As a child I grew up with dogs that would be classified as bully breeds, my Father’s favorite breed was the Staffordshire terrier. I spent the first three years of my life glued to an amazing Staffordshire female named Judy. Judy followed me everywhere I went from the time I was adopted until her death when I was three. Unfortunately a neighbor left the garden gate open and Judy was hit by a bus and killed. I may have only been a toddler but I remember her clearly, and fondly. Judy was one of the best dogs a kid could ask for.
Back then of course these dogs were not perceived as the threat people make them out to be these days. But then of course people were different, they also didn’t lay all the blame for dog bites at the feet of the dog in question, and they most certainly did not discriminate against certain breeds of animal.
Most of you are aware that I am a big believer in the fact that we have to end breed discrimination by abolishing BSL and encouraging governments to hold dog owners responsible for the actions of their pets no matter what their breed may be. I believe that any breed of dog can be aggressive if handled improperly. I also believe that the average dog owner really does not know how to handle what are known as “the bully breeds” you know, the pit bulls rottweilers and mastiffs, or any large powerful headstrong breed. When our government in their wisdom decided to introduce BSL to my home province of Ontario in August of 2005 I joined the fight against BSL. I also joined and left MANY groups fighting against BSL. I just couldn’t seem to find a group that spent their time fighting BSL instead of bickering amongst themselves. I continued the fight as much as i could on my own but continued to seek out other like minded people who looked beyond the rally and protest part of things to what the solutions were. I needed “big picture” thinkers. People who don’t care who knows their name because they are all about abolishing BSL and solving the problem. Then one day I stumbled upon a group of guys who really seem to have a handle on the entire fight.
When most people hear the word “bikers” they think of outlaws and criminals. Bikers are probably just as discriminated against as the dogs these guys have sworn to fight for. They understand discrimination based on appearance, most of them have dealt with it personally because of their lifestyle choice, but hey, they are just people same as you and me.
As always I checked them out, I mean after all in this day and age one can’t be too careful about whom they throw their support behind. You know me by now, I check everyone out. I went to their FB page, and one of the first posts I saw that day inspired me to contact them directly. Here’s the text of that post:
I think it’s time to address a topic that is long overdue for a discussion.
We love Pitbulls, I think that’s a fair statement. We all hate BSL, & we hate the discrimination that our beloved family members get from the public, but especially from the media. We want this to stop. We want BSL to be a distant memory. We want our dogs to be treated like any other dogs. I don’t think anyone would argue with those statements.
I bring these points up, just to make sure we’re all on the same page.
Where I don’t think we’re all on the same page is how we deal with fighting for these points.
I’m sure most, if not all of you have heard the term “Pitbull Mafia.” Just think about that term for a moment. Think of the perception that some of us have created to actually have that term be used for *anyone* who is a Pitbull advocate.
I love my dogs, as I’m sure all of you do as well. Do I get upset, mad, angry, pissed the fuck off when ignorant people talk out of their ass about this breed? Absolutely! Do I want to yell at them, tell them they’re stupid, and to pull their heads out of their asses? Yes. Do I actually do that? No.
I’m passionate about ending BSL. I’m also looking at the big picture. If we respond to negative accusations about Pitbulls in a negative way, we are *not* doing ourselves, or our dogs any favors. We are perpetuating the stereotype that has already been placed upon us. When we go off the deep end and start raving like lunatics about the breed we love, we confirm to the genreal public that Pitbulls *are* dangerous, and their owners are even *more* dangerous. I’m sure you’ve all seen the different pictures floating around that say something to the effect of “the only dangerous thing about my Pitbull is me.”
We might feel that way, but we understand these dogs, and how sweet and amazing they are. The general public does *not* see these dogs that way. From their point of view, we become stark raving lunatics & zealots. This is *not* the perception that we want for us, and our dogs.
We all need to take a moment each time someone says something ignorant or disparaging about Pitbulls and find the kind of response that will educate, and help our cause, not hurt it. Every time we respond emotionally to comments, it takes everyone’s progress a giant step backwards.
Let me try to explain it a different way. The next time someone posts, or says something negative, ignorant, or ridiculous about Pitbulls, think about how our dogs would react. They love everyone, and everything. They don’t care if someone doesn’t like them, they love them anyway. Let’s take a page from our dogs handbook on life, and treat these negative and hateful people the way our dogs would. With love, respect, and positivity.
I’m not suggesting we don’t try to change their minds about Pitbulls. What I am suggesting is that we calmly, rationally discuss the topic without letting our emotions get in the way. The more respect we show these people, the more likely we are to get through to them.
When someone is screaming at you, do you listen to anything they have to say? Why should we expect them to be any different?
I think we should all refer back to a quote I’ve seen countless times, “My goal in life is to be half the person my dog already thinks I am.” If we approach these situations with that goal in mind, we will change the hearts and minds of many more people than with the Pitbull Mafia course of action.
These dogs don’t have a voice, so we are their voice. Let’s just make sure we’re using the right kind of voice for them.
I have to say his words impressed me. They embodied everything I have been trying to explain to pit bull owners since I entered this fight! I fired off a direct message asking permission to quote the post in my blog, and that started up a dialogue between the organizations president Chris White and I. I liked what he had to say and requested an email interview. Here it is below:
Everything Worth Knowing: How did Bikers Against BSL come into being? Was there one specific incident that made you decide you had to be a voice for pit bulls?
Chris White: BABSL started out as an idea after the first video I made. The response that I received from that video gave me the idea. Since our first Pit, Karma died of cancer in 2008, I had been trying to find a way to keep her memory alive. She changed everything for me. She showed me how wonderful Pibbles can be, and changed many hearts and minds of those that met her.
I was talking to my best friend, and BABSL Vice President Dan one day about how great the response was to the video. It has been a goal of ours for some time to start up a dog rehabilitation center for dogs that are deemed too dangerous to be adopted out. We know that’s a long term goal, but it got us talking about what we could do right here and now about the horrible discrimination Pibbles face every day all over the world. We love to ride, and we love Piblles (and all bully breeds for that matter). We tossed around a few names, and settled on Bikers Against BSL. From there, I designed the logo, got it copyrighted, and made a Twitter, Facebook page, and a website. It has just ballooned from there.
As far as a specific incident, no not really. I have an intrinsic problem with things that aren’t fair. Pibbles are some of the most loyal, loving dogs in the world, and the reputation they have is unjustified, and just plain incorrect. There’s a quote from Steve Jobs that has always stuck with me. “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” I just happen to be one of those crazy ones.
Everything Worth Knowing: What is BABSL’s main goal?
Chris White: BABSL’s main goal is to end BSL globally. We want to unify the entire anti-BSL movement. 5000 individual voices can be ignored, but 1 giant, unified voice is impossible to ignore. It’s time to stop just protesting. Protesting will only get you so far. It’s time for action, but it’s time for the right kind of action. Too many Pibble lovers have their hearts in the right place, but end up putting out the wrong message. We have to stop attacking those who disagree with us. We end up looking stark raving mad when we verbally attack those with opposing view points. You can never change someone’s mind by screaming at them. You can only change minds through education. We have to stop saying things like, “You don’t need to fear my Pit Bull, you need to fear me.” Seriously think about the message that sends for a minute. If you were on the receiving end of that statement, how would you view the person that said it? I can guarantee that everyone who reads this would think the person that said it was a radical activist that should be ignored. It’s time to take the emotion out of the fight. I love my Pibbles, and I would die to protect them, but giving an emotion based argument only hurts the fight, not help it.
Everything Worth Knowing: What if any laws does BABSL feel should be drafted to replace BSL legislation?
Chris White: We absolutely feel there should be laws to replace the ineffective witch hunt that is BSL. We like bits and pieces of quite a few proposed changes, so instead of listing all the laws, the parts we like, and don’t like, I’ll just list what we would like to see. Call it whatever you’d like. Hell, call it Karma’s Law. First and foremost, all verbiage about “Pit Bulls,” or “pit bull-type” should be eliminated. Each aggression case should be handled individually. All dogs have the ability to bite, so all incidents should be handled on a case by case basis. These cases should be handled by experts in each area where the incident occurred. By expert, I mean someone trained, and is a professional; not a minimum wage paid employee of a shelter or pound. Depending on the outcome of these professional determinations, the owner is punished, and is required to take steps to correct the dog’s behavior. The sad side of this is, yes, some dogs may have to be put down as a result of the level of aggression. However, this a better outcome than entire breeds being banned and euthanized. There should also be a mandatory spay and neuter enforcement for all animals, not just specific breeds. This will help in many ways. First, a lot of aggression cases involving male dogs are a result of them being unaltered. This will help to solve that problem. Second, there are too many irresponsible owners that turn into back yard breeders. Those irresponsible owners give those dogs to other irresponsible owners, and some of those owners will do horrible things to those dogs, including fight them. We also believe there should be more strict guidelines for breeders. This will be very unpopular, but it is a reality. There are too many animals being put to sleep in shelters everyday. More strict guidelines, and requirements will keep the pet population down. There should also be a “no chain” law. Many dogs become aggressive due to being left out in the elements with no interaction with humans, or other animals. We don’t understand why someone would get a dog, of any breed, just to chain it up behind their house and never have it be a part of their family.
Everything Worth Knowing: I know a lot of anti-BSL groups are also active in the fight against dog fighting. What is BABSL’s stance on the issue and what if anything is your organization planning on doing to combat dog fighting?
Chris White: Many things need to change about the laws that surround dog fighting. It sickens me that this barbaric act still exists, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are some really sick people out there. The most frustrating part about the laws that deal with dog fighting is the offenders biggest charges are for the illegal gambling associated with it. I have always been supportive of animals abuse laws that are just as strict as child abuse laws. I see no difference between the two. If you hurt an animal, or a child, the penalty should be the same. Someone that abuses an animal, or several, such as Mike Vick gets a slap on the wrist on the animal abuse side, a fine, and is told they can’t own a dog for a year or two. If someone abused a child, or children in the same way, they would get life in prison, or depending on the area, the death penalty. Something doesn’t add up there. If the laws were changed to strengthen the penalties for dog fighters on the animal abuse side, and if they were to make dog fighting a felony, that would be a start. It won’t solve the problem. I’ve talked with several “inner city” folks who have been raised to think dog fighting is acceptable, but have changed their view point after being educated, and having positive experiences with dogs. The same idea that education will help end BSL is the same idea that can be used here. There are several inner city programs involving Pibbles that have been quite successful. It just takes people willing to take the time, and give the effort to help change the situation.
As far as our involvement in ending dog fighting, we are focusing on ending BSL first and foremost. If an opportunity presents itself for us to start such an inner city education program, we will most definitely jump on it. We realize the dog fighting, BSL, and public perception of Pibbles all go hand in hand in hand. Unfortunately, there is only so much a few guys, some bikes, some Pibbles, and a mission can do.
Everything Worth Knowing: Is BABSL strictly an anti BSL group or do you also rescue pit bulls?
Chris White: Our goal is to eventually start a rehab facility, as I mentioned before. We would love to do a rescue, however none of us have the space, or are equiped to handle that very heavy load at the moment. We try to help out as much as we can with dogs in our area that need help, and are working on building a partnership with our local shelter that is as close to a Pibble rescue as our area gets.
Everything Worth Knowing: Do you feel it is important for emergency response such as police ambulance and fire crews to be taught how to properly interact with dogs they may encounter in the line of service?
Chris White: Absolutely! I think we should make up some kind of flow chart/diagram as a reference. If a “first responder” comes onto a scene where there is a dog, of any breed, that type of situation is going to make that dog behave completely different than every day life. There are too many stories of dogs getting shot without any reason for such a violent response. If the emergency crews were taught the different types of body language, and behavior of dogs in *any* situation, but especially a high energy, stressful one, there would be fewer dog bites, and fewer dead dogs.
Everything Worth Knowing: How important is education in reducing incidents of dog bites?
Chris White: Education is the key to everything. Just like with the emergency responders, if the general public was taught how to properly approach and handle a dog in any given situation, the number of bites and attacks would decrease. The other side of that coin is proper enforcement of leash laws, and dog laws in general. Most of the dog bite stories I read involve 1 of 2 things: an dog off leash, running wild through the streets, or a dog chained up in a back yard, and someone coming into its territory. Proper enforcement of leash laws stops the first, and education about how to handle and approach dogs solves the second.
Everything Worth Knowing: How much do you think media hype is responsible for the public’s fear of pit bulls?
Chris White: While I would like to say that the media is solely responsible for the public’s fear of pit bulls, it’s just not true. Public perception of Pibbles comes from a few different areas. The media is absolutely one of those sources. A story about a Pibble saving it’s family from a burning building doesn’t grab as many viewers as a story about a Pit Bull ripping a child’s face off. The sad thing is that most of these supposed Pibbles aren’t Pibbles at all. Most of the general public can’t pick a picture of a Pibble out of a line up of several different breeds in the first place. Again, what sells more papers and gets more viewers: A mixed breed dog rips a child’s face off, or A Pit Bull rips a child’s face off? Sensationalism gets rating and sells papers.
Ignorance is another reason for public fear; or more specifically, ignorant people with loud voices. Ignorant people *love* to spout off at the mouth about how awful Pibbles are, and how dangerous they are, and how they should all be killed. I guarantee that if you ask any one of them how many Pibbles they have personally dealt with and most will tell you they’ve had no experience with them at all. Why do they do this? Because they’re gullible and have swallowed the kool aid that a few select groups have set out for the public to drink. I refuse to give any press, even bad press to these organizations, so I will not mention names, but I’m sure most of you know them. The other reason ignorant people like to spout off at the mouth is simply to feel important. Plus, it’s just easier to go along with the flow, than to buck the system. Just ask Germany from 1933-1945.
The last group that is responsible for a negative public perception of Pibbles are some Pibble owners. There are two types of owners that don’t help the situation. First there’s the group that get a Pibble as a status symbol. Something so they can look tough and put a spiked collar on the dog. You know…show the world how much of a bad ass they are. Lame. If you knew the first thing about Pibbles, you would realize how ridiculous you look to the rest of us that do know Pibbles. The problem is, John Q. Public does not know Pibbles like we do, so he sees that bad ass looking dog with that spiked collar and thinks, “Holy shit! That vicious Pit Bull is coming my way. I should run, and then tell all my friends how awful these dogs are.” <face palm> Do you realize the amount of damage you just did because you have a small penis?
Type two: I touched on them briefly before. They are the gorilla warfare Pibble owners. The ones that *love* to get into internet fights and call people names, and throw out all sorts of insults and other garbage without having one thought to how they appear to the rest of the world that happens to see this little internet skirmish. I understand being passionate about Pibbles. If I wasn’t passionate, I wouldn’t have started this group. There are ways to be passionate without setting our movement back 10 years at the same time. The hard reality is every single person who has a Pibble in their family is representing these dogs to the general public. Take a moment before you speak, or type to think about how best to support your dogs. Do you want them to be represented by a well spoken person with facts and a sound argument, or a lunatic that’s part of the so-called “Pit Bull Mafia?’
Everything Worth Knowing: What can people do to help BABSL reach their goals?
Chris White: First and foremost, we need support. If any of you reading this agree with even one sentence, please support us. You can do that in many ways. Follow us on twitter www.twitter.com/bkrsagainstbsl like us on Facebook www.facebook.com/pages/Bikers-Against-BSL/431650950279257 or visit our website www.bikersagainsbsl.com.
We also want members. We want charters in every state in America, in Canada, the UK, Australia, everywhere. If you, or someone you know would be interested in having a charter in your area, please contact us. No you DO NOT need to ride to be a member. We will have 3 types of members when we start charters. Riding members, Honorary members (reserved for those that used to ride, but no longer can. Typically veterans), and non riders that will be known as Bikers Against BSL Pit Crew.
Another huge way to help is to donate. We need money to get our non profit status in the US before we can get international non profit status. There are two ways you can help. Buy some of our lovely BABSL merchandise at http://www.cafepress.com/bikersagainstbsl. You can also donate directly to us through Gofundme at http://www.gofundme.com/5f3yjg.
Everything Worth Knowing: Where would you like to see this group five years from now?
Chris White: Ideally, disbanded because BSL has been eliminated. That may not be the reality, though. So, I will say that I hope we have a BABSL charter on at least every inhabited continent. I want to shoot for every country, but there’s a lot of tiny countries out there, and there are plenty of countries I have no interest in going to.
We want to institute educational programs in every area we have a charter.
1. Children’s education. We would like to develop a program where every charter has a certified therapy Pibble that is brought into schools during the winter months, when our awareness programs won’t be able to take place due to weather. We would like to focus on children around the age of 8. Kids are the most honest and open people on the planet. If we can educate them at that age, we might be able to not only change that child’s mind, but that child’s parent’s mind as well. We can show these children that Pibbles are nothing to be afraid of, and they’re just like any other dog. This also gives us an opportunity to teach them about the proper way to approach and handle dogs. We’d love to work in conjunction with the local shelters in those areas and have them present as well to teach the children about the shelter, and why it’s better to adopt than shop.
2. Prison program. It’s been proven to work in quite a few prisons in the US. You take dogs from shelters that need obedience training into a prison with hand picked inmates to be trained by those inmates. The dogs become infinitely more adoptable, and the prisoners learn quite a few things. They learn a skill that will help them once they’re released. They learn responsibility. These dogs remain with the inmate 24/7 until training is complete, and the dog is adopted. They also learn about letting go. There is no denying the prisoners get attached to these dogs. It’s a valuable lesson that everyone should learn, and this gives these men and women the chance to learn it. In areas where these programs have been implemented, there is close to a 100% success rate of those prisoners involved in the program no become repeat offenders.
3. Inner city education. A program where children from high risk areas are given the opportunity to work and play with dogs typically associated with dog fighting. This will teach them that these dogs are sweet, loving, and have feelings, just like the kids do. Hopefully this program will prevent future dog fighters from becoming just that.
Lastly, I hope to have our BABSL Aggression Rehabilitation Center open. My true passion is working with dogs, and getting them to release that learned aggressive behavior and to become a regular plain ol’ dog again. I understand dogs, and I understand how they think. I would love to spend every day helping dogs be the best dogs they can be.
I understand now that I have a calling, a higher purpose for my life than what I was doing with it. I’ve heard many people talk about hearing a “calling” and then knowing what they should be doing with their lives. I get that now. I too, have heard my calling. Mine was different than most. Mine was a dog howl.
Everything Worth Knowing: Thank you Chris, you have certainly given my readers a lot to think about! It is obvious that you have really thought this through, and you make some very good points.
As I said I liked what I heard and still do! If you want to join these awesome guys in their fight (I know I do!) Make sure to check them out at the links provided!