Today is Blog Action Day. Thousands of bloggers around the world are writing about one topic – “The Power of We” – to highlight the incredible efforts of communities coming together, from local groups to global movements.
i Love Dogs is participating with this blog about how the online dog advocates community has united to raise awareness of breed-specific legislation.
Did you know this is happening right now, right here in the U.S., in cities like Denver?
Until recently, unless you owned a Pit Bull, or a dog that looked like one, you were probably unaware of breed-specific legislation (BSL): laws that pertain to only one dog breed – usually Pit Bulls.
These laws essentially remove responsibility from dog owners – where it belongs – and put it on the breed. BSL, which includes breed bans, has not proven to be effective in increasing public safety, and it can be very expensive to enforce.
Then along came Lennox, a Pit mix confiscated from his family in Northern Ireland, where the breed is banned. Lennox became a poster dog for BSL, inspiring a massive online campaign to spare his life and end breed bans.
On Twitter, the “Lennox Army” regularly tweeted updates of his case and urged people to spread the word about the uselessness and unfairness of BSL. An online petition asking the Belfast City Council to return Lennox to his family was signed by more than 127,000 people. The Save Lennox page on Facebook currently has more than 123,000 fans.
Despite the international campaign, Lennox was killed in July. He may be gone, but efforts by the online dog advocates community to end BSL continue to go strong. The Lennox online campaign helped thrust BSL into the spotlight so it is no longer a dirty little secret.
Progress has been made this year in the elimination of BSL. In August, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill that removes all breed-specific language from the state’s “dangerous dogs” laws. In May, Cincinnati dropped its Pit Bull ban.
But with each step forward, there’s often a step back. On “Live With Kelly and Michael” just last week, co-host Kelly Ripa said a gangster’s dog would “have to be a dangerous, Pit Bull type of dog.”
Had she said this a few years ago, prior to the popularity and power of social media, her remark would probably have slipped by. But within hours after the show aired, hundreds of Pit Bull owners and advocates had left comments on the show’s Facebook page, calling Ripa out on her negative and false stereotype – the exact stereotype that results in BSL and the death of family pets.
To illustrate the ignorance of Ripa’s remark, i Love Dogs created an “I’m Not a Gangster and My Pittie’s Not Dangerous” photo album on our Facebook page that was soon filled with hundreds of pictures posted by our fans. We created a Twitter hashtag, #imnogangster, that had more than 1.25 million impressions.
While it may take baby (puppy?) steps to abolish BSL entirely, the online dog advocates community has united to do what it takes to accomplish this. That is the power of we.