By: Jessie Sullivan, Adoption Manager
When I adopted my pit bull mix, Slaw, as an 8-week old puppy, I was naive to the stereotypes of pit bulls. All I saw was an adorable dog who seemed to be more partial to hanging out in my lap than playing with his litter mates. Thirteen years later, I’m still trying to get other people to see pit bulls as I saw Slaw the day I brought him home – as an individual dog with his own unique personality.
Slaw has been my constant in an ever-changing life. He was with me when I graduated college, got married, and had a baby; he’s been my driving buddy on two cross-country road trips; and has been with me for 11 moves to three different states by both car and plane. It’s also mainly because of Slaw that I made a career change to work in the animal welfare field.
In 2012, Slaw was the inspiration for a campaign to get United Airlines to remove the breed discrimination from their pet policy. While I was making plans to move from Hawaii back to Ohio, I learned of a policy that prevented pit bull-type dogs and several other breeds from flying on United Airlines. While I debated on lying about his breed, I felt strongly about not supporting the airline and their policy with my money, so I booked our travel on another airline.
After telling a few other dog advocates my story, a friend recommended I start a Change.org petition. I was familiar with the social action platform and had signed petitions in the past, but I had never started my own. Initially, I hoped to get 1,000 signatures and to at least spread the word about the discriminatory breed-specific policy. Three months and almost 46,000 signatures later, United Airlines changed their policy and now allows pit bulls and other previously banned breeds to fly.
While there are still far too many breed discriminatory policies and laws, the trend is reversing. The data on these faulty policies is clear – they’re ineffective, costly to tax payers, and unfair to responsible pet owners. Because these policies are expensive, time-consuming, and nearly impossible to enforce, they take away valuable resources that could be used to protect communities from truly dangerous animals.
Dog bites are a societal problem, and they cannot be properly addressed by only targeting specific breeds. Ultimately, it comes down to responsible pet ownership and treating all dogs as individuals.
For more information about breed specific legislation, please visit the Animal Farm Foundation. For more information about SICSA Pet Adoption Center, please visit www.sicsa.org.