Don't bully my breed: Let's kick breed discrimination to the curb
You might remember last year when we wrote about the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) adopting a new, 21st century model dangerous dog law that is breed-neutral and behavior-based. If not, take a few minutes and go read that post and then come on back here for a quick update.
As you’ll recall, the IMLA is the preeminent organization representing municipal lawyers from around the world. Those folks are the village, town, city and county lawyers that play a huge role in shaping laws and policies at the local level (where so much of our work is done). In other words, they’re a big deal in the lifesaving business.
International Municipal Lawyers Association’s position against breed discrimination
When we wrote that blog late in 2018, the IMLA model law was brand new and we were excited about the lifesaving impact it could have for dogs across the country. We knew that having an organization as prominent and well-respected as IMLA speak out against breed discrimination and speak up in favor of treating all dogs as individuals was a huge win that could have an enormous effect on communities out there that still have outdated breed-discriminatory laws. But to be honest with you, when the model was published and the blog post came out, we didn’t really know how impactful it would be or how long it would take for dogs and their people to see a payoff.
We knew the model was a great product and we definitely knew that IMLA is a respected and prominent partner, but sometimes these things can take a while to bear fruit, and our laser focus on becoming a no-kill nation by 2025 didn’t afford us the luxury of being patient.
So, we did what we do, and we decided to be proactive and take our message on the road.
Collaborating with communities on positive dog laws
Earlier in the year, we again partnered with the IMLA to send a joint letter to nearly every community in the country with a breed-specific and discriminatory law on the books, urging communities to follow the model’s language. Like I said, we knew it was past time to bring our message (and the model) to the places where it’s most needed.
We waited and hoped that the message would be positively received.
Kansas City, Missouri
Well, it didn’t take long to see some amazing results. First came news from Kansas City, Missouri, where for some time there has been a mandatory spay/neuter law for “pit bulls.”
When a local advocate met with the city’s attorney, she was told that they had already received the Best Friends Animal Society/IMLA letter and model, and that many of the provisions from the model will be in the proposed ordinance that will go to council. That’s about as positive a reception as we could ever hope for.
Prince George’s County, Maryland
Right after that came another exciting moment — this time in Prince George’s County, Maryland. That county is one of the largest municipalities in the country to have a breed-discriminatory law, having held on to its “pit bull” ban for decades.
Best Friends, which has been working with local and national stakeholders on repealing the ban for years, was testifying in front of the county council on the matter.
During the testimony, multiple council members mentioned receiving the model ordinance (and the letter) and asked the witnesses from the administration why their local law doesn’t reflect the IMLA language.
We were beyond excited when these stories started coming in. (Trust me, there are others just like it.) And we’re even more excited about the impact the model ordinance will continue to have for pet dogs across the country (and maybe even the world).
But now is not the time to rest. There is still work left to be done in both Kansas City and Prince George’s County — not to mention countless other communities that haven’t reached no-kill yet.
Grassroots advocacy to save pets
While the model ordinance is already proving itself to be a lifesaving tool, it is not nearly as important as the army of grassroots advocates fighting every single day to save cats and dogs.
It’s a cliché as old as time, but it is an absolute truth that the fight to end breed discrimination and to make our country no-kill by 2025 cannot and will not be accomplished without you.
While we will continue to find and develop new tools to utilize in our fight (such as the IMLA model), we cannot get to where we all want to be without the millions of people who want to Save Them All.
So please, take a second and sign up to lend your voice for our pets. Become a part of the movement and help bring your community to no-kill.
We will keep fighting in Kansas City, in Prince George’s County and wherever else cats and dogs are dying in shelters. And we will continue to forge partnerships with amazing organizations like the IMLA and other important stakeholders.
Sr. legislative attorney
Best Friends Animal Society