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American Bar Association stands up for dogs and military families!

Last week, the American Bar Association (ABA) stood up for dogs and the military families who love them by adopting Resolution 112. This resolution “urges Congress and the United States Department of Defense to direct the Armed Forces and its Public Private Venture housing contractors to enact uniform breed-neutral pet policies for families living in military housing in the United States.”

This resolution was drafted by the ABA's Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section’s Animal Law Committee, and presented to the ABA’s House of Delegates for a vote by one of Best Friends’ legislative attorneys. That presentation featured the heartbreaking story of a mixed-breed dog who we will call Dolly. You see, Dolly’s dad is in the air force, and just last week he was told he was being transferred from one state to another, where he will need to live on base. He has been told that he cannot bring Dolly — despite the fact that she is friendly, well-trained, spayed, up to date on her vetting, and has never had any behavioral issues — because there is a breed ban on the base where he will be living. Dolly now needs a new home within the next week, and her owner, who shared that he is in recovery for severe social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, is devastated.

Stories like Dolly’s are all too common, because the various branches and bases of the military have inconsistent, arbitrary and often discriminatory pet policies, which leads to confusion and sometimes (as in Dolly’s case) tragedy. As one ABA delegate with 22 years of military experience remarked during the debate over Resolution 112: “This is a real issue, and it is an issue that deserves a resolution; it deserves a remedy.” Military families move, on average, every 33 months, so the risk of being forced to give up a family pet is all too real.

This week’s Resolution 112 isn’t the first time that the ABA has taken a stance against breed-discriminatory policies. In 2012, the association passed a resolution that urges legislative bodies and governmental agencies to repeal breed-discriminatory provisions and replace them with comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous-dog/reckless-owner laws. In addition, the ABA passed another resolution that calls for policies that ensure that persons with disabilities are protected by breed-neutral policies for their service animals.

With the adoption of Resolution 112, the ABA has created a strong trifecta of position statements that advocates can use in their efforts to repeal breed discrimination. It has long been established that regulating dogs based on their breed or the way they look does not serve the goal of creating safe and humane communities for people and pets. We commend the ABA for recognizing that dog policies should focus on the behavior of the individual dog and the individual owner.

Holly Sizemore, Chief national programs officer, Best Friends Animal Society Holly Sizemore
Chief mission officer
Best Friends Animal Society