Category Archives: SMPP and BSL

Posts regarding our efforts in Standardizing Military Pet Policies and BSL.

Leshay and Jack’s Story

Leshay was a very young sailor with a young pitbull named Jack whom he adopted from the local animal shelter. When he got orders to move to a city which banned bully breeds, he thought that the shelter could help watch Jack until he found acceptable arrangements for Jack. Unfortunately, the shelter could only hold Jack for a couple of days, after which, he would be euthanized. The shelter and Leshay called Dogs on Deployment to try to find a place for Jack to go during Leshay’s move. After posting a plea on Dogs on Deployment’s Facebook page, a volunteer agreed to help Leshay pull Jack from the shelter so his life would not be in danger, and keep Jack until Leshay could make arrangements.

Jack with his original DoD Boarder, who gave her best effort to help him, but couldn't because of his breed.
Jack with his original DoD Boarder, who gave her best effort to help him, but couldn’t because of his breed.

This became a shortened arrangement after the landlord of the volunteer found out Jack’s breed was a pitbull terrier. They gave them immediate notice to remove Jack, or their lease would be terminated. Without the ability to object, Leshay took the bus to pick up Jack from the boarder. At a loss, he called Dogs on Deployment for advice what to do next. He had no car, no stable living arrangements and no place to take Jack.

We decided to immediately contact our friends at Like Home Boarding, an affordable boarding facility which specializes in long term military pet care. Dogs on Deployment again turned to our social pages to find a volunteer who picked Leshay and Jack up, drove them 2 hours to Like Home Boarding, then brought Leshay to his temporary resident after a good-bye with Jack. Dogs on Deployment covered the first month of boarding, thanks to our donors. Jack is waiting the day he can be reunited with Leshay and has been enjoying the company of other military and rescued pets.

Saying Goodbye to Spencer

Spencer in BlanketBy Jessica Williams

In October of 2008, we were a newlywed couple that was also new to Army life. We had just moved into on-post housing and decided that we wanted to adopt a puppy. A brief search led us to a Red Nose Pit Bull puppy.  We named him Spencer.  I had worked at animal hospitals in the past and had loved the Pit Bulls that came in. There were never issues with them like there were with other breeds and most of them were big babies. Spencer definitely fit that mold.

Spencer was full of personality from the first day he became a part of our family. He was afraid of everything initially, especially the stairs and small dogs! We took him to the dog park and on play dates with our friend’s dogs. He loved our backyard in post housing, and aside from barking at the occasional bird or artillery, he was a quiet and well behaved dog. We never received complaints about him.

As many know, in January of 2009, the Department of Defense passed the breed ban. We hadn’t known that was something that was even a possibility, so we were frustrated that Spencer would face limitations in our future moves.  He was undeniably a full blood, Red Nose Pit Bull. Fortunately, he had been grandfathered in at our current post, and we hoped that between the times that we moved again something would be done to change the policy.Spencer and Jessica

Several months later, my husband left for his first deployment. I was pregnant and 2,400 miles from both of our families. Fortunately, I had built a support system of great friends by that point and the quiet of our house was less painful because I had Spencer. Spencer kept me busy. We went on walks, and he claimed a large spot on the couch where he preferred to sleep and snuggle with a blanket. He was a loyal and faithful dog, never leaving my side when I was at home and he kept me entertained with his funny antics like hiding laundry and snatching my food from the counter.

My friends visited my house often and always complimented how sweet he was. His biggest vice was that he felt everyone who came through our front door was there to see him and only him, and he insisted on giving them lots of love for that. He was excellent with our friends’ children, and I had no fears about his behavior whenever our baby was born.

When our newborn son arrived, Spencer was in love. He awoke every time the baby monitor sounded and stood patiently next to the nursery door. He would sniff the crib, and typically fall asleep on the floor of the nursery while I cared for and rocked the baby.  He became a gentle giant when our little one was learning to crawl and a patient friend to our son. A year after my husband had left for his deployment, Spencer happily jumped into his arms upon his return home. He wasn’t wary of the man he hadn’t seen in so long, he was so overjoyed that he let my husband hold him like a baby.Kissing PitBull

A year and a half later we welcomed our second son, who Spencer also adored. He was patient and careful with our sons. However, the prejudice against Pit Bulls quickly caught up with us.  When the time came for our family to move, we began to search for housing options.

It is nearly impossible to find a rental home or apartment in the community that will welcome a Pit Bull. Unfortunately, now post housing won’t allow them either. Short of purchasing our own home everywhere we go to (which is obviously impossible), we cannot find housing to accommodate every member of our family that included Spencer. Our choice was made for us: we needed to find Spencer another family without these limitations. It broke our hearts.

Often military families get a bad reputation for not providing forever homes to the pets they adopt. We never intended to do that. We had gotten Spencer as a puppy with every intention of having him for the rest of his life. He had a special place in our family for many years. After careful screening, we eventually did find a family that we felt was the best match. Spencer now lives with a retired Navy sailor, his wife, and their two year old son.  They are kind enough to send us photos and updates and have a living situation that won’t prevent them from keeping Spencer as a part of their family.

The last time we saw Spencer, he was confused as we were saying our goodbyes. He had been an amazing dog. He never did anything wrong and was exceptional with our children. He never growled at a stranger, scared anyone, and certainly had never been vicious as so many feel that his breed is. He was a great dog with a family that loved him so much. He just happened to be a Pit Bull.

Group photo with SpencerWe have been sad, heartbroken, and hurt that he couldn’t continue on our journey with us. There has to be change, because we aren’t the only family that has had to say goodbye to a pet because of an outdated, unscientific thought that the breed makes the dog. It doesn’t.   Although our story doesn’t have the ending that we wanted, I hope it draws attention to the fact that families are being impacted by this policy. Spencer will always have a place in our hearts and in our family, even if he can’t be a part of it anymore.  The military life brings enough challenges, hardships, and heartache without having to rehome a family pet.

Sign and share the petition to standardize pet policies and learn more about the cause here.

Jessica is an Army spouse and a blogger. Visit her blog here at Southern ReTreasures

A Shout that Needs to Be Heard

When I started Dogs on Deployment, I had one intention in mind; help those on deployment find temporary homes for their pets. It didn’t occur to me that there were so many problems that existed in the military-pet community, with no real resources to help. So here we are, trying to make change happen.

Recently, more and more owners of the infamous pit-bull have been registering for our site. Approximately 20% of our Pets in Need registered on Dogs on Deployment have been pit-bulls or another “aggressive” dog breed or some mix of. But unfortunately, our success rate for placing these dogs is not as high as other “non-aggressive” breed dogs. I can exactly pin point why when reading emails back and forth between Pet Owners and DoD Boarders.People fear these dogs. Their housing complexes don’t allow them. They don’t want to be responsible if the dog becomes aggressive.There is absolutely nothing wrong with someone not feeling comfortable boarding a certain type of dog. I personally would not feel comfortable boarding anything over 30 lbs; I have two dogs that pull as it is, give them 30 lbs more of pulling power and I would be keeled over in a heart beat. That is not the issue at hand. The issue is the organized discrimination against the breed. The issue is the bans, the lack of education and responsible pet-ownership, the lack of effective means of determining a dog’s temperament rather than relying on the breed alone.Good dogs and responsible pet-owners are being punished for the unfortunate actions of the few, scum of the planet folks that choose to abuse these dogs and participate in heinous crimes. The worst, is when its someone that has faced the terrors attacking this country, when they come home, their war has only begun; now they are fighting for the right to keep their pet because its breed is considered dangerous by some influential circles.

Two dogs that needed foster care through Dogs on Deployment, but were difficult to place because of their breed.

When I think back on pets that have gone through our site and have really affected me, they are all pitbulls. The first were Aries and Artemis; two pitbulls that were abandoned by their caregiver in the dead of winter outside with no food, water or shelter while their owner was deployed. My first thought when I heard this story was, “Two pitbulls? Who will take two pitbulls?” It broke my heart at the prospect we might not be able to help them because of their breed. Miraculously, our networking efforts paid off, and they both went to a safe home until their owner returned.

Jon and Diego, happily reunited after a deployment

Next came Diego. Diego and his owner I may never forget. After getting a desperate call from Diego’s caregiver that she could no longer keep him in his owner’s absence, we put out a plea, and a group of pitbull loving activists went to work transporting Diego from Southern California to Northern California, and organizing a heartfelt reunion for Diego’s owner, supplemented by a BBQ and even media coverage. The relief was immense.

A dog that could not accompany his family to his next duty station because of his breed.

Most recently is Pele and Kekoa. A supporter posted a news story on our Facebook page of a military member who received orders to Hawaii, but owns two pitbull mixes. Each are over 9 years old and have always been family pets. But with the breed bans sweeping base housing like wildfire, their family dogs were not allowed to live on base due to breed restrictions. While the family could theoretically live off-base, their housing allowance is not enough to put them in a family home in a safe neighborhood with a good school district for their children. They were placed in the situation that no one should have to face; choose between rehoming your dogs, or living in a safe area for your children. They ended up having to rehome their dogs permanently.

We know as an organization specifically helping military families, we are not going to be able to end breed discrimination nationwide, but perhaps we can start within our internal community; the military. After all, the civilian populace looks to the military for social guidance. If the military ends breed bans, who knows who will follow. Hopefully everyone.

So we’ve started a petition with our partner Hawaii Military Pets – an active group in the military-pet community. Our goal is to standardized military pet policies. We don’t want to just attack the ineffectiveness of breed bans, but also the lack of consistency on pet policies service and installation wide. A pet owner might be fine to have their three dogs on one base, but upon moving to a new base, they find out they are only allowed to have two. How are they supposed to prepare for this?

Since base housing has been privatized, each base housing group is able to establish their own policy, and unfortunately each one is difference. So we’ve started a petition to Congress to ask for standardized policies, and hopefully an end to breed specific legislation which attacks not only pitbulls, but rottweilers, chows, shiba inus and on some bases, German Shepherds, boxers, etc. Even if they keep breed bans, allow an option for exclusion through a Canine Good Citizen certification.

Here’s some keen thoughts for policy change:

  • If numerical limits from base to base are to be imposed, make them consistent.
  • Weight limits due not dictate any problematic behavior of a dog. A Great Dane is the world’s largest couch potato while a small terrier can be a flower bed’s worst nightmare.
  • Exchanging breed bans for an effective dangerous dog policy, targeting instead dogs that have has a record of bad behavior through dangerous dog registries, and if deemed effective and time worthy, temperament testing for “aggressive dog breeds.”
  • If breed bans are to remain imposed, make the list of breeds consistent from base to base. Allow an exception through a dog who has earned their Canine Good Citizenship despite any breed and a grandfather clause for dogs that have previously lived or are living in base housing.
  • Requirements for current vaccinations, microchipping, and possiblealteration.
  • Policy wide anti-tethering laws.
  • Pet educational courses and resources for on-base families.

The above mentioned are my personal thoughts for what key leaders can consider when they write new regulations. None of us have the power to write the new policy, as that will ultimately be up to the higher ups. But we can vocalize our ideas in hopes that when we contact Congress and key leaders with this petition, that we can submit our recommendations in hopes of adoption.

And what will all this accomplish? IMPROVED MORALE! Security in your pet ownership rights. Knowledge that no matter where you go, the rules will be the same. That way, when you add a new pet to your family, you know exactly what you are getting into, and potentially risking.

We’ve started a Facebook page to help promote this cause and hope you’ll join the fight against inconsistent policies. We’re happy to note that other national organizations have taken notice of the problems of base housing, including Stubby Dog, a non-profit focused on changing public perceptions of pit bulls. They’ve asked for pitbull owner’s personal stories from people in the military (past and present) who have (or have had) pit bull type dogs. We’ll be doing the writing and need YOUR stories! Email me below.

We want consistency! We hope you pledge to help. Sign the petition here and please share with anyone who would like to support us.