The Lake Elsinore City Council seems hellbent on rolling forth with the breed-discriminatory plan that was first passed in October by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors at the behest of Riverside County pound director Robert Miller. Interestingly enough, this peddled ordinance has nothing to do with anything that has actually happened in the city of Lake Elsinore.
It sadly passed its 1st reading on 3/11 by a vote of 4-1. The 2nd reading and vote is currently scheduled for 3/25. If you’d like to attend this meeting I’ve setup a Facebook event that you can join which has all of the pertinent details regarding how to get there. It is this upcoming Tuesday at 7 pm. Here is the agenda, the staff report and the ordinance itself.
Worth pointing out is that this Lake Elsinore effort is taking quite a different public face. Those involved are using tactical doublespeak and political maneuvering to appear less prejudice towards the dogs themselves.
Councilman Brian Tisdale seems to be the main Councilman desiring to see that this legislation is passed. From my eyes and ears he is taking a less rhetorical approach in demonizing the dogs. He makes statements like “I love the breed,” while using disingenuous justifications in order to promote this effort to target them. In essence, he’s a hell of a lot slicker than a Steve Madison from Pasadena or a John Tavaglione or Jeff Stone from Riverside County.
But then again, why do all of that stuff when you have “expert witnesses” attending who are doing so with the sole purpose of publicly shilling for the bill? Riverside County chief veterinarian Allan Drusys, known here for being the guy that compares breed identification to viewing pornorgraphy, and Animal Friends of the Valleys director Willa Bagwell, known here for being the local shelter manager who practices breed regulations in-house, were both in attendance and also both gave testimony as to why Pit Bulls needed to be targeted. Along with them was animal control supervisor Monique Middleton, who is also an employee of AFV.
On the backs of their statements, which each came after the public comments (all of which were opposed), this bill was essentially rubber-stamped with little hesitation by every member of the Council not named Steve Manos. You can watch those deliberations below…
I’d like to examine the statements of Tisdale, Drusys, Bagwell and Middleton, and explain why they just don’t seem to comprehend (at least publicly) why this bill is being opposed by many concerned citizens of both their community and other communities as well.
Above is Councilman Tisdale explaining his “comprehensive plan.” A plan in which he promises to stay vigilant at crafting and expounding upon. I use the word expound sarcastically, as there was no details shared regarding how he plans to go about the processes of spaying and neutering, licensing and microchipping the animals of the community. There was also no focus paid to legitimately reckless owners, or the “dog fighters” that he likes to reference when explaining this ordinance’s need. He says…
It’s unfortunate that the folks that are here, and I guarantee that everyone that spoke who has a Pit Bull, probably has a altered, licensed, vaccinated Pit Bull, or a Pit Bull-mix. Most Likely. Anyone not?
So? What exactly is your point? Not only does that statement attempt to vilify those who haven’t altered, licensed, or microchipped, but it also attempts to paint them as the problem in regards to why the community of Lake Elsinore apparently needs BSL. Let’s make something perfectly clear: The irresponsibility involved in failing (or choosing) to not do those mentioned things is not even remotely the same as the irresponsibility and recklessness involved when someone allows their dog to freely roam all over the place, or chains it 24-7 in its yard, or gives it no attention or socialization, or treats it like dirt, or exploits it by fighting it or using it as a yard deterrent or an alarm system. So let’s make that clear. Yet there’s no context given to these types of statements and it comes off as a pretty lazy way to legislate.
He says “if we don’t do this then people aren’t going to register their animals.” Um, all existing evidence shows the opposite of this to be true. When laws like this are put into place more people actually avoid registering their animals, as to avoid paying the fees aligned with the surgery, and further, any potential fees that become tacked on by them being in violation of said law for whatever period of time. This is not VOLUNTARILY going out to your community and EDUCATING them about the needs for these things, and then making it AFFORDABLE for them to do. No. This is the opposite, and mandating that all of these things be done under the guise that those who have not done them are bad and irresponsible people. Worse, this law attempts to criminalize their chosen dog, simply by the way that it looks, and then enters their dog into a database for another politician to possibly further target at a later date. I talked about this at length in a YouTube video that I made regarding what was happening in Pasadena.
So how does this help dogs or people for that matter?
Tisdale references a Pit Bull attack “in the county area,” one that the newly passed Riverside County breed-discriminatory law did not stop by the way, and jokes about not being able to spay and neuter the owner of the dog instead. Okay, but he literally takes no time to point out the circumstances behind this specific “attack.” Let me do it… It was a property with numerous roaming yard dogs, intact males and a female in heat, and little puppies on the property. What’s been reported is that there was a scuffle between 2 of the dogs, over a puppy, and that someone on the propery came out and picked up the puppy. He was then attacked by 1 of the dogs and a neighbor had to run his van through a chain-link fence in order to scare the attacking dog away. What an actual eyewitness said was that the person came out hollering about the dogs, kicked the dog, and then he was bitten by the dog that he kicked. Regardless, these are all yard dogs who are not being treated as family pets, and they are openly breeding them. None of this goes mentioned by Tisdale. Just that it was a Pit Bull attack.
He then talks about how many unaltered pets he sees while out running and tells a story about his fondness for visiting the shelter. He talks about seeing docile and sweet Pit Bulls, and states that he “loves the breed.” He goes on…
We have to start somewhere. And this is part of 1 plan. This is 1 piece of our plan that we are going to put together to tackle this issue. And again, this issue is not just a Pit Bull issue. $500,000 that can be used for roads and streets and sidewalks folks. We shelter animals. $500,000.
No mention of the state of California already having a dangerous dog law that is truly specific to individual dogs that have shown a propensity to be dangerous. They could use and enforce this. That goes ignored. No mention of the Lake Elsinore leash law that clearly goes unenforced. No mention of both the anti-dog fighting law and the anti-chaining law, either of which could be used and enforced in any number of different scenarios. And he wants to note how much money is being spent “sheltering” animals, while giving no attention to the fact that Willa Bagwell halts the majority of Pit Bull adoptions via her 7 in-house regulations that she’s put in the path of them potentially being adopted. He then says that “no one is taking them.” C’mon, man. Not to mention that their law is a carbon-copy of the Riverside County law, created by a man (Robert Miller) who houses the majority of their impounded Pit Bulls in buildings that are not made accessible to the public. Miller then, like Tisdale and Bagwell and Middleton and Drusys, says that “nobody wants them.” C’mon, man. What about the money that it’s going to take to enforce this type of a law? Or will it be enforced? Or how about the amount of money that you could potentially have to cough up if someone sues the city for violating their due process and property rights? This is apparently of no concern.
After the meeting I briefly spoke with Councilman Tisdale and he told me that I could hop in his truck and within 5 minutes of entering Lakeland Village he could “take me to a dogfight.” That we’d “just have to listen for it.” If he’s so knowledgeable about specific illegal activities such as this going on then why in the hell is he doing nothing about it? I also tried pointing out the problems with demonizing certain breeds or types of dog and he cut me off to say that “they’re already demonized!” That he “didn’t have a choice” because they are already demonized, “that’s what you guys aren’t getting.” He said that “people are scared.” I said that people are scared of a lot of things. That no offense, but some people are scared of black people (Tisdale is black). Some people are scared of white people. That still doesn’t make it right. His response? “Yeah, but this black person won’t bite you.” Clearly he didn’t get my point. But he doesn’t have a choice? See, now that’s where he’s wrong. You always have a choice, and he’s choosing to go down the discredited path of vilifying vague groups of individual dogs in order to basically offer up nothing more than a false sense of security.
Animal Friends of the Valleys director Willa Bagwell says “the Pit Bulls do cause damage.” So what is the implication there, that no other dog doesn’t? Or is it that every dog deemed by you to be a Pit Bull is more capable of causing damage, or more significant damage, than every dog deemed by you not to be a Pit Bull? Some extremely incoherent and all-encompassing language, as it’s unclear what she’s even saying and yet she’s apparently comfortable with talking on behalf of millions of individual dogs as if they are all the same in those ways. The only way in which dogs are all the same is that they are all the same species, meaning any dog being called a Pit Bull is scientifically categorized as being no different than any other breed of dog. They are all dogs. They all originated from the same place. And most dogs are mixed amongst different breeds and types. So if you are going to be so vague in your statements then you should not discriminate with your vagueness. On the contrary, if you are going to go any further than being as vague as humanly possible then you have to acknowledge that each dog is an individual, with its own temperament and experiences, and that they should be judged on their individual merits or not judged at all.
Bagwell tells the Council that she “provided some information, provided pictures” for them, in regards to justifying the damage claim, and based on my further communications with her (and others who have had interactions with her) I’m quite confident in saying that it was very likely numerous images of a senior woman’s arm who is alleged to have been attacked by 2 roaming Pit Bulls in 2011. I say “alleged” not to lessen the reality of the attack that clearly happened, but to point to the fact that none of us ever get to see the actual dogs in question. They were just called “family Pit Bulls” and then that became the evidence. What we do know is that these dogs were definitely out roaming freely. Willa does not know the background of these dogs, she knows what the owner told them after they had attacked a human being. I’m sorry, but how is using 1 set of images from 1 specific incident in any way indicative of what all Pit Bulls (or any type of dog) would do? That’s a crap move and it’s implying to the Council that her vague claim about damage is a factual claim that is somehow backed by evidence. Take dogs out of the equation and use, as an example, any other group of domesticated sentient beings… How in the world would singular evidence such as this be used to scapegoat everyone fitting an appearance-related parameter? This is fear, and fear tactics shouldn’t be used to set public policy. She continues…
In the last 2 months we’ve impounded 50 Pit Bulls, 2 were adopted, 3 were rescued, 8 were returned to the owner. 60 Chihuahuas in 2 months 24 were adopted, 9 were returned to their owner. Most of the shelter is Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls.
So by my math that means 37 Pit Bulls were killed totaling a 75% kill-rate for this period and that 27 Chihuahuas were killed totaling a 45% kill-rate. Can’t we then focus on increasing adoptions of these animals instead of using 7 different regulations to thwart the possibilities of Pit Bulls making it out alive? Being “very careful” in Willa’s words amounts to this in reality, which is not right. And can’t we stop pushing legislation that promotes the idea that Pit Bulls are somehow different from other dogs, further creating a gap between them and potential adopters?
During a phone conversation on 3/14 with Willa Bagwell she outright told me that this law would not be enforced and that the Council members already knew that. She should know, as her department is the department that’s set up to enforce it. Does no one see a problem with this?!? How are they voting on something that they already know they have no intention of enforcing?
Also worth note is something that I found while researching AFV… Here is the “potentially dangerous dog” list for 6 cities (including Lake Elsinore) from the years of 2010 through 2013. The existence of this list proves that they know the actual process of identifying individual dogs as “potentially dangerous” or “vicious” based on actual things that they may have done. This list details 30 dogs, 29 of which have been declared “potentially dangerous,” 1 who was declared “vicious.”
Here head animal control officer Monique Middleton says about the public commenters: “These are the responsible people, this will not affect them.” I beg to differ! I specifically drove all the way out there because every inch that someone takes towards breed-specific legislation and prejudice against a huge group of dogs absolutely affects my dogs. This then, by extension, affects me. My dogs are my family members, so any bullshit law meant to imply that my dogs are “different” or “dangerous” certainly does affect me and my dogs. It perpetuates stereotypes and scapegoats dogs, that most will never even take the opportunity to meet, for all of society’s ills. I resent Middleton’s flippant statement and way of coddling the audience away from this quite clear reality.
Middleton also echos Tisdale’s statements that “we have to start somewhere.” How about any other spot other than breed vilifying? This is a multifaceted problem (public safety in regards to dogs) which has many solutions. Many things that, if done, add up to a safer community. I repeatedly detail these things in my writings. I’m saying things that many folks have said before me. This entire effort is a pacification of their city’s genuine concerns, if there are legitimate safety concerns being voiced. Demonizing types of dogs is not going to make your community safer. Enforcing actual laws, meant to deal with reckless owners of whatever dog or dogs, do that. Not any of this. Monique Middleton knows this. Willa Bagwell knows this. Brian Tisdale knows this. She goes on to say that “we have to make people responsible for a breed.” How?? By mandating that this or that group be sterilized? How in the hell does that, in any way, deal with those human beings who have already been reckless with their dogs and who will be reckless again in the future? And why will they be reckless again? Because no one dealt with it or held them accountable when it happened in the past, that’s why.
Lastly, Riverside County veterinarian Allan Drusys telling the Council members that identifying Pit Bulls is like watching pornography, and that you “know it when you see it,” is quite literally one of the most asinine things that I’ve ever heard. There is no evidence to support this claim. None. The peer-reviewed evidence that exists on the topic says the exact opposite, and that most shelter workers can’t even properly identify their own impounded dogs.
A Victoria Voith study, which was in part done at the shelter that Allan Drusys works at, showed that 73% of the time animal control officers and shelter workers got it wrong when compared to actual DNA evidence. Allan Drusys knows both Dr. Voith and Dr. Irizarry, who were part of the extensive study, and this information is just discarded. Dr. Irizarry, a geneticist, was actually present at the Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting in October to give a public comment opposing their ordinance. He referenced the study. He explained the genome. Allan Drusys was present. They ignored him. Irizarry also referenced a 2010 study done by Dr. Elaine Ostrander which showed that “the morphological appearance of a dog is controlled by 50 genes, out of the 20,000 genes that make up a dog’s genome. And so when you say a dog looks like a Pit Bull you’re really saying it has 4 or 5 genes that affect its physical shape, its head-shape, its snout, and it has no basis whatsoever on its behavior.” They ignored him. Maddie’s Fund and Dr. Julie Levy did a similar study, and it showed the same types of results.
Going further, 3 different pieces of legal case law exist deeming definitions of “Pit Bull” as unconstitutionally vague… American Dog Owners vs. City of Lynn, MA (1989), American Dog Owners vs. City of Des Moines, IA (1991), and State of Ohio/City of Toledo vs. Smith (2010). The 2010 court case Cardelle vs. Miami-Dade County (2010) found that animal control officers were not qualified to visually identify Pit Bulls. It also found that there is no scientific basis for admitting such an opinion. The Animal Control Association doesn’t even offer a course in breed identification! Yet Monique Middleton, an animal control officer, would confidently suggest otherwise. Mr. Allan Drusys gleefully continues repeating his pornography metaphor. This utter crap is being accepted by the Lake Elsinore City Council as “expert testimony.” It is truly a shame.
There’s nothing comprehensive in Councilman Brian Tisdale’s comprehensive plan, and there’s nothing specific about breed-specific legislation. This is a sham being perpetrated against the Lake Elsinore community, dogs of all kinds, the genuine idea of actual public safety, and the state anti-BSL law. Please oppose this move, and the nasty philosophy behind it, with all of your might.
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