IGNORANCE:  It's as though these people go through life with their heads in the clouds.

By Mary J. Ultz  Humane Education  Huntsville, Alabama

As a Paralegal, Animal Control Officer, Law Enforcement Officer, Retailer, Humane Educator, and a number of other things, sometimes I sit in wonderment about people.  Being in Animal Welfare, we feel like that quite often.  I have done many things in my short adult life and I want to ponder and propose in an effort to make people think….So, pardon me if I seem to ramble…

I’ve been front line and reinforcement for animal issues.  I have seen the large national organizations do nothing and I’ve seen single individuals move mountains.  I know that government is being forced to legislate, moderate, and enforce more than ever.  The problem I don’t understand is why any agency (public or private) is willing to create legislation and rules about and for animals, yet they don’t understand the first thing about animals.

Let’s look at legislators for a moment.  It really doesn’t matter if they are federal, state, or local municipalities.  There are laws on the books about dogs and cats across this great Nation.  But, do the people who are writing the laws understand animal behavior?  Some legislators do look to their local animal welfare agency for guidance….but do they know?  Does the local humane society know?  Do the local vets know?  A vet may know how a cat behaves in a stressful situation, but do they know how to write a law to protect that cat? 

Humane Societies are helpful, to an extent….they know about the overpopulation problem, and they surely appreciate the stupid reasons people dump their pets, but do they know what an animal control officer faces in the field?  Can an animal control officer adequately convey to the legal department what needs to be included in the actual legislation?  We must all pull together and share our information in order to create good, powerful legislation.  The attorneys can put all the jargon together, but what use is that,  if they don’t know or appreciate the need on the street? 

Unfortunately, many animal control officers are without professional training (and they’re not attorneys) so they are usually unable to create the verbiage necessary for such a task.  When creating legislation, animal behavior MUST be considered.  If you’re going to hold a dog responsible for biting a human, should the human bitten also be held responsible? Every weathered animal control officer will agree that the person responsible for the dog should be held responsible!! 

Every good and knowledgeable citizen SHOULD feel the same way.  Each case is individual and is cause for investigation.  Each case ought to be examined by someone who understands animal behavior.  If a person tries to take food out of a dog’s mouth, is it unreasonable to expect the animal to allow it? (I’m not talking common sense stuff, my dog would let me and any responsible owner’s dog would accept that)  We’re talking about the people who do not care for or train their dog….the irresponsible pet owner.  If a child trips over a sleeping dog and the dog bites the child, who’s fault is it?  That is normal, typical behavior for a dog!  Where were the child’s parents? 

Yes, accidents happen…..should a life be taken because of it?  However, if a child walks by a dog (no food on the kids face, no sleeping dog situations) is it fair to let the dog maul the child while no human is held responsible?  I’m not saying euthanize the dog, I’m saying give the owners choices. 

I don’t believe in “3 bites your out” type legislation, but I also don’t think that a truly vicious dog ought to be allowed to terrorize a neighborhood.

Judges are often in this loop of “uneducated” enforcers.  They are not in the street and it’s not their neighbor’s dog that is keeping them up at 4:00 in the morning.  Often times, they have no regard for animals (especially if you live in Rural, USA).  It’s a dog; they have felons to worry about in over flowing jails.  I don’t care what their excuse is….if they are elected Judges, VOTE!!! If they are appointed judges, then talk with the person that appointed them (Often the Governor or Mayor).  HOLD THEIR FEET TO THE FIRE AND MAKE THEM DO THEIR JOB!  Animal laws are just as important as human laws! Violence breeds Violence!

Cops are on the street to protect the public.  Sometimes that protection is from a 400# armed robber, sometimes it’s from a 150# Rottweiler.  They are there to enforce the laws.  It does not matter if that law is a federal law, a state law, or a local ordinance.  They are sworn to uphold and protect.  Educate the police chief and offer to help.  Don’t just sit there and criticize….help them understand.

OK, enough about the public sector….let’s look at some private issues:

Apartment complexes…..all of us know several apartment complexes that do not allow pets.  The complexes that do allow dogs often have a weight limit of, oh, we’ll say 20#.  I can tell you from experience, the average dog weighs in at 55#.  The complex claims that a small dog causes less damage.  Hogwash!  A properly trained dog, no matter what the size, causes no damage! (I’m not talking about during thunderstorms!).  Hold the people responsible, not the dog!  Ok, so a toy poodle will pee less than a Doberman pinscher.  Either way, the carpet is wet and has to be cleaned!  If you have a housetrained dog, that is not an issue anyway!!!  Besides, everyone who has a lick of sense knows that a Great Dane or Greyhound is a much better apartment dog than a Jack Russell Terrier! Heck, even a Saint Bernard would be better than a Rat Terrier….it’s what is inside that counts!  So why do they have the stupid weight limit?  I’ve never understood that!

Here’s another situation that dog owners are facing everywhere TODAY!  Canceled homeowners’ insurance, inability to renew, or flat rejection for coverage.  Why? Because they have a certain “type” of dog.  What type is that, you ask?  BIG!  The insurance black list of dogs is growing each day.  It includes PittBulls (doesn’t matter which type of pitt), Dobermans, Rottweilers, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Dalmatians, Golden Retrievers…wait!  Did I say “Golden Retrievers”? why, they are the “American Family Dog”!  Yes, that is what I said.   Humane responsibility is going down the toilet, everyone wants to blame someone else.  Dogs bite….cats bite….give me the right reason, and I’ll bite too! Don’t hold the dog responsible, hold the people responsible.  If you have a dog and you’re a responsible owner, you will see to it that the dog will not bite (under normal circumstances – I WANT it to bite if someone is coming through my window at 3 a.m.).  Why won’t insurance agencies just make stipulations for coverage?  Basic obedience, sterilization, socialization…..all those things will help teach a dog how to behave in polite society.  It has NOTHING to do with the breed!

So, if you’re still with me, congratulations!!! I hope I haven’t bored you to tears.  Here is my challenge to you:

                        Don’t sit on your butt and complain about all these stupid rules and regulations!  Get off your duff, contact the people who make these statements and educate them!  Help them understand basic animal behavior and why it is in their best interest to consider animal behavior when they are making these laws.  Don’t go in there with a “holier than thou” attitude because you have the answers; approach them with a helping attitude.  By helping the stupid human, you help the dumb animal (dumb, like can’t talk, not dumb as in stupid….I’ve known some really smart dogs! But they still couldn’t talk).

Don’t even get me started on ‘leash laws’, ‘tied up dogs’  so-called ‘’guard dogs’’ that have had no training and couldn’t’ save your ass anyway cause they’re OUTSIDE and penned or tied up – oh I could go on forever.  Ask my husband.

It boils down to making PEOPLE be responsible, not punishing animals because their humans are stupid!

                                                            Uh oh!  Now YOU’RE a humane educator!

“The greatness of a country and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  M. Gandhi

Mary Ultz

Humane Educator

City of Huntsville, Alabama