Caldwell Commits to Continuing BSL Debate | New

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Kathy Caldwell was frustrated and certainly saddened, even though she knew the outcome was beyond doubt.

However, the night of June 21 also became an inflection point, which she will not yield easily.

When Ottumwa Town Council voted to keep breed-specific legislation regarding the pit bull terrier in place, it marked the end of an eight-month effort – at least for now – by Caldwell. and other local activists to lift the city’s legislation. animal ordinance.

“I don’t intend to turn around quietly because this is a serious issue,” said Caldwell, who founded We CARE (Community for Animal Responsibility and Education), a group that aims to build partnerships and develop programs to improve animal welfare. “We knew this decision was coming, but it still hasn’t taken the pain away.”

And now? After taking some time for the city’s decision to sink in, Caldwell sat down with the Courier on Wednesday to discuss pit bulls, how she and other activists got here and how they plan to move forward. now only a long term goal to remove BSL below.

(This interview has been lightly edited for space).

Courier: Why do people need pit bulls? What’s in the dog that attracts people?

CC : “I think people are drawn to the pit bull on a very personal, almost spiritual level. Pit bulls have had a bad reputation for decades, and there are so many people in our society who feel on the periphery They feel like they’re not considered good enough…and they can emotionally identify with these pit bulls, who are being euthanized on a daily basis, just because they don’t have the right name. breed.

“These dogs were told for decades that they weren’t allowed to exist, and you have people who weren’t supposed to, they were supposed to stay back. I think that’s represented by the pit bull.”

Courier: With a ban in place for 20 years, why do you think last November was the time to bring the BSL language before the city?

CC : “I believe it was the moment, and it worked for the people working there. You know, it took a while to get other people involved, and then it took a while to get the signatures on the petition, and meanwhile they’re still doing their full-time jobs, so it took them a lot of time.

“And it probably seemed like it came out of nowhere, but we’ve been dealing with the ban for 20 years, and sometimes it takes time for people to get so fed up with it that they’re ready to come out and get on with it. raise against.”

Mail: What was the experience at the May 24 town hall meeting (other group members were also present) when staff and town council reviewed its wording in the Animals Ordinance?

CC : “No questions from the public were asked to anyone who was there. Councilor (Cara) Galloway repeatedly tried to come up with alternatives to the animal ordinance and called for a vote on lifting the BSL. And it was clear to me that there was no doubt, they weren’t going to raise the BSL It just seems like it’s going round and round I just don’t understand how the city council balances these ideas in its head to justify leaving the BSL when they contradict each other when they speak.

“When I walked out of that meeting, Preston Moore (Iowa Humane Society), Melissa Childs (professional dog trainer) and the volunteers who were with me knew the ban was not going to be lifted. almost sure it was not going to be raised when we entered it, even though we offered to present alternatives.

“Melissa passed out a flyer to the board about what a behavioral assessment would be, how they know it’s certified and not just a personal opinion. It was information the board wanted, which I found really ironic. Since they were going on a personal opinion when determining whether these dogs are dangerous or not, Preston gave them several sources of information regarding animal ordinances that work in many places that don’t have BSL.

“But we couldn’t participate. In my opinion, it was very one-sided.”

Mail: Would the group have supported moving the pit bull to the “high risk” category, which would have removed the BSL in exchange for strict ownership guidelines (spay/neuter, microchip, insurance)?

CC : “We would have been okay with that. All those conditions that might have been in place are conditions that we believe should be applied to all animals, and that is part of the fundamental work that we are trying to do with We CARE. We were figuring out the options we were willing to work on and we would have been able to agree on “the flex” like giving someone a year to decide if they’re going to give up their dog or if the owner is able to come up with proof that they did all of these things.

“And again, you know, we didn’t get a chance to say anything about our proposals or what we were trying to do. There was no feedback. We would have done everything we could to make sure people could have kept their pets.”

Mail: Can you reflect on the reaction at the June 21 meeting (when council voted 4 to 1 to approve the first reading of the revised ordinance)?

CC : “I sat there during the council meeting and was bombarded with messages about two pit bulls facing euthanasia within 24 hours. They were under animal control, but no one knew it was happening. I just try to keep a clear head and stay professional, and don’t take these things for yourself.

“It’s going to take more work, but there are better solutions. I’m not the only one who feels like their dog means everything to them. I understand where the advice is coming from because there are laws, and they’re here for a I have no problem working with the police, but I feel like community services officer Jeff Williams is being put in a terrible position and the city council is setting up an animal control to have a target on them.

“Everyone is trying to do their job, but I’m just trying to do mine too.”

Courier: So what are the next steps you can take? The state legislature has discussed lifting statewide BSL, but it hasn’t really moved forward.

CC : “We have to turn the screws a lot (with the legislature), and that is actually part of our next goal. I started a petition for the governor with the counties of Wapello, Davis, Keokuk, Jefferson and Mahaska, saying that we want our local governments to be banned from having BSL in their animal ordinances.There are several people who work with our state level officials who believe this is going to be passed within two years. the way the city council is looking at it, you know, my next step, obviously, is to go above and beyond them, so we’ll continue to do events and fundraise and partner with shelters and shelters. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.

“Some people shouldn’t even have pets, but I will never justify someone’s bad behavior or irresponsible ownership just because they have a pit bull. But if the board really thinks those pit bulls are a problem because they haven’t been socialized, so we have to do it, we can’t wait for the state to do its job for them.

Courier: So if a BSL was removed from prescription in the future, what would that look like in the community?

CC : “It requires sitting down and listening, and being ready to say, ‘These are our goals. I have no idea how many, but suppose we have 200 pit bulls in Ottumwa. Each month, we want to see 10 of these dogs undergo their evaluation. And you know, within 60 days they get their certification that they’ve been trained. We have a certified trainer who has already agreed to work with us, and we have a location outside of the city limits for these dogs to legally participate in training. It’s definitely something that can be done, but it will take work. And in the end, these people will have better-trained dogs with better behaviors than most people who are deemed socially acceptable right now.

“There is currently an incentive to hide their pit bull, because they keep their pit bull. There would also be an incentive to come forward and participate in these programs, because they can keep their pit bull. The incentive is there to make it happen for them.

Mail: Is there anything looking back on the past eight months that you wish you had done differently?

CC : “So I got involved at the end of April, and I wasn’t involved in anything that was going on before. When I got involved, it was just as someone expressing their opinion about it. Because of all this happened (threats to council members), I was told he was handed over to me.

“I did a lot of soul-searching in those first two days. It’s about the culture of animal welfare. I proposed to the group that I wanted to create We CARE, and that I wanted us to work not just for pit bulls, but for all animals. And I continue to urge everyone to stay professional, that the way you speak and act in public, whether it’s directly related to pit bulls or not, has a big effect on how people perceive this situation.

“And we weren’t doing these dogs justice by getting angry or insinuating that we were going to do something. So in hindsight, I wish I had been involved early on.”

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