Standardize Military Pet Policies
As the military has transitioned to privatized housing, there is little to no consistency across the services or by duty station regarding housing pet policies, specifically numerical limits and breed. These policies need to be consistent to prevent service members from having to relinquish their animals when moving - animals they consider members of the family and that contribute positively to their morale and family life. With so much uncertainly in military life because of constant moves, deployments and potentially dangerous working conditions, pets are a stabilizing component for helping families in stressful times. Some service members are required to live in government housing and, as more troops operate in a joint environment, the policy should account for these realities.
The most effective solution is to develop a standardized, consistent military policy for all pet owners, regardless of breed. The military would instead focus on strong enforcement of general dangerous dog policies and a robust pet education program to ensure troop's safety and quality of life. This is a more effective and efficient solution to protecting military personnel. Additionally, we ask for a task force to study the effectiveness of military housing breed bans and whether these bans have made troops safer.
We propose the following recommendations to be taken into consideration when developing a consistent pet policy:
● Require all pets to be registered with the base veterinarian, be micrchipped, up to date on vaccinations and have rabies licensing
● Create a breed-neutral zero tolorance policy for any dangerous dog
● Adjust private contracts with housing partners for consistancy and breed neutrality
● Require owners to meet city/country pet standards
● Create a consistent number of pets allowed per household. Pet limitations might be based on house square footage, and differentiate between cat, dog, avian or aquarium limitations
● Remove weight limitations. Large breed dog owners should not be punished if their dog is a well-behaved family pet
● Observe and enforce leash and anti-tethering laws
● Promote proper pet socialization by including a leash-free dog park in the base neighborhoods
We are confident that if the military leads on this issue, others will follow.
While the military allows pets in government housing, the numerical limits vary, causing confusion among families and the potential for family separation. The Marine Corps and Navy allow two, but the Army and Air Force leave it up to the individual installation.In an article dated April 23, 2012 in Military Times Ivan Bolden, chief of Army privatization, supports a DOD-wide policy. He said, "We want families to have a consistent housing experience across the board." Currently, this goal has not been met.
The methods to identify a breed are suspect, further complicating breed bans. DNA testing is not accurate. In many cases, residents sign an agreement with housing simply stating they don't possess the banned breed. The Army and Air Force bans Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Chows and Wolf hybrids. The Marine Corps bans Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Wolf hybrids. Navy policies vary by installation. And some commercial housing offices have additional breed restrictions beyond this listing, causing more confusion. Purebred registrations have no scientific method to verify breed information. Shelters adopting animals to troops are left to guess the lineage of a mixed-breed animal, a subjective opinion at best.
The U.S. Army's veterinarian community determined breed bans are written in the absence of professional veterinarian or animal behavior advice. In a memorandum distributed Army-wide on February 3, 2012, Col. Bob Walters, director of the Army's Veterinarian Service Activity, stated there is no scientific method to determine a breed and that breed bans are unlikely to protect installation residents. The letter recommends generic, non-breed, specific dangerous dog regulations with emphasis on identification of dangerous and chronically irresponsible owners. Our community must have measurable, objective criteria for determining dangerous dogs that are based on the dog's behavior and actions.
No evidence exists that breed-specific policies make communities safer for people or companion animals. Prince George's County, MD, spends more than $250,000 annually to enforce its ban on Pit Bulls. In 2003, a study conducted by the county on the ban's effectiveness noted that "public safety is not improved as a result of [the ban]," and that "there is no transgression committed by owner or animal that is not covered by another, non-breed specific portion of the Animal Control Code (i.e., vicious animal, nuisance animal, leash laws)."
A CDC study determined that factors beyond an animal's breed might impact a dog's tendency towards aggression, including chaining/tethering, lack of neutering or abuse. The study found that unneutered males were involved in more than 70 percent of dog bite cases and these animals chained or tethered were more than twice as likely to bite as an unrestrained animal. The vast majority of dog bites were from animals maintained for guarding; protection or victims of abuse or irresponsible pet owners.
Effective solutions have remarkable results. Calgary, Alberta enacted a breed-neutral Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw in 2006. The program required license and permanent identification for pets and education on spay/ neuter, training socialization, proper diet and medical care. By educating its citizens and applying enforcement when needed, Calgary achieved a combined record of compassion for animals and safety for human citizens without equal anywhere in the world. In 2009, 86 percent of the dogs handled by Animal Services were returned to their owners, with fewer than five percent euthanized. (National Canine Research Council)
The underlying issue behind breed bans is irresponsible dog ownership, aggressive training and abuse. Instead, these destructive bans punish responsible dog owners who have well-trained dogs of the banned breed. They further punish banned-breed dogs, which have become popular for use in dog fighting and other criminal behavior largely because there is the perception that the public does not care about the fate of these animals.
Low-cost solutions include a policy letter standardizing pet numerical limits. Commands could provide spay/neuter education, access to pet resources at family service centers and pet information at PCS/deployment/indoctrination briefings.
Please sign this petition and help us get a standardized pet policy to keep our families together. If we're permitted to own pets while serving our country, we must have consistent guidelines to ensure their lifetime care.
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