The City Attacks Pit Bulls Welfare
KUT News: Joining me in studio today is Larry Schooler with the city of Austin. He is the community engagement consultant. And Larry, you’re here today to talk about a pit bull task force that the city is creating.
City of Austin’s Larry Schooler: Something different every week here at KUT, Julie. This week we are talking about pit bulls, which of course is part of a broader conversation we’re having as a community about animal welfare and about the ways in which we can reduce euthanasia that’s taking place at our animal shelters. That’s really what this stems from, that sort of general conversation. Specifically though, I think the concern is that pit bulls end up being over-represented at the shelter and thus, at higher risk for euthanasia. We feel like we need to talk to stakeholders about that.
KUT News: You know, critics are going to say that the city is pinpointing a certain breed that’s gotten a bad rap. Because when I think of a pit bull, I think of Michael Vick and all of the pit bulls have been rehabilitated and are now loving pets. What’s the big deal about pit bulls?
City of Austin’s Larry Schooler: I think what’s interesting is, within what you said, the concern seems to be partly the myth-versus-reality element of this conversation. I, for instance, learned that, you know, no two pit bulls really are the same. I mean, something could be labeled a pit bull and have all the connotations of that, but not carry near the risk that we might associate with pit bulls. So, I think part of the conversation within this task force is not just what regulations should exist or what policies should exist, but also what can we do to convey the message that not all pit bulls are snarling, dangerous beasts that are going to terrorize us. I think that’s part of the thinking behind having this conversation in the first place.
KUT News: Who qualifies to be on this particular task force?
City of Austin’s Larry Schooler: It’s very much open to the public. We really haven’t put any parameters on it. It’s not the same as what folks might be used to, where the city council asks for people to apply. We use the term ‘task force’ to suggest that this is something that we want to try to have a couple of meetings about and have some sort of time-specific conversation about and then hopefully advance toward some proposals for the council to consider. But it’s not limited membership. It can be open to anyone with an interest in the matter.
KUT News: I’ve heard a little bit of gossip at the dog parks that the city wants to ban pit bulls. Is there any truth to that?
City of Austin’s Larry Schooler: No, none that I’ve heard whatsoever. I think that, really this is about creating a way for everyone to peacefully co-exist, both pit bulls and non-pit bulls, pit bulls in neighborhoods and the like, rather than any sort of regulation of that sort. I think that, unfortunately, there has been so much misinformation disseminated about the nature of pit bulls that it’s important for us to bring folks together and have a conversation. For me, as the facilitator, I’m particularly interested in non-pit bull owners who nevertheless, have some sort of feeling one way or the other about pit bulls to be a part of this conversation, whether it’s coming to meetings or participating online. Only if we have those folks in dialogue can we come up with strategies that are going to work for the whole community.
KUT News: When will this meeting take place?
City of Austin’s Larry Schooler: The meeting will take place on Tuesday, August 10 at 6 p.m. over at the [Town Lake Animal] shelter. The Town Lake Animal Center already has a Facebook page and there already is a discussion ongoing about this subject. If you’re not able to make the meeting, or even if you are, we really encourage you to visit the site as a way to continue the conversation and give your input if you’re not able to attend.