“Pit Bull” Service Dog Manifesto
With so many citizens owning “Pit Bulls” in Miami Dade County, throwing caution to the wind and thumbing their noses at the ignorant Miami Breed Specific Legislation and Breed Discrimination Legislation (BSL/BDL) ban, it got me thinking about how many working “Pit Bull” service dogs there are in Miami. “Pit Bulls” have been outlawed in Miami since 1989. No, not even a Miami dog trainer is legally allowed to be the pet parent of a “Pit Bull,” however, there are exceptions!
The reason I put quotes around “Pit Bulls” is that many people and organizations incorrectly classify this name/label as a breed. “Pit Bulls” are not a recognized breed by any organization in the country. In fact, a “Pit Bull” is nothing more than a mutt with a certain “look” to it. It may be mixed with anything from a Golden Retriever to a German Shepherd (and DNA tests show that this is often the case) so if you discriminate and dislike “Pit Bulls” you are discriminating against all dogs.
One of the many arguments against BSL/BDL is that studies, behaviorists, veterinarians and Ph.D.’s have found that BSL/BDL is completely ineffective in reducing fatalities or dog bites to humans in any jurisdiction, ever recorded. In the end, regressive, intellectually challenged legislation only costs taxpayers more money and hardship as jurisdictions try to regulate unregulatable laws.
In addition to BSL/BDL being ineffective at reducing dog bites and human fatalities from dog bites, racial/breed profiling is also fundamentally flawed at its core as Dr. Victoria Voith, professor of veterinary medicine at Western University in Pomona, California states “as many as 75 percent of all mixed-breed dogs may be mislabeled.” She goes on to say, “There’s so much behavioral variability within each breed, even more between breed mixes, that we cannot reliably predict a dog’s behavior or his suitability for a particular adopter based on breed.” If board-certified veterinarian behaviorists and dog professionals can’t even accurately label a dogs breed correctly, how in the world can we use breed labeling as the sole measure of whether a dog lives or dies? Notwithstanding the gigantic black hole in the argument, officials are trying to label a dog as a breed that doesn’t even exist (“Pit Bulls”) and isn’t recognized by anyone! To add injury to insult, if that wasn’t enough, dogs within the same purebred litters are often not identical, behaviorally or morphologically similar, so how could anyone compartmentalize all unique individuals into one category based on looks and sentence them to death? It is inhumane and just plain stupid on so many levels.
Because ”Pit Bulls” are mutts, and because even the most educated, dedicated professionals cannot accurately tell or label what breed a dog is, it stands to reason that the law is blasphemous. What should be outlawed are ignorant journalists and abusive pet parents, not specific dogs that look muscular, that have big heads, wide shoulders, short hair, a certain eye shape or any specific breed. Instead, outlaw morons and ignorant, uneducated, animal abusers, puppy mills, backyard breeders, traditional dog trainers and anyone who harms pets – not breeds, mixed breeds, colors, shapes or different size dogs!
“Pit Bull” Service Dog Legalese
After a curt response from numerous inquiries and attempts to get clarification from Gary Boyett, Sam Gafcovich (305-418-7183 GAFCOVS@miamidade.gov), and Sean Gallagher (305-418-7184 SGALLAG@miamidade.gov), the Chief Miami-Dade County Animal Services Department Investigator, it turns out that if a “Pit Bull”, or anything that looks like one, is a service dog under the ADA Title II or III they are exempt from the onerous, antiquated, regressive BSL/BDL ban in Miami.
Hmm, that got me thinking, even though this loophole is large enough to fit a Mac truck through, it doesn’t obliterate the responsibility and obligation of the dog parent to have an impeccably well behaved and trained dog. A good example would be to dog train beyond the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) level. Unfortunately, therapy dogs and Emotional Support Animals (ESA’s) do not fit into this loophole; in order to keep a “Pit Bull” in Miami-Dade, the dog would still need to be a service dog. However, a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) falls under the ADA that gives disabled individuals’ rights! More importantly, rights that trump Miami Dade BSL/BDL laws! Therein lies the rub.
Only a morally bankrupt parent would ever attempt to trick people or make believe their ill-behaved, untrained, aggressive or ill-mannered pet is a CGC, ESA, therapy dog or service dog. All pet parents should strive for their dog to be extremely well mannered and trained to at the very minimum, a CGC designation in order to become a therapy dog or ESA (or if you have a disability, a PSD). That is exactly what a responsible dog parent would do. This circuitous circumstance negates Miami’s ridiculous BSL/BDL laws because the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) supersedes local, municipal, county and state laws.
Please note, PSD’s are considered service dogs and ESA’s are not. Your dog could be one or the other, or both. When considering living with your ESA, Housing/U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) laws still pertain. These are the laws you must follow, and that may disallow certain living arrangements, it is very circumstantial and case by case so you must do your homework thoroughly. However, by and large, for citizens living in less complex housing arrangements such as single family homes or pet-friendly buildings, having a legitimate “Pit Bull” service dog would be the ticket to saving your dog’s life!
Miami Service Dog Training Conclusion
Clients ask me what Fun Paw Care would do in their situation if they have a “Pit Bull” and want to live in Miami. Hypothetically speaking, of course, if I had a disability, I would most certainly speak to my mental health professional regarding my need for my impeccably trained service dog to live with me in my home. I would then find a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), and that specializes in training service dogs (such as Fun Paw Care) to task train my dog to mitigate my disability. After I had the service dog extremely well trained (measured in months and years), I would prepare and send my dogs resume with his/her dog training credentials to the owner, landlord, homeowners association (HOA) or whatever governing body that oversees my living situation. I would be sure to look up the laws pertaining specifically to my living situation before contacting my housing authority.
If you are disabled, your options are now much more vast, and you have likely met the requirements to be the parent of a “Pit Bull” in Miami-Dade County. There are many pet-friendly buildings and options open to you now than before when you would have been forced to move out of Miami-Dade or to have surrendered your pet to Miami Dade Animal Services (where your dog would likely be killed). Given that there are only six investigators in all of Miami-Dade, versus roughly 2.5 million residents, you are not likely to get into an altercation with the law. Additionally, those six investigators are responsible for researching all animal violence cases in Miami on top of responding to “Pit Bull” allegations, and being that “Pit Bull” cases are admittedly “complaint driven” the chance you will ever get bothered are Slim to none, and Slim just left town. Nonetheless, those facts would not provide me with any solace or comfort, and I would proceed as stipulated above to save myself and my “Pit Bull” service dog a lot of hardship down the road and make it legal to live with my “Pit Bull” service dog in Miami-Dade.