Dear Mayor Menino: Breed Specific Legislation

This is a letter to the Mayor of Boston in response to SD 1247, a bill proposed by State Senator Mike Rush, that will open the door to allow breed bans and mandatory muzzling of specific breeds. Please help by writing or calling your State Rep, and in a courteous manner, ask that they do not support this bill.

I sent a similar letter to Senator Rush. 

Also, I really do wish to meet with the mayor or any other official that would like to make their constituents safer, and there are many ways to do so without breed bans. Ask any mail carrier or dog trainer - it's not just Pits that aggressively bark and bite! Please share my letter, or write your own if you feel so inspired. 


Greetings, Mr. Mayor!

I'm a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) in the Boston area, teach in Charlestown, and am really concerned about the proposed Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) regarding muzzling Pit Bulls. Here's where I'm concerned.

In a Fox 25 interview, you stated that there is "something in them that is vicious". I would like to formally invite you to one of my classes, or even a public training space so you can see with your own eyes where a blanketed statement such as that can be hurtful - not just to dogs that are considered bully breeds, but to dogs that really do need muzzles.

In the 10 years I've been teaching, I have witnessed several dogfights. In one particular fight, a beautiful Irish Setter charged at a bully breed (Mastiff/Staffordshire Terrier cross, which was labeled as a "Pit Mix”). The Irish Setter got off of his leash, charged at the Pit, and lunged with his teeth bared. The Pit turned his head away, and the Setter continued to instigate a fight. Eventually, the Setter lunged with his teeth bared at the Pits neck. The Setter turned and bit his owner when the owner tried to break up the fight. The entire time, the Pit just stood there, tail tucked, and took the assault.

In this instance, who should have been muzzled? My professional opinion would state the Setter, not this particular bully breed.

When I was attacked by the family Husky growing up (I still have the scars up and down my arm 30 years later), my dad dealt with that one particular dog, not the other 10 we used for dog sledding.

Lastly, I want to bring your attention to a young boy who took my Frisbee class with his dog. This dog is the quintessential Pit Bull type dog. Short, black, stocky, well muscled, and a boxy head. This boy had a form of Autism and couldn't focus. His mom got him a dog. This dog did EVERYTHING the boy asked, and the boy started to engage with the dog in a way that he hadn't engaged with anyone or anything before. This Staffordshire Terrier (what most people call Pit Bulls) was athletic, smart, sweet, and one of the best Frisbee Dogs I've ever seen. To see this boy light up when he worked with his dog was one of the highlights of my career. This family was told the dog was a Black Lab/Boxer mix by the rescue group. They had to continue to say that on all of their paperwork for the dog so their homeowners' insurance did not go up. If they said they had a Staffordshire Terrier, even as awesome as this dog is, they would not be able to afford the insurance. This dog changed this boys life for the better, and this is a model citizen dog.

My Border Collie could not pass the Canine Good Citizen test due to dog-dog aggression. Both dogs mentioned above absolutely could pass that test on any given day.

Please reconsider your stance on BSL. Take each dog as an individual and not brush all dogs with a certain aesthetic with a broad stroke. By doing so, you put undue stigmas on the good dogs while taking the focus away from educating the public on how to approach dogs, how to live with dogs and encourage the public to muzzle dogs that need to be muzzled (like an aggressive Irish Setter).

If you'd like to meet with me in a classroom so you can meet some dogs that (I promise) are of sound mind and well socialized, of all breeds, including some from the Bully Breed category, email me: mmccue@gmail.com. If you still feel that they are bullies after educating yourself, after reading this and getting around these dogs in person (you can make it a press event, I'd welcome cameras if you like), then I'll get off of my soapbox quietly. I implore you to have an event with animal behavior specialists, and professionals in the community that deal with these dogs every day. Do what you can first to educate yourself before going forward with this legislation. I feel that you’ll find there are other avenues to take to protect the citizens of Boston that are more effective and efficient - but you have to talk to the professionals in the community. I’d be happy to lead this effort if you’d let me.

You're the mayor of a big city, and I'd feel better if you got around these dogs in a safe environment, learned about dog body language, and how to change the city of Boston for the better regarding dogs that are actually vicious, instead of legislating against an entire, unenforceable group. Keep in mind that Pit Bulls aren't a breed, but a look, so it will be really hard to enforce. Would you ban just the Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pitbull Terrier or would you also include the American Bulldog, Bull Mastiffs, Swiss Mountain Dogs - who have a similarly boxy head? To emphasize how hard this legislation would be to enforce, try to find the one Pit Bull in this lineup.

There are so many things that we can do to make our cities safer and more friendly to animals and humans alike. You can lead the nation on this, but please reconsider BSL, and meet with animal professionals. We have great ideas that can be enforced and can make our city safer, but you have to talk to us instead of legislating broadly.

Thank you for your time.
Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA