Guest Post: Jenny Chun-Ossowski from Give Paw Dog Training

7 Feb

Jenny & Lucy

We’re so thrilled to be featuring a few of our favorite dog trainers on the blogthis week while Josh recovers from his vacation. First up is Jenny Chun-Ossowski from Give Paw Dog Training. Jenny also has a pittie named Lucy, ironically enough. Jenny is a huge advocate for our favorite breed, and a firm believer in positive reinforcement training. She’s full of great advice, knowledge, and so generously agreed to be one of our featured trainers this week. Here’s what she’s got to say on a topic we all wish we didn’t have to ever hear about…

If you’re a lover of bully breeds, you’re probably quite familiar with BSL (Breed Specific Legislation). For every generation, there’s a dog breed that society has chosen to unjustly demonize and pit bulls and their people have become the biggest victims of BSL in the past several decades. In many parts of this country, and even outside of this country, pit bulls and dogs that simply look like pit bulls are banned based on the myth that they’re inherently vicious and make for “dangerous weapons.” Even in areas where they aren’t banned, discrimination does occur. For instance, try purchasing homeowners insurance as a pit bull owner and see how easy that process goes.

In New York City, where pit bulls are prevalent as family dogs (and a lot of them make damn good ones too!), I sometimes forget what it feels like for my dog, Lucy, and I to be discriminated against. I’ve had rare experiences where people have moved to the opposite side of the street to avoid my 40-pound pit bull. I’ve also seen people pull back from petting her wiggling butt when they ask, “What kind of dog is she?,” and I tell them. But for the most part strangers are still smitten with her when they find out she’s a pit.

Then this past fall rolled around and my husband announced he wanted to go south for the winter and get out of New York City for a bit. As much as we can, we try to travel with Lucy and so I started seeking out pet friendly vacation options. Craving some time in the sun, we settled on the Florida Keys. It’s as far south on the east coast as you can go without leaving the country. There was only one dilemma. We’d have to drive Lucy through Miami-Dade County to get to the Keys and Miami-Dade is the only part of Florida where BSL exists and has existed since 1989. For the first time in my life, I had horrible images of getting pulled over and having my poor dog confiscated while I kicked and screamed.

I set out to find out how risky it was to drive with Lucy to the Florida Keys and this blog post is about the research I did to try to ensure a safe trip for my entire family. To this moment, I question the accuracy of the information I received from the multiple sources I reached out to, but here’s what I did and what I found out:

  • I called Miami-Dade’s Animal Services TWICE. The first time I called I spoke with a gentleman who kindly put me on hold to check the policy and then told me that the BSL only pertains to residents of the county, and I was clearly from out of state. He said just to make sure that my dog had her tags. If I got pulled over and an officer discovered her, he’d likely tell us to “be careful with her.” The second time I called, I got a woman who did not bother to check and told me that it’s best not to stop in the county. I asked her about rest stops and she said, “Make it brief because someone might call the cops on you.” Her advice was to play dumb if I got pulled over and pretend that I had no idea BSL existed in the area. (Now do you see why I question the accuracy of the information I received?)
  • I called several shelters in Monroe County, which the Keys are a part of, to make sure that they were okay with pit bulls in the area. Monroe is next to Miami-Dade and I didn’t know how far the BSL extended. All the shelters told me that they adopted out pit bulls and they also said that the BSL in Miami-Dade was meant for residents only.
  • I checked in with my old colleagues and friends at the ASPCA who gave the wise and simple advice of staying the heck out of Miami-Dade, but I still didn’t know if it was an offense to pass through with a pit bull. Concerned owners on the internet talked about a possible fine if you were caught driving through with a pit bull.
  • I spoke to friends based in Florida and was informed by some of them that even bringing a pit bull into other parts of Florida might invite discrimination from local residents. I was advised to lie about her breed and not have her present if I had to meet the landlord of our rental to get keys. My husband and I did not want to be dishonest, not only because there is no shame in owning a pit bull, but also because we didn’t want to tiptoe around during our entire vacation pretending our pit bull was a Jack Russell Terrier mix. I cleared Lucy with our landlord who had no issues with our dog’s breed. She said Lucy was very much welcome.
  • I learned that you could claim your pit bull as a service dog even if she isn’t and because the Americans With Disabilities Act limits the types of questions that can be asked of a supposedly disabled person needing the aid of a service dog, one could potentially get away with it. Whether this strategy is ethical is a different discussion. I gather if I were really in a bind and I thought Lucy’s life was in danger that I might very-well tell a white lie to save her life. Otherwise, I’d refrain from taking this route.

Armed with this research, we made a decision that we were going to take this trip and that we would not stop under any circumstances (that we could help) anywhere in Miami-Dade. I was, however, still nervous, especially when at one point we sat at a red light for what seemed like forever next to a cop car. Lucy was safely crated the entire trip, so there was never danger of her popping her head out of a window.

For the two weeks while staying in Key Largo, I was armed with a map, always making sure that Lucy never entered Miami-Dade by accident. I’m happy to report we had a lovely trip with no incidence whatsoever. Our neighbors at the rental never wondered what she was and when we walked her around Key West we even met a pit bull fan.

Though we had a nice vacation and didn’t encounter any issues, I do suggest that anyone looking to visit the Keys (or has to drive through Miami-Dade with their pit bull) to please do their research. I would advise at the very least to:

  • Not stop in Miami-Dade
  • Keep your dog’s tags on, including proof of license from a different county and proof of rabies vaccination
  • Keep your dog safely crated
  • Be informed of where the county begins and ends

Unfortunately, BSL is real and it exists… and sadly, way too many dogs have been confiscated from their owners because of the way they look. Though you may hold the same opinion as my husband who found my research to be a bit obsessive, ultimately I would rather be safe than sorry.

We 100% agree with Jenny on this issue. We all know our dogs are going to face this discrimination in many places. Therefore, we need to stress that if you plan on traveling ANYWHERE with your pittie, look into the local laws of not only the place to which you’re going, but also the places through which you’ll be traveling. Following Jenny’s easy tips and advice will help you avoid and/or resolve any situations that may come up, and have a much happier vacation with your pup.

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7 Responses to “Guest Post: Jenny Chun-Ossowski from Give Paw Dog Training”

  1. Heartbeat-At-My-Feet February 7, 2012 at 11:02 AM #

    Wow, that’s great information…I hadn’t even thought of checking BSL laws of areas we’re driving through. Thanks for the tips, better safe than sorry!

    (side note, I’d just LOVE to see someone try to take Oscar from me…the phrase “cold dead hands” comes to mind…)

    • That Touch of Pit ... February 7, 2012 at 11:33 AM #

      Ha! Definitely. If someone wants to see an “attack human,” it’ll be me when they try to take Lucy away!

  2. devineopine February 7, 2012 at 11:33 AM #

    This is a great post. I had a similar experience when my boyfriend and I took our pittie, Prince, on a roadtrip where we had to pass through Denver, which has very strict BSL, twice. We researched taking smaller county roads to bypass the city, but learned that many of the surrounding suburbs have similar legislation. Denver’s BSL has a “travel through” exception, but we weren’t sure exactly what that entailed. Like this post, we planned to drive 5 miles under the speed limit in the right lane and not stop at all. Still, we were unsure what would happen if we were pulled over anyway. Unfortunately, when I called the Denver PD, the woman was not very friendly or helpful. Anyway, she told us that how they dealt with Prince would be at the police officers’ discretion if we were pulled over, depending on his demeanor etc. This made me nervous because he is incredibly friendly but gets very excited around new people and we were worried that would be taken the wrong way. In the end, we decided to risk it and it was fine. We never got pulled over, and Prince must have sensed something because he lay down in the back instead of climbing on the passenger’s side lap and looking out the window.

  3. Felicia Crabb February 7, 2012 at 7:05 PM #

    I live in Northern Co and drive for a pet crematorium. It should be a great job to bring my Brooke to work with. However since I never know if Im heading up to Cheyenne or down to Denver I cant take her along. Sad since she loves car rides and its just big bad Denver county and a few municipalities that havent seen the light. Shes also the type of dog who gets super excited and starts barking and since she’s deaf she can tell how loud those barks are, which is a bit off putting to some.

  4. Hire Me February 9, 2012 at 12:45 AM #

    Hey, brilliant web site. I’m really delighted. Cool job. The texts are superb. I also run a blog, stop sometimes to me. I hope you like it too.

  5. Becca Gobeille March 8, 2012 at 1:17 PM #

    You’re not being obsessive at all. We’re considering a move to Seattle in the next couple of years and I expect to spend a few weeks reviewing our road trip plan and making sure we only stop overnight in areas where it will not be an issue. The big swath we were really worried about was Ohio, but luckily now we should be able to find a route through without too much trouble.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. My Guest Blog On Traveling With Your Pittie And BSL @ That Touch Of Pit « Brooklyn Dog Training | Brooklyn Puppy Training | New York City Dog Training | New York City Puppy Training | Give Paw Dog Training - February 7, 2012

    […] to the folks at That Touch of Pit blog for featuring me as a guest blogger this week! I got a chance to talk about my experience […]

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