Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thoughts on Mark Buehrle's pit bull

Liam the pug looking adorable
I wouldn't leave this guy behind, either.
I've written about breed bans before (here and here and here), and I've developed a pretty deep and abiding hatred of this kind of legislation. Most of the time, when I've been tempted to write about breed bans, I'm discuss specific cases in which a dog was ripped away from a family or I'm talking about dog bite statistics. In other words, the prompts are about the need for/no need for a law or the consequences of the enforcement of a law. The Mark Buehrle case gives me yet another prompt. This is a situation in which a man, in the hopes of following the law, is forced to make a terrible decision, and he's facing widespread ridicule as a result.

For those of you who don't know, Mark Buehrle is a baseball player, and he was traded from Orlando to Ontario. He has a pit bull-type dog at home, and Ontario doesn't allow these dogs within the city limits. He could have placed the dog with friends, placed the dog in a kennel or just broken the laws and brought the dog with him when he moved. Instead, he's splitting up his family. His wife will stay with the dog and the children, and he'll visit them on a regular basis, although he'll be living somewhere else on a full-time basis.

Clever writers are using headlines like "Mark Buehrle Will Leave His Family Behind..." and "Rather Than Leave His Dog Behind, Mark Buehrle Will Leave His Family Behind" when they discuss this case. Comments on the Huffington Post are similarly damning, including: "Hmm, kids or dogs, kids or dogs? Sorry kids, let the dog watch you grow up." In other words, this player is facing some serious attacks from those who don't agree with his choice.

 In my opinion, the sarcasm is misplaced. This man didn't choose to move to Ontario. He's being forced to move there for work, and it's likely he'll be bumped to another location and then another during the course of his career. Why in the world should he make a permanent decision regarding his dog when his move might not be permanent? Why should he be criticized at all, since he's not moving of his own free will?

It seems like it might be more constructive to discuss the nature of breed bans. Laws like this punish respectable dog owners. This man has money, he's invested in training, he loves his dog. Isn't this the kind of person who is likely to raise a balanced and healthy dog, no matter its breed? He's also a law-abiding citizen, unwilling to break the rules just so he can live under the same roof with his family. Again, doesn't that make him a great dog owner? How does keeping this dog and these dog owners out of Ontario make the community safer? The answer: It doesn't.

I feel for Mark Buehrle's family, but I am thankful that their plight is getting such widespread attention. Hopefully, it'll force a discussion on just how baffling these laws really are, and how they simply don't work to reduce dog-related community problems.