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Discussion in 'BSL Letter Writing Tips' started by Vicki, Jun 30, 2008.

  1. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    From: http://www.napbta.com/bsl.html

    Dear Concerned Dog Fancier,
    This packet contains information regarding the opposition of Breed Specific Legislation. Not all the information pertains to every law/ordinance and not every piece of information will be helpful to you. The key is to study all materials provided and use them as needed to fight BSL.
    Local opposition is the best weapon we have in the fight against BSL. Officials only care about their constituents: the people who put them in office, keep them in office and pay their salary each month. Neither 5 nor 500 emails and calls from a distant state will solve the problem of dog bites in their district. What they need are local people who are sensitive to local issues to stand up and offer real and effective solutions to the problem of dog bites.
    Thank you for taking the initiative to battle the BSL that is spreading rapidly, and best of luck.
    ~Danielle Alexander
    NAPBTA BSL Chairperson

    Table of Contents

    Pages 2-4 How to Kill a Bill by Janice Mullen-Stewart

    Pages 5-6 Example of an anti-BSL letter by D. Alexander

    Pages 7-8 City Council Checklist by Alice Fix

    Page 10 California SB861 Passed: Now What? by D. Alexander

    Page 11 Reaching Lawmakers in your City

    Pages 12 Model Dangerous Dog Law Links

    Excerpts from AKC Legislative Action Manual
    by Janice Mullen-Stewart​

    Defeating a bad bill is often more important than passing a good one. Here are some tried and true tips on How To Kill A Bill.
    Ask John Q. Public what the chief functions of legislators are, and he will answer
    1) spending money, and
    2) passing more bills.
    Mr. P will get no argument on point #1. Point #2 however, is not true. The real job of elected officials is to kill, not pass, bills. Probably less than one third of the bills introduced in any legislative session survive the entire process and become laws. Someone once said, "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session." Just think how bad things might be if all the bills passed!
    If a bill has been introduced that you think is an abomination, what can you do about it? You need to take whatever actions necessary to make this bill fall into the category with the two thirds that never make it. There are myriad ways to kill bills. This chapter will explore some of them.
    Because of the volume of work legislators have each session and the time constraints they work under, the bills they pass are usually those that are well executed, clear, and broadly supported, or those with lots of political muscle behind them. With extra work, even these bills can be killed.
    Timing is important. The earlier you can stop a bill, the less resources you will have to expend, and the less time will be diverted from the important job of passing your own bill.
    Certain reactions work best at different points in the bill's progress. Here are some methods and suggestions on the most effective timing.

    I. You learn the bill will be introduced.
    A. Contact the sponsor; ask who requested the bill, and what they hope it will accomplish. State your opposition, and say why you oppose it.
    B. Gather information that will prove the bill is not necessary; will result in strong opposition; will be costly to administer. If this is a vicious dog bill, provide the sponsor with information from the AKC and the ADOA.
    II. The bill is introduced.
    A. Prepare an alternative bill and urge the sponsor to replace his with yours.
    B. Warn your troops of an impending fight.
    III. Bill is assigned to committee.
    A. Contact the committee chair to state your opposition, and offer your alternative bill again.
    B. Prepare for the hearing; plan your strategy.
    C. Contact (phone or in person) all members of the committee to state your opposition to the bill, and provide information to any who are interested.
    D. All members of your group (the troops) should contact the committee members from their district to ask that they vote against the bill.
    IV. Hearing is scheduled.
    A. Plan who will attend, and prepare testimony for each witness. If this is a vicious dog law, plan to bring sufficient copies of the AKC packet on vicious dog laws and ADOA information for each committee member, the committee secretary, and any press people at the hearing.
    B. Prepare a press release to issue immediately after the hearing. It should state your group's opposition to the bill and some pertinent reasons.
    C. Reread the chapter on hearings (Typist's Note: this section will follow within 24 hrs) All rules apply, but this time your purpose is to kill, not pass, a bill.
    Your testimony should be planned to cast doubt on any supposed benefits claimed for this bill. You want to show widespread opposition (ideally including from the government branch named in the bill to enforce its provisions). Effective arguments include: bill would cost too much money to enforce; enforcement would be difficult, or discriminatory; bill would be harmful to a particular group such as the elderly, handicapped, children, farmers, etc. (use your imagination, but do not fabricate); bill is confusing, unclear, vague, open to misinterpretation; bill will impact on small towns, or on rural areas, etc. If all else fails, attempt to have the bill referred to interim study. If the bill offends you only in part, prepare an amendment to deal with that part and present it at the hearing.
    V. Committee passes the bill.
    A. Check the date the bill is scheduled for floor action.
    B. If the committee vote was not unanimous; will a person from the losing side file a minority report or speak against the bill during floor action?
    C. Ask a friendly legislator to remove the bill from the Consent Calendar, and lead a floor fight against the bill.
    D. Distribute fact sheets to all house members, outlining briefly the strongest points against this bill. Try to have the fact sheets delivered to each house member's assigned seat, or if that is not possible, distribute them as the members file into the house the day the bill is scheduled for debate.
    E. Issue press releases to follow up on earlier release. This release should urge citizens to ask their legislators to vote against the bill.
    F. Attempt to include other groups in your opposition, and urge them to make their position public.
    G. All people who have any interest in this bill should contact their own legislators and urge them to vote against the bill.

    There are dozens of parliamentary maneuvers that, in the hands of an astute legislator, can effectively end the life of any bill for at least the current session. As one example, if your head count tells you that you have almost enough votes to defeat this bill, but not quite - have one of your supporters vote with the other side. Later, as one of those on the winning side, he can move for reconsideration at another time, when you have had time together a few more votes.

    You and your supporters should be visibly present in the state house the day your bill is debated. An effective ploy to call attention to your presence without giving offense is to have each supporter wear the same insignia. For example, you might all wear arm-bands printed with the logo "Responsible Dog Owner". Do not sport tee shirts emblazoned with "I love my dog". This is serious business; do not appear frivolous or antagonistic.
    VI. Bill passes and is sent to the other house.
    A. Return to step III and retrace your steps. Do not give up. The game is far from over.
    Bills are heard first in whichever house they are introduced (House bills start in the House, Senate bills in the Senate). Often there will be diminished enthusiasm in the second house, especially if the bill was opposed in the first. Negative momentum will be on your side, If you do not give up too soon. When is too soon? Any time before the bill is defeated.
    VII. Bill passes second house and is sent to the governor.
    A. Meet with the governor and urge him to veto the bill, or if that seems to be politically inexpedient, to re-refer the bill for further study to the originating committee.
    B. Continue to issue regular press releases listing arguments against the bill and asking citizens' help in urging the governor to veto it.
    C. Utilize local radio talk shows to spread support for your side, as with press releases.
    D. Request your legislative friends contact the governor and ask him to veto the bill. Pocket vetoes are less politically risky for the governor, since they are not confrontational.

    End AKC How to Kill a Bill

    Example of an anti-BSL letter (although this is quite wordy, so I would highly suggest condensing such information.)
    I am writing this letter in regards to your current issue of breed specific legislation (BSL), to which I am strongly opposed.
    The American Veterinary Medical Association, the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, California Veterinary Medical Association, Washington State Veterinary Medical Association, Colorado Veterinary Medical Association and the National Animal Control Association all strongly oppose breed specific legislation.
    The AVMA states: "Legislation should be directed at fostering safety and protection of the general public from all animals classified as dangerous and undesirable."
    The NYSVMS states: "We encourage governmental authorities to provide adequate funding of animal control agencies to support their efforts to guarantee the public’s safety and well being.
    As veterinary medical professionals, we believe that no one particular breed of dog should be discriminated against because, given a responsible owner, the vast majority of dogs are a benefit to mankind."
    The CVMA states: "The California Veterinary Medical Association strongly supports and encourages responsible pet ownership and the enforcement of existing animal control ordinances. We believe that this would prevent most, if not all of the dog attacks, as many of them were the result of owner negligence or actually encouragement of aggressive behavior."
    The WSVMA states: "It is the position of the WSVMA to support strong animal control legislation. This legislation should address the main issue – the responsibility of the dog owner to be sure that his/her dog is not a hazard to the public. A dog should be defined as dangerous by its actions and not by it’s parentage."
    The National Animal Control Association has developed the following policy in regards to dangerous/vicious animals: "Dangerous and/or vicious animals should be labeled as such as a result of their actions or behavior and not because of their breed."
    I think a common link can be seen here. Both veterinary medical professionals and animal control professionals feel that legislation which focuses on a specific breed of dog is detrimental to solving the true problem, which lies in the hands of irresponsible dog owners.
    Breed Specific Legislation has been fought in court and in the case of Holder v. City of Hollywood "The Broward County Court found for the challengers and struck down the ordinance as an unconstitutional infringement of the pit bull dog owners’ fourteenth amendment rights. The court found it impossible to identify the breed of an unregistered dog. Because the ordinance only applied to the owners of an American Pit bull, Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire terrier the court found notice problems for the citizens and enforcement problems for the police." Credit: Cincinnati Law Review Vol. 53, 1984 pgs 1067-1081.
    Please take into consideration the option of stronger dangerous dog laws. There are many states and counties throughout the US who keep their citizens safe through laws that do not describe breed as a defining trait of a dangerous dog.
    Botetourt County Virginia has such legislation. They define a dangerous dog as:
    Any dog which (1) causes a wound to any person without provocation on public or private property; (2) while off the property of it’s owner, has killed or injured a domestic animal other than another dog; (3) attacks any person; or (4) has been declared dangerous by a General District Court of Circuit Court of this Commonwealth.
    They define a vicious dog as:
    Any dog which (1) kills a person; (2) inflicts serious wounds to a person, including multiple bites, or serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious impairment of any bodily function; (3) continues to exhibit the behavior which resulted in a previous finding by a court that it is a dangerous dog provided that it’s owner has been given notice of that finding; or (4) which has been found vicious by a General District Court or Circuit Court of this Commonwealth.
    They add that (d) No dog shall be found to be a dangerous dog or a vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed.
    Tacoma, Washington also has non-breed specific dangerous dog legislation. Their definition of a potentially dangerous dog is as such:
    Unprovoked, inflicts bites on a human or a domestic animal, either on public or private property; or
    Unprovoked, chases or approaches a person or domestic animal upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public of private property in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack; or
    In known to have a propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack unprovoked or to cause injury or otherwise to threaten the safety of humans or domestic animals on any public or private property.

    At this time I would like to bring to your attention a study done in De Kalb County, Georgia. After a pit bull attack in the County, (which is within the Atlanta Metro) the Commissioners allowed a study group to investigate the matter and make appropriate recommendations.
    Through their study, they learned that "leash laws, when enforced, do work. In De Kalb County, while the resident population grew a full twenty-four percent from 1975 to 1986, the reported dog bite incidents actually declined by a whopping fifty-four percent (54%), from 1,021 reported dog bites in 1975, to 472 bites in 1986. This decline in reported bites has been steady over the decade, with 615 reported in 1980 and 573 in 1983.
    Only 315 dogs (using the 1986 figures), out of over 100,000 dogs in De Kalb County, bit members of the general public. This fractional 3/10ths of one percent figure clearly indicates that leash laws can be made to work and that there are many other factors, such as bicycles, skateboards, boats, pools, automobiles, cigarette smoking, and drugs, etc. that present a far greater threat to children, and the general public, than do dogs."
    In their summary, they state:
    "Developing laws and ordinances which do not violate the constitutional rights of responsible dog-owning citizens seems to work best when the focus of attention is on the irresponsible owner, and when the text and language of the law, ordinance or statute are clear, concise, reasonable and brief. Long and complicated laws are difficult to enforce and comply with and have the tendency to control and regulate too much."

    In closing, my position stands that citizens should be kept safe from all dangerous dogs, and that, Breed Specific Legislation not only leads to a false sense of security, but fails to address the true problem. The true problem lies with irresponsible owners who fail to be held accountable for the actions of their pets. It is common for a dangerous dog to display aggressive and threatening behavior before attacking. If these dogs can be caught early, their owners can be forced to take responsible actions to avoid an attack. Avoiding an attack is the optimal result, and enforcing existing laws or creating stronger laws against any and all dangerous dogs can accomplish this.
    Thank you for your time, and I hope you will consider all I have written.

    *Continued in next post*
  2. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    This checklist is courtesy of Alice Fix Co-Chairman of the Public Education Committee for the CSPCA
    Ideas on How to Make Presentations at a City Council Meeting
    No matter why you might need to speak at a city council meeting, the following are ideas on how to make a good presentation. Since so many communities are now trying to pass ordinances that negatively effect dogs, this information may come in handy. The rules for making presentations to a city council are the same no matter what you might want to speak about. This is written more towards ordinances against a specific breed of dog, but still applies not matter what kind of bad ordinance your city is trying to pass

    Be honest, be organized, be brief, and be helpful. The council members are mortals, just like you.

    - They want to help
    - They want to look good and not look bad
    - They are overwhelmed with issues and wish someone would help them
    - You are their angel if you can make them look good and provide them
    with a solution
    Therefore, if you are against a given proposal, bring a positive alternative instead of just saying no.
    Typically City Councils will give each person 3 minutes to speak, and they do time each speaker. When your time is up, they are ready to move on to the next speaker, and will cut you off. Be sure to time your speech so that you can say your message in that time frame.
    Arrive early to the meeting. They will have a sign up sheet for anyone wanting to speak on an issue. Make sure to sign your name to that sheet so that you have the opportunity to give them your ideas. Typically they follow the order that you sign in. Make sure that you sign in early enough on the list, because when they run out of time, no one else will be allowed to speak. I have found that the best position is somewhere around the 8th to 10th person. That way you can cross the points off of your list that the other speakers have made, and hit on the points that no one has mentioned so far.
    Be sure to dress appropriately. No cut off jeans. The more professional that you look, the better your chances of being listened to.

    As far as your speech is concerned, here are some specific steps to take:

    Step 1) Be organized, individually and together.

    The council does not have much time, and they have families that are waiting. It is best to find a like-minded number of individuals and band together. Meet two evenings - the first to introduce each other (even if it is just you or 2 people!) The second meeting is to plan the presentation at the council. It to SO easy to lose focus and start a gripe session. Don't gripe at the second session - ORGANIZE! If it is just you, work the same way. Spend one night griping and getting that out of your system. Then the next night, organize your 3 minute talk.
    If you can work in a group, it works best to let each person make different points. Do not repeat each other. That just takes up part of your 3 minutes, and doesn’t get the message across any better. New ideas are better than repeating ideas.
    I recently saw this tactic and thought it was a good idea. One couple couldn’t get their whole speech down to 3 minutes. It was a husband and wife team. They made sure to sign up together on the sign up sheet. One gave the first half of the speech and the other gave the last half. I would not recommend making a habit of this, but in a dire situation, that can work.

    Step 2) Find out where the council members stand right now.

    90 percent of their mind is made up already. Their prejudices rule. If they are all against you, don't sweat it - you can embarrass them with letters to the editor. But find out where they stand before the meeting.

    Find out the names of each councilor, call them before the meeting (tonight!), and ask them frankly how they feel about the issue. Be polite. Listen without comment no matter how outrageous. If the say "PBs are fire-breathing manics and should be sent to the lowest level of Hades" just say "Thank you for the information. Have a nice day." Your only purpose is to ask them where they stand .

    If and only if they ask your opinion, tell them what you think in 1 minute or less. –
    1. you sympathize that dangerous dogs should be regulated –
    2. you want to help them –
    3. you trust your dog around others
    4. thank them for their time.

    Step 3) At the meeting

    - Be polite. Be polite. Be polite. Smile, smile, smile!
    - Be organized.
    - Be brief.
    - Be helpful.
    - Say thank you.

    - If you have a certified service dog, bring it! They cannot by law exclude you from public places. Yeah! Make VERY sure the dog has NO incidents at the meeting. If you think fools will try to provoke your animal, bring a human friend to block them, and run interference for you.

    - Have your speech printed up with copies, one for each council member and extras for
    the audience. You may get cut off, or forget, but they still have your speech.
    ALWAYS try to give them something to take away. They may not read it, but they
    - You have organized your group (MUCH better with more than one person). You
    each have 3 minutes. - It is perfectly OK to read from cards or a printed paper
    - It is perfectly OK to have a friend read for you if you are too nervous or have a speech

    Facts to present -
    1) Agree that some dog attacks are fatal, and that most of these are from large dogs.
    Bring proof that most fatal dog attacks are from large dogs. (Note: there is NOT the
    words "breeds" or "PBs". Keep the focus on general dogs See "Facts" below for data
    2) Agree that legislation is helpful..
    3) Point out irresponsible owners of large dogs are the issue. (Focus on the responsible
    party - the owner.)
    4) Agree legislation making owners responsible is a good solution
    5) State that breed-specific legislation does not protect against other large animals - they
    are just setting themselves up for more problems.
    6) Bring your suggestion to them -
    - Education about animal care - (education is *always* key for *any*
    successful campaign)
    - Spay-neuter campaigns reduce the number of animals
    - Encourage or require obedience classes
    - Follow-up spot checks on large animals
    - Harsh legislation for irresponsible owners (significant fines of
    approx 1 month's salary wherever you live)


    Step 4) Facts. Honest facts.

    Print these out and have them available as handouts. The information can also serve your speech.

    Be honest. Be organized. Be brief. Be helpful.
    It is very important that you have extra copies of your speech, and a copy for each of the council members. You will not give your printed sheet directly to the council members. There will be someone seated by the speaker’s stand, that will give your speech to all the council members, just before you speak.
    After you have arrived and signed up to speak, watch the audience carefully for any news media people that might be there. Give each newspaper and T.V. reporter that you can identify, a copy of your speech. Introduce yourself, and say that you would like for them to have a copy of your speech so that you can be quoted accurately. If you are representing a group, also make that known to the media. You can pass out the extra copies of your speech to members of the audience, but be sure to save some for after the meeting. You might be able to identify some more news media people, and you would like to be sure that they all get a copy. Be sure to include your name and address on your speech so that the council members and anyone else that would like to can contact you about your position.
    Please speak clearly and distinctly. Your ideas will not get across if they can not understand what you are saying. Do Not get mad or lose your cool. It is important to come across and intelligent, logical and as someone that has done their homework.
    If you don’t get the results that you would like at the council meeting, you can always send a Letter to the Editor of all the local papers. But remember that the newspapers have a limited amount of space for Letters to the Editor. State your case briefly and logically. Be short and to the point.
    If the City Council decides to pass a bad ordinance after all the input, then you always have the option of trying to get them voted out of office.

    California SB 861 Passed: Now what? By Danielle Alexander
    On October 7th, 2005 California’s Governor signed SB861 into law. While California still prohibits the banning of any specific breed, SB 861 "authorizes local governments to enact dog breed specific ordinances pertaining only to mandatory spay or neuter programs and breeding requirements, provided that no specific dog breed, or mixed dog breed, shall be declared potentially dangerous or vicious under those ordinances."
    The good news is that Californians are still allowed to own "pit bulls", Rottweilers, Chow chows and any other breed they fancy. The bad news is that this law allows your local mayor or city council to enact laws which could force the owners of such breeds to spay and neuter their dogs, regardless of conformation showing or working status.
    So, if you are a responsible pit bull owner living in California, what can you do?
    First, learn all you can about your local government. Attend city council meetings. Learn the names of your mayor, sheriff, animal control director and everyone on the city council. Learn their position on the subject of dangerous dogs. If your city or town is small enough, become friendly with your local authorities. Always remember to smile, look presentable (think show clothes!) and be respectful. As the saying goes, you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.
    Visit your local animal control shelter. Offer to donate your time, for kennel help or fostering or helping to keep your local dog park clean. If you can’t offer your time, then donate $20 or more every month. Consider sending your donation in a nice card with one of your friendly dogs on the front of it. Can’t swing $20 every month? Then make a trip to a petstore for a cheap, large bag of dog food. Or visit your local thrift store and stock up on cheap blankets and towels. Make yourself a friend of your local animal control, a face they want to see every month or so.
    Secondly, work on public perception. I will go in depth on this subject in our following issues, so please tune in for that! Right now, I will cover the basics.
    Contact local dog clubs, both AKC and UKC, all breed and specialty. Rally the members of clubs involving pit bulls, AmStaffs, Staffordshire bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherd dogs, and other targeted breeds. Encourage the club members to title their dogs in obedience, agility, therapy work, temperament test and to get CGC certificates. Promote these dogs in your community as role models in their breed.
    Contact your local media and bombard their offices with positive stories. Invite them to dog shows, pet expos, therapy visits and other positive press opportunities. Organize a group to perform demonstrations about bite prevention at schools. Organize a group of responsible breeders, rescuers and trainers and invite the media to speak with your group. Again, remember to smile, look presentable and be respectful. Make yourself a friendly, knowledgeable face to your local media, a face they will contact when the subject of dangerous dogs rears its head.
    Make yourself known as a collective group to your community through public appearances and media coverage. You want to create positive memories associated with your breed in the mind of the public.
    Finally, if mandatory spay and neuter becomes an issue in your community, make yourself a friendly face in the war. Look at the whole picture, avoid arguing only one side. Make sure to offer condolences and sympathy to the families, even if they don’t live in your area. Make sure to offer solutions, workable, viable solutions. Make sure to bring data and statistics which reinforce your position. Compose them in a clean format, free of excessive wording and offer copies to everyone in attendance. And be prepared to compromise. No one wants breeder licensing, however, it’s a better solution than breed specific mandatory spay and neuter. And if you are the one offering these types of compromises, the public and lawmakers will see that you are aware of the problem and are willing to take steps to keep the public safe. As always, remember to smile, look presentable and be respectful.
    It’s much harder to overturn a statewide law than to keep yourself safe within your community. Never give your town or city a reason to consider mandatory spay and neutering. Keep you and your dogs safe.

    Reaching Lawmakers in your City

    To find the city officials in your area:
    Use a search engine to find your city/town. Enter your city’s exact name followed by a comma and the state (ex. Newburg, Oregon = http://www.ci.newberg.or.us/ ) Once you reach the homepage, look for "Mayor", "City Council", "Town Officials" or any other term which could describe the lawmaking authorities in your area. Once on that page, some towns/cities will have names along with contacts for that person in the form of an email address or phone number. If these are available, please start your contact there. Occasionally a secretary will handle all messages and mail for the city council members and the mayor. If this is the case for your town/city, contact the secretary with your query (phone calls are best.)
    Walk down to your city hall and ask to speak with your mayor and/or city council. They may not be available for immediate comment, but you can make an appointment to speak to each one individually. Or, you can learn the schedule for the city council meetings and attend one. (They are generally on a weekly or bi-monthly basis.)

    And remember, most officials don’t care about anyone other than the taxpayers in their local area who voted them in and pay their salary. The entire state of Washington could email their objections to BSL, but if you are in the city of Paris, Texas, the Mayor’s only duty is to the citizens in his city who are asking for his help.

    Links to Model Dog Ordinances:

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