Tails are wagging in Washington this week.
Not only did the Obama family introduce Sunny the puppy to her adoring country, but the White House also came out against breed-specific legislation -- regulations and laws that restrict ownership of dogs by breed, pit bulls being the most common target.
Groups like the American Bar Association have said for years that these sorts of restrictions do harm -- to families, to dogs, to due process and to the economy -- without actually improving public safety.
Based on a statement that the White House put out about a week ago, it would seem that Obama agrees. "Breed-Specific Legislation Is a Bad Idea" begins the White House's official response to an online petition, signed by more than 30,000 people, asking for laws that target dogs by breed to be outlawed at a federal level.
Obama's statement doesn't speak to federal legislative efforts. But, the White House does adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's community-based ideas for better methods of improving public safety:
We don't support breed-specific legislation -- research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources...As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think that's a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners.
Lisa LaFontaine, who is president of the Washington Humane Society (which received a donation from the Obamas in honor of Sunny the puppy) and a longtime opponent of breed-specific legislation, told The Huffington Post she thinks this statement will provide a big boost.
"The White House is such a bully pulpit for important issues," she says, with her daughter's pit bull, Lila, napping nearby. "And certainly for them to come down against this type of discrimination I think will give pause to any communities that are thinking about putting something like this in place, and certainly will fuel the work that's already being done by advocates to overturn legislation that already exists...It's a really happy day."
Indeed, some advocates -- like those challenging a ban on pit bulls in Prince George’s County, Md., about 20 miles from the White House -- are celebrating.
Others are not quite as ready to give the president a belly rub.
"I think it's the least he could do," says Rebecca Corry, an actress and comedian who's organizing the upcoming Million Pibble March on Washington, which is aimed at spreading public awareness about pit bulls, as well as protesting breed-specific legislation and encouraging federal money be spent on enforcement of animal abuse laws. "It should have been done a long time ago."
Another complaint: widespread pit bull bans in U.S. military housing and other installations (read more about this in a White House petition that went up just after the White House issued its response to the first petition).
"I really, really hope that the military takes note that the Commander in Chief has made this statement about there being no place for breed-specific legislation," says LaFontaine, who says that "there is nothing more difficult" than seeing families surrender well-loved pets due to wholesale bans on certain types of dogs.
"Discrimination enshrined in law is not OK," says Corry, whose own dog, Angel, was abused before taking up station in -- for real -- a pit bull kissing booth. "And that's exactly what breed-specific legislation is."
Here's the White House's full statement:
We don't support breed-specific legislation -- research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.
In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at twenty years of data about dog bites and human fatalities in the United States. They found that fatal attacks represent a very small proportion of dog bite injuries to people and that it's virtually impossible to calculate bite rates for specific breeds.
The CDC also noted that the types of people who look to exploit dogs aren't deterred by breed regulations -- when their communities establish a ban, these people just seek out new, unregulated breeds. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they're intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive.
For all those reasons, the CDC officially recommends against breed-specific legislation -- which they call inappropriate. You can read more from them here.
As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think that's a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners.
Let's end on a cute note (or three).
Here's a picture of LaFontaine and Lila:
Here's Corry's dog Angel, getting political during a recent visit to D.C.:
And this, of course, is Sunny:
Welcome to the family, Sunny. pic.twitter.com/j0slNwCHaw— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 20, 2013
Also on HuffPost:
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Black Cat Bomb
"You'd rather take a picture of a straw than take one of me?
Shocked Cat Bomb
Who's bombing who?
"What are you reading?"
Watch out, baby!
At least someone is trying to stop these from happening.
Nothing like a perfectly timed tail.
Jumping Dog Bomb
The beer is poison!
"Why are you taking pictures of butts?"
Nature Documentary Bomb
It's cool, he's the new boom mic operator.
"My turn next!"
Smiling Cat Bomb
Just really happy to be here.
"Oh sorry, wrong room."
Red Fish Bomb
At least that last guy is in the picture.
Old School Bomb
This cat's great-grandchildren are probably in this slideshow as well.
"Turn left on Sunset."
Watching The Baby Bomb
"I want to sit on the chair."
Stealth Cat Bomb
Sneak attack is underway.
Censoring Dog Bomb
Stopping inappropriate Facebook photo uploads since 2008.
How is he even doing that with his neck?
Computer Cat Bomb
What are you doing here?
Another Sneaky Cat Bomb
Also: <a href="http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/soon" target="_hplink">"Soon"</a>
Talk about a third wheel.
Sneak Attack Bomb
The other cat REALLY doesn't like glamour shots.
Shopping Cat Bomb
"Um, I think someone forgot my Fancy Feast."
"Do I smell fish?"
Let Me Out Bomb
"Um, a little help?"
Curious Giraffe Bomb
What is this contraption.
We're assuming that this guy was attempting to take an underwater selfie.
Disapproving Cat Bomb
He does not approve.
Night Vision Cat Bomb
His night vision is perfect for interrupting hipster photo shoots.
Meerkat Attack Bomb
He stood on that pinecone to get in this photo: commitment.
"Sorry, did I ruin your postcard?"
Family Photo Bomb
Still part of the family.
Maybe planned, still terrific.
Another Jumping Dog Bomb
"My husband and I were taking our border collie, Jack, out for his daily beach run and play. (This) is the photo of him being photobombed. I didn't see the dog until I saw it on the screen after the photo was taken."- Submitted By Laura Hancock
Waterbuck Calf Bomb
"I was trying to take a picture of this cute Waterbuck calf, when it's mom stepped in to see what I was doing to her baby...LOL." Submitted by: Karen Stephens
Curious Dog Bomb
"What, what is this?"
Sneak Attack Dog Bomb
"I was taking a picture of my cat Simon one day when Teddy got a bit jealous (like he always does). Hope you enjoy!" Submitted by: Hali Jakeman
Green Bird Bomb
Submitted by: Karen Lyons Kalmenson
Scary Cat Bomb
In our experience cats really do hate driving.
Jumping Dog Bomb
This dog is huge!
Cat From Above Bomb
Where was this cat standing?
Corner Dog Bomb
Submitted By: Kylee Callahan
"Here is Badger, completely unaware of his archenemy Groucho doing the bombing..." -Submitted By: Kimberly Rai Cook
Smooth Dog Photobomb
Submitted By: Heather Smith Robitzek
NSFW Llama Bomb
Submitted By: Christopher Guignon
Hey! Me too, right?
Submitted By: Alan Kelly
"Photobomb of my dachshund with my then 3-month-old daughter." -Submitted By: Melanie Walsh
Submitted By: Jean Seraichyk