Monday, January 26, 2009

McNaughton: Pitbulls and owners deserve playtime too

One thing that I’ve learned in my last four years in Lawrence is that the city is not particularly pet-friendly, especially for certain breeds. My experiences as a pitbull owner for the past five years have opened my eyes to an entire breed of animal that is widely discriminated against.

With my cat and Mia, my dog, finding a place to accommodate the three of us has always proved to be a daunting task. While searching for an apartment this year, I encountered a few leasing agents, one for Hawks Point, who refused to allow “aggressive breeds” or who flat-out said “no pit-bulls.” In addition to domestic discrimination and problems finding housing, my dog and I have experienced the vendetta that is out against pit-bulls around the city.

Most recently, I paid a $91 fine for an animal-at-large ticket. I was allowing my dog to run around for a few minutes in a completely empty and desolate Dad Perry Park, when an animal control officer arrived and issued me a ticket.

The officer, who closely resembled Dog from “The Bounty Hunter,” grilled me regarding my dog’s most recent vaccinations and then seemed surprised that I didn’t keep Mia’s records with me or in my glove compartment. I was also questioned as to whether my dog was on the city’s aggressive animal list, which she is not.

I begrudgingly paid the ticket, as I always have. Over the past couple of years I have gotten two tickets, totaling more than $400, in animal-at-large fines on occasions when Mia escaped from my back yard. In each case, the same mullet-sporting officer threatened to shoot my dog if she made any aggressive action. These instances occurred a few years ago when some were trying to eradicate pit-bulls within the limits of Kansas City by “euthanizing” the dogs with shotguns.

In every situation, whether I was present or not, my dog never attacked or made the attempt to attack any person or animal. Granted, she may have barked, but I’ve heard dogs do that from time to time. I understand that she was loose, and perhaps her being a pitbull is threat enough, even though there was no aggressive action. If she had been a golden retriever, though, would the response have been the same? Think about the times you’ve driven by Allen Fieldhouse and seen people playing Frisbee with their labs off-leash, do those owners all deserve tickets? They do not, and my dog and I didn’t deserve the tickets that we got.

In my opinion, an animal’s upbringing is the best determinant of behavior, not its breed. I resent the fact that people judge me and place me in a category with Michael Vick merely because I own a pitbull. I am not a ringleader of an underground dogfight club. I’m just a regular student who brought her animals with her to college. Yet I get fined in my attempts to do with what my animals what everyone else does with theirs, namely, play with them.

I’m not hoping or wishing that anyone receives undeserved fines; I simply ask that fines be given without bias. Don’t ticket me solely based on my dog’s breed. That’s discrimination.

McNaughton is a Topeka senior in English and journalism.

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