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BSL in P.G. County Maryland

BSL in P.G. County Maryland
  • Sophia Sanchez

Around here you’ll hear us discuss pit bull advocacy often.  Yes, we’re a business first and foremost, but we founded our company with one very specific goal in mind - to advocate for the underdog and to give back to the communities fighting to save them.  And while dog rescue may be at the foundation of our mission, our passion for dog rescue is driven by pit bull advocacy because the two go hand in hand.  Statistically speaking, pit bull-type dogs make up the majority of dogs in shelters and rescues across the nation.  Because they’re the majority, they also have the highest euthanasia rates.  And the reason for all of this is because “pit bulls” have been at the center of a smear campaign for decades; labeled as aggressive and dangerous because they were forced into dog fighting beginning in the 1980’s by humanity itself.

We use the term pit bull-type dog because the majority of “pit bulls” are a mix of breeds that fall under a categorical umbrella.  The breeds that most often make up pit bull-type dogs are American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Bullies and American Bulldogs.  All of these breeds share similar physical characteristics and temperaments, and when you hear the media refer to a dog as a “pit bull,” it’s most often a generalized categorization of dogs that are a mix of these breeds that are also mixed with other well known breeds outside of the bully family.

Thanks to social platforms like Instagram and Tiktok, the popularity of pit bull-type dogs has grown significantly in the last decade.  Pet parents have turned to these platforms to help bolster the reputation of these breeds in a positive light.  And while the movement has certainly helped in reversing the negative stigma that has loomed over these beautiful dogs for upwards of 40 years, the media continues to sensationalize them for clickbait.  Because of this, oftentimes it feels like the advocacy community is fighting an uphill battle that gets steeper by the day.  The typical narrative you’ll hear surrounding pit bull-type dogs is one we’ve all heard before - they’re inherently aggressive, they have a taste for blood, they have locking jaws, their bite force is greater than all other breeds, etc.  And despite these beliefs being debunked by science and statistics, this portrayal of “pit bulls” is what continues to fuel discriminatory practices like Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).  For those unfamiliar, BSL is legislation that has been implemented at city and county levels that mandates what breeds people living within those communities are allowed to own.  More specifically, they’re known as pit bull bans.

BSL was originally created in an effort to supposedly create safer communities against dangerous breeds.  However, there are major flaws in the effectiveness of BSL, one being in the name itself.  It literally stands for breed-specific, yet the laws themselves only focus on classifying dogs based on their physical traits rather than their actual DNA.  A study conducted in 2012 by Maddie’s Fund, a national shelter initiative, showed that even people very familiar with different dog breeds - comprised of foster caregivers, vet teams, shelter/rescue staff - could not reliably determine the primary breed of a mutt proving that dogs are often incorrectly classified as “pit bulls.”  Another major flaw with BSL is that it’s discriminatory against responsible owners and their dogs, but does nothing to address the actual issue of irresponsible pet owners.  A “pit bull” owner could have the most well-behaved dog in an entire neighborhood while the neighbor across the street could have a beloved breed that is ill-behaved, poorly-trained and poses an actual danger to the community.  Yet the law in this scenario says that only the pit bull is the risk.  

FurRescue Fashions is headquartered in Maryland near Prince George County (PG County) , which has had a pit bull ban in place since 1997.  PG County borders Washington DC and is the second most populous county in all of Maryland.  It’s also the only jurisdiction in the DC area with BSL in place.  As such, being so close to home, this issue of combating BSL is near and dear.  Despite the evidence supporting the ineffectiveness of BSL, animal control within PG County continues to impound hundreds of pit bull-type dogs on an annual basis.  In 2018, according to the Washington Post, PG County impounded 687 “pit bulls” and euthanized more than 400 of them.  By mid 2019, 492 had been impounded and 52% of those euthanized.  To date, they continue to enforce their “pit bull” ban and any dog brought into the shelter who is deemed a “pit bull-type dog” is separated from all other animals, unable to be adopted to any citizen, even residents of other cities and states.  Through BSL, there is no increase in public safety and no actual reduction in dog bites, yet cities all over the nation and counties, like Prince George in Maryland, continue to waste resources and tax payer dollars to enforce laws that only serve tear families apart and come at the cost of innocent lives lost in the name of upholding ineffective laws.

PG County is currently overrun with dogs within their shelter system.  There’s overcrowding and not enough resources to effectively care for all of the animals in their possession.  And while they currently do allow shelters and rescue to pull pit bull-type dogs, to be adopted outside of PG County, the number of dogs in the shelter system continue to surpass the number of available homes that meet PG County’s criteria for a “safe” pit bull pull.  This leads to dogs being euthanized in an effort to make “more room” and the first to go are those already deemed unsafe by laws alone, without any assessment of the individual dog’s personality.  In recent weeks PG County has euthanized young and healthy “pit bulls” by the handfuls, when reversing BSL could open up taxpayer dollars and resources to not only educate communities on responsible pet ownership, but to also safely integrate pit bull-type dogs back into those homes.

This month we’ve partnered with PB Proud, a foundation whose focus is on fighting the legislation that targets discriminatory practices against innocent animals, and raising money for their Elderbull Fund.  As advocates we must stand up against the injustices we see around us and this is a fight we cannot back down from; not when innocent “pit bulls” are being killed daily.  To learn more about this amazing foundation and the work they’re doing within PG County, please visit their website and shop with us all month long.  We will be donating 30% of our profits for the month of December to help them continue their important work.