelter workers whose job is to ID breeds. These individuals who make life and death determinations based on their visual assessment multiples times a day, were asked to ID dogs for a study, then compared their visual assessments with DNA. I’ve attached the link at the end for the specifics so you can read more, but the gist is that “even with a vastly broad target for identification, they did not reach the level of a coin toss”. For 25 years we have been removing household pets and killing them because of how something thinks they look (determining a breed that isn’t even a real thing), and have probably been wrong about their breed much of the time.
The American Animal Hospital Association, American Bar Association, American Dog Owner's Association, American Humane Association, American Kennel Club, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Best Friends Animal Society,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Humane Society of the United States, International Association of Canine Professionals, National Animal Control Association, National Animal Interest Alliance, National Association of Obedience Instructors, Pet Professional Guild, United Kennel Club, and the White House Administration all oppose BSL. In 2012, more than 15 years in to PGs ban and 10 (hopefully!) years before it is repealed, The American Bar Association “urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral ... laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific provisions.”
“Certain breeds of dogs are inherently dangerous.” is a common argument you’ll hear from laypersons. This opposition is so common that even your own Member at Large, Mr Franklin uttered similar words in 2019. There are zero scientific, peer-reviewed studies that conclude that any one breed or dog type is "inherently more dangerous" than any other breed. However, multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded that breed does not determine risk and that BSL is ineffective.Preventable factors related to irresponsible ownership are the primary cause for the majority of dog bite-related fatalities and that breed is not a factor. BSL does nothing to address the relevant and most significant factors that are linked to those incidents such as a dog's history of negative behavior, previous bite-related incidents, and factors related to irresponsible ownership.
BSL increases irresponsible ownership. With the fear their dog may be misidentified as a banned type and they will be fined, jailed or have their pet killed, many Prince Georgians will not seek vet care (including spay/neuter, vaccination, training, regular socialization, etc) This leads to unhealthy pets, unregulated breeding, unmonitored dog fighting, increased abuse and misuse and an uncontrolled animal population. If the dog becomes a stray and taken to the shelter, an owner won’t come forward for fears of penalty. That dog will be euthanized in the shelter, or, if it’s lucky, adopted out to a neighboring county where it will live an amazing life. (I’m betting the dog was always a good dog and it’s behaviors don’t change because it knows it lives in Montgomery County now.)
Since PG last refused to repeal in 2019, 64 jurisdictions in the US alone have repealed their BSL. Now, less than 4% of cities and towns use these ineffective and costly methods. The other 96% of US jurisdictions enforce breed-neutral dog laws and see lower dog bite rates and less animal abuse and misuse.(Dog fighting is ALWAYS tied to other crimes– theft, drugs, illegal gambling, human abuses)
I am pleading with you and our council to please join these growing communities who see the better way. Please repeal BSL and begin enforcing and modifying our dangerous dog law to become more comprehensive, effective, equitable and straightforward.
I would urge the county leaders to update the code to reflect more effective animal management strategies. I fully support a breed neutral approach that focuses on and strictly enforces spay/neuter, leash laws, fence laws, and offers training classes, responsible ownership discussion groups and the ability for any owner to seek assistance with their pet when needed. I am willing to offer myself and my organization of professionals to assist in the creation and implementation of these resources. Together we can create the safer community this ban initially intended and what we all still seek, but in a less harmful and wasteful manner.
Thank you for your time.
If you or your staff are interested in speaking further, or visiting the dogs in the shelter, please do not hesitate to reach out.
https://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/public-policy/ (We can be found under “ineffective laws”
https://humanepro.org/sites/default/files/documents/repealing-breed-specific-legislation.pdf (Our own lovely Chief Rodney Taylor is much of page 8)
LETTER TO EACH COUNCILMEMBER MEL FRANKLIN/COUNCIL
Sent to Councilmember Franklin following his refusal to repeal BSL October 2019.
Dear Councilman Franklin,
I submitted my expert testimony to you and your fellow Prince Georges County council members three days prior to the council meeting on October 22nd. I am disappointed in the decision made to revoke the repeal on the pitbull ban. Your claim that no expert testimonies were submitted was incorrect. Many, including mine, were. Furthermore, experts attended the meeting on October 22nd and were not permitted to speak. I have provided my testimony for you below once again. I am urging you to take science into account when making decisions that impact public health in the future.
Dear County Council Members,
I am a pediatric nurse practitioner. Over the course of 7 years I have provided urgent care to children who have sustained dog bites, many of whom are residents of Prince George's County. Prior to becoming a nurse practitioner I worked as a pediatric nurse for 5 years at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the Pediatric Trauma Center for the state of Maryland.
As a healthcare provider concerned with public safety and community education, I am writing to address my concerns with breed specific legislation (BSL) in Prince Georges County. The most up to date peer-reviewed studies conclude that breed does not determine bite risk and that BSL is not effective in improving public safety. It does not address the most significant factors scientifically linked to dog bite related fatalities such as previous bite incidents by individual dogs and irresponsible ownership. The Center for Disease Control, the gold standard resource for healthcare providers in the treatment and prevention of dog bites, opposes BSL for these reasons. An evidence-based approach must be taken when providing dog bite education. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old are at highest risk and much of the education targets that age group. Most bites are inflicted by a dog that is known by the person. A bite cannot be prevented by avoiding contact with a certain breed of dog. Over and over again, studies confirm this and reputable organizations continue to oppose BSL. There is absolutely no reason why this ban, which is based only on myths and discrimination and not on science, is still in place.
The Prince Georges County task force examined the results of the ban on pit bulls in 2003. The task force report confirmed that BSL was ineffective, has a negative impact on public safety, stretches animal control and sheltering resources thin, and costs approximately a half million dollars a year to enforce. If your goal is improve public safety and maximize spending efforts, I suggest that you concentrate your efforts on dog bite education and enforce responsible dog ownership. Because those who abuse animals are more likely to commit violent crimes against humans, it is also crucial to allot resources to identifying and preventing animal abuse including dog fighting.
Please see the references that I have listed below. I am looking forward to speaking to you during the county council meeting on October 22nd.
Ashley Palumbo, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC
Center for Disease Control, Dog-Bite Related Fatalities United States 1995-1996, (2001) Online at: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00047723.htm
Gary J. Patronek et al., Co-Occurrence of Potentially Preventable Factors in 256 Dog Bite-Related Fatalities in the United States (2000–2009), 243 J. AM. VETERINARY MED. ASS’N 1726, 1731 (2013)
J. Thomas, Dog Attack Statistics: A Primer, STOP BSL, https://stopbsl.org/for the record/scientific-studies/ (last visited Oct. 10, 2016).
National Canine Research Council, Dog Bite-Related Fatalities: A Literature Review (2013) Online at: https://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/research-library/dog-bite-related-fatalities-literature-review
Robert John Simpson et al., Rethinking Dog Breed Identification in Veterinary Practice, 241 J. AM. VETERINARY
MED. ASS’N 1163, 1163 (2012). Online at: https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/pdf/10.2460/javma.241.9.1163
Victoria L. Voith et al., Comparison of Visual and DNA Breed Identification of Dogs and Inter-Observer Reliability, 3 AM. J. SOC. RES. 17, 18 (2013) [hereinafter Comparison of Visual and DNA Breed Identification]. Online at: http://article.sapub.org/10.5923.j.sociology.20130302.02.html
Joan E. Schaffner, The Constitutionality of Breed-Specific Legislation: A Summary, in A LAWYER’S GUIDE TO DANGEROUS DOG ISSUES 26 (Joan E. Schaffner ed., 2009) (citing Cynthia A. Mcneely
Sarah A. Lindquist, Dangerous Dog Laws: Failing to Give Man’s Best Friend a Fair Shake at Justice, 3 J. ANIMAL L. 99, 112 (2007). Online at: https://www.animallaw.info/article/brief-summary-breed-specific-laws
American Veterinary Medical Association, Dog bite prevention (2019) Online at; https://www.avma.org/public/Pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention.aspx
Center For Disease Control, Preventing Dog Bites (2019) Online at: https://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/index.html
Animal Farm Foundation, Prince Georges County, High Price Paid for Failed Breed Ban (accessed 2019) (https://animalfarmfoundation.org/2015/05/13/prince-georges-county/
Humane Society of the United States, Animal cruelty facts and stats (2019). Online at: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/animal-cruelty-facts-and-stats
Maryland Dog Federation, Fact sheet: Prince Georges County Breed Ban (2013)(http://www.marylanddogfederation.com/uploads/1/6/6/0/16605940/pg_fact_sheet_cost.pdf
American Bar Association; House of Delegates Report; Urge to Adopt Breed-Neutral Laws (August 6-7, 2012) Online at: https://www.pitbullinfo.org/uploads/7/8/9/7/7897520/aba_against_bsl.pdf