Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dishonerable discharge

Pit bulls and the U.S. military have a long history together. On propaganda posters for World War One and Two, the U.S. was represented by an American Pit Bull Terrier, with slogans like, "Neutral, but not afraid of any of them." and "We're not looking for trouble, but we're ready for it."

Sergeant Stubby, a pit bull, is known as the most decorated war dog to have served the U.S. military. In the first World War, he warned his troops of incoming attacks. He captured a German spy all on his own. While recovering from injuries in the line of duty, he kept morale up among the injured soldiers and eventually returned to the trenches.

Today, it seems as though Stubby's service to his country has been forgotten, as pit bulls became the target of new military housing pet policies and were evicted from bases.

Early last year, the Pentagon approved the new pet policy that banned pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Chows, and wolf hybrids from military housing. A number of Air Force and Navy bases followed suit. Then, last fall, the Marine Corps issued a worldwide breed ban policy. In theory, some of these policies allowed dogs already living on bases to be grandfathered in, but in practice, dogs were evicted by local enforcement or as soon as the families were relocated.

Like most breed specific legislation, this policy appeared to have been a knee-jerk reaction to dog attacks that took place on military bases. But just like civilian situations, the dog attacks were rare and the result of human irresponsibility, not any particular breed. Due to the ineffectiveness of breed specific legislation, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, and several other organizations have taken a position against breed bans.

Being forced to give up family pets isn't good for the morale of our troops. The Obama Administration needs to reverse the breed specific pet policy to keep military families together and restore these loyal dogs to their former, well-earned position of respect.

Stephanie Feldstein

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