The U.S. Marine Corps ruled against several dog breeds they consider to be dangerous from living on Marine installations. They have given the owners 60 days to either move their dogs out of base housing or apply for a waiver which will require their pets to be tested.
The rule which is now part of the Marine Corps Housing Management Manual bans purebred and mixed breed Pit bull dogs, Rottweilers and canid/ wolf hybrids from being on “any Marine Corps installation, at any time.” The only exception would be trips directly to and from a base veterinary office, “with no other stops aboard the installation authorized.”
The MarineTimes reported, “Base residents who do not comply with the policy may be evicted.”
The new mandate sounds harsh, but unfortunately it was born out of several tragedies that could have been prevented, if some of the dogs’ owners were more responsible.
In 2005 a Rottweiler living on base at Camp Lejeune, N.C, got loose and grabbed a 9-year-old girl by the head while she was playing outside. The child survived, but received disfiguring injuries to her face and neck. She has needed several painful surgeries and faces more as she gets older.
And this summer a 3-year-old boy was attacked and killed by a Pit bull dog that was visiting the base.
The lawyer for the 9-year-old girl’s family said, “It’s clear to anyone who drives around Camp that dogs routinely run loose. The Marine Corps has a problem.” The Corps addressed this problem by implementing the new ban.
The actual policy states it this way, “The rise in ownership of large dog breeds with a predisposition toward aggressive or dangerous behavior, coupled with the increased risk of tragic incidents involving these dogs, necessitates a uniform policy to provide for the health, safety and tranquility of all residents of family housing areas.”
The ban is actually trying to be fair by making a concession for residents who already own one of the restricted breeds. It is giving them 60 days to apply for a waiver that would “grandfather” their pets until September 30, 2012. The waiver must be approved by the installation commander, and the dog must pass a “nationally-recognized temperament test, administered and interpreted by individuals who have been certified in technique and evaluation of the test results, at the service member resident’s expense. Such tests include Canine Good Citizen (AKC) and the Delta Test (Delta Society).”
The policy is good news for dog trainers who have started offering group and private classes to help the dogs prepare for the exam. The dogs must be able to complete the following tasks:
- Accept a friendly stranger
- Sit politely for petting
- Walk on a loose lead
- Walk through a crowd
- Perform the commands sit and down
- Stay in place until called
- Come when called
The test will also determine a dog’s reaction to another dog and to a distraction.
The ban has animal rescue groups like Pit Bull Rescue San Diego worried that many of the dogs won’t be able to pass the test and will be relinquished to animal shelters. PBRSD stated, “Shelters are already at capacity from the housing and economic crisis.” They are encouraging Marines who own these dogs to work on getting the waiver and training. They have also posted a Pit-friendly housing list for anyone who is considering moving off base with their dogs.
Ultimately the dogs will be the ones to suffer if this new policy isn’t taken seriously. They will be confiscated and evicted and will likely end up at shelters. It’s sad that the Marine Corps was forced to implement this ban. It is a commentary on what is going on all over the country with breed specific legislation; some pet owners are irresponsible, tragedy happens and people demand laws to make them safe.
The Marines have until October 11, 2009 to get their waivers and have their dogs’ tested. It will be interesting to see how many Marines follow-through and protect their pets.