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Written by: Alistair Thompson, ACPB Volunteer
Breed Discriminatory Legislation is in the headlines once again and so I thought I would share a story that shows just how little sense it makes.
When I first met Sherlock at Upland Animal Services he had a little energy to spare. Nothing out of the ordinary for a young shelter dog, but it was clear that being confined to a kennel was not doing him much good. Tongue out, eyes wide open, barking anxiously, Sherlock was stressed and he needed some time outside the kennel.
Being a fairly experienced shelter volunteer I made sure that I braced the kennel door with my knee so that Sherlock wouldn’t push the door open when I reached in to get him on a slip lead. Going through the regular motions I removed the lock and unlatched the door and before I could react, Sherlock had his head in between the door and the kennel. As I moved to push him back into his kennel, removing my knee from the door in the process, Sherlock pushed the kennel door open and ran down the row to the door that leads to the play yard. He waited there, patiently, for me to catch up.
This is when I learned that Sherlock possessed not only extra energy, but quite a bit of intelligence as well.
At the end of the hall I put Sherlock on the slip lead and after a walk full of pulling on the leash and lunging at squirrels, we made it to the play yard. It was here in the yard that I noticed his ball drive. He would chase almost anything, bring it back , lie down and chew. At first he seemed unfamiliar with basic commands, but when I incorporated the ball his attention was incredible. “Drop” and “sit” were mastered (or recovered from previous training) in a matter of minutes.
We took a second walk after the tennis ball work and Sherlock was a different dog. Calm, patient and responsive to me. When we returned to the shelter I contacted another volunteer who had told me that our shelter has a connection with an organization that trains search and rescue dogs. She said that the organization had asked us to contact them whenever we had a dog with strong fetch drive. Based on the day’s events with Sherlock I figured he had the potential to be a great match.
The organization got back to us and said that they won’t take pit bulls because of the risks involved in using them in cities where pit bull type dogs are banned. Even if Sherlock had the potential to be a perfect match, they wouldn’t evaluate him.
Imagine a natural disaster where search and rescue dogs are needed. I highly doubt that an injured person would care about what type of dog came to his or her rescue. The logic (or lack thereof) here is that some cities think Sherlock is too dangerous to help find people who were injured in the disaster. They see him as a threat instead of a potential life-saver.
We are all familiar with the roadblocks of Breed Discriminatory Legislation, but this one was especially frustrating to me. I don’t know if Sherlock would have made it as a search and rescue dog, but I do know that he deserves a chance. Now he has to wait in kennel, potential aside, for the right adopter.