Mark Buehrle is not only one of the most awarded professional baseball pitchers in the history of the Major League Baseball, but also a well-known animal rights activist. Buehrle shares his passion for animals with his wife Jamie, with whom he owns four dogs. Their family includes of their three Vizlas, Diesel, Drake and Duke, and Slater, who was adopted after Jamie fell in love with him while working with an animal rescue group.
Until now, the story seems like perfect except for the fact is that one of the Buehrles, Slater, is an American Staffordshire Terrier falling under a pit bull legal ban that is in place in numerous cities worldwide. In December 2011, Mark Buehrle signed a contract with the Miami Marlins. However, since the Miami-Dade-County does not allow pit bulls, the family was forced to live in Broward County, luckily nearby, in South Florida.
This week, due to a deal made between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays, Buehrle was sent to Toronto where Slater isn't welcome either, because of the pit bull ban in force in the entire Ontario Province since 2005.
In response to many incidents including fatalities and serious injuries involving certain breeds of pit bull-type dogs which occurred in the 80's, numerous jurisdictions enacted Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) with the goal of discouraging, restricting, or prohibiting certain breeds of dogs defined as "dangerous". Based on BSL, some airlines do not allow the transport of these breeds for safety reasons.
This pit bull ban brought about a discussion where groups on both sides of this issue agree that public safety is important, and people need to be held accountable of the importance of dog training and responsible dog ownership. Many jurisdictions which did not opt for a ban, introduced Dangerous Dog Laws as alternative methods to reducing the number of dog attacks requiring sterilization. These laws may include the use of muzzles in public areas, purchasing extra insurance, setting up fences with specific sizes or using certain types of leashes that will keep pit bulls either enclosed or restrained from other animals and human beings.
Most animal rights advocates consider that bans carry too much potential for arbitrary, and specifically inaccurate, breed identification with the risk of not identifying genuinely "dangerous" dogs, because they don’t fall into pre-determined breed categories. They believe that the dangers associated with pit bulls lie more within its owners' responsibility than the breed itself. They also think that when these dogs are properly trained and exposed to other dogs and humans, they are great companions.
While some places adhered to the ideas promoted by the ban, in some others the trend to banning breeds has changed. In 2009, Netherlands repealed their 15-year ban, in 2005 it was the city of Vancouver, in Canada, who did it, and in 2012 the American state of Ohio removed the 25-year old law that classified pit bulls as “vicious” dogs, meaning that they had hurt or killed a person or another dog.
The Buehrle case is not the only one. Many famous and not famous pit bull owners have been told where they can or cannot live, work, or travel because of their dog. Last February, in New York City, soap opera actor Nick Santino committed suicide hours after euthanasia of Rocco, his rescue pit bull dog after his condominium board passed several restrictions against dogs and banned pit bulls from being inside the building. Mitzi Bolanos was inspired and encouraged to fight breed bias and discrimination by her own life experience after adopting a pit bull. Although already holding a law degree, she decided to go back to school and be a part of the first class of six students to get a masters law degree in animal law from the Center for Animal Law Studies at the Lewis & Clark Law School.
Without getting into a long debate on this issue and considering safety as an important part of dog ownership responsibility, for many of us, dog lovers, our pets are members of our families. They are included in our daily life: we travel, eat, play, and work along with them and we feel we cannot live without them. Although the problem the Buehrles family is currently going through will probably be solved in the next few weeks, their story could perhaps help other less known families deal with this issue.