Canine profiling will kill dogs

Jackie Marshall is a freelance writer and amateur dog trainer from Sacramento

Last month, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 861 into law, empowering any city or county to decide which dog breeds and mixes are dangerous or vicious, even though the California Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States say that is an impossible judgment to make, as no breed is inherently vicious.

California already had much-lauded—now superseded—“dangerous or vicious dog” ordinances, according to which a dog was labeled vicious only if it behaved viciously. But beginning next January, a dog is considered vicious simply for being a targeted breed (depending upon which city or county it lives in).

This is not a pit-bull law. The words “pit bull” are not in the bill. Hence, on January 5, my two pedigreed German shepherds will become the third-most dangerous and vicious dogs in the state, even though they have never hurt anyone. This is analogous, if in a lesser way, to saying we can’t have any more men in California because Scott Peterson was convicted of killing his wife.

The law looks reasonable; it seems merely to mandate the spaying or neutering of whatever dog breed is dangerous or vicious this year (without exception, incidentally). But it is in fact a well-disguised ban on whatever breed insurance companies (who funded bill writer Jackie Speier’s election) don’t like this year.

Landlords can’t rent to people with dog breeds that insurance companies deem vicious. California’s insurance commissioner has already made a public statement to that effect. Therefore, I might well wake up in January to find that I can either keep my show dogs or have homeowners insurance, but not both.

What do I do then? I am a responsible citizen and have spent incalculable hours training, grooming, socializing and loving my girls, and I have insurance with one of the two companies who will insure me with German shepherds. If I lose that, how can I adopt out my dogs in a state that won’t allow them? Can’t take them to the pound to be put down? Move to Oregon, Illinois or Oklahoma, with their brand-new, sensible dog laws? Lie to my insurance agent?

Now imagine the dead-dog bins behind any city pound around next January 15.