Monday, February 14, 2011

The Arrogance of Colorado Aurora and Denver

I get protesting and making your voice heard for perceived injustice. That is something I wholeheartedly embrace, like watching Egyptians take back their country. Fighting oppression is awesome and amazing, I give accolades to anyone brave enough to do it (and it's easy to do, so kudos to anyone who's written a letter or protested or spoken up.)

But what I don't get is even considering fighting a federal anti-discriminatory law because your city is a whiny toddler who apparently thinks they are above federal mandate because, well, because waah, waah, the end of the world will happen!

 The Americans with Disabilities Act offers a modicum of protection to "disabled" people who want the same basic opportunities as anyone else. You know, the ability to live in the same housing and shop at the same stores. For people who rely on service dogs to maneuver this ableist world, it's imperative that accommodations and modifications are made so that they can engage their world in as "normal"a fashion as possible.

It's federal law, yo. And while I may applaud state efforts to oppose potentially stupid federal laws (not profiting off marijuana, whoa), a federal law that aims to level the playing field, to reduce discriminatory practices is, in my book (and that of most people, I would imagine) not something to fight against.

And yet Aurora and Denver have done just that. They have fought for discrimination. They have fought to maintain and encourage an ableist and offensively prejudicial (to both humans and dogs) law in spite of federal law.

You see federal law dictates that people who have medical or physical handicaps have certain rights. It is of course an outlandishly sad statement that there even needs to be federal or state laws protecting disabled people. In any event, one of those rights is the ability to rely on a service animal (more strictly defined as primarily a canine). A service dog provides physical assistance in myriad forms. They may help pick-up keys or assist a person in walking. They may detect when an epileptic seizure is about to occur. A service dog may identify when a diabetic is going into a coma and needs assistance now. They can call 911, re-start machines providing oxygen, and allow a disabled or handicapable person the ability to simply take a freaking walk.

The ADA has made it clear that the dog need only be a dog. Not a Golden Retriever. Not a Lab. Not a German Shepherd. Not a Pit Bull. Just good old Canis lupus familiaris.Yet Denver and Aurora have felt they know better than the ADA and thus they can ban Pit bulls as service dogs in addition to Pit Bulls as pets. It's been a real success for both cities, especially Denver, which even after a kajillion years banning Pit Bulls, their citizens still get hospitalized a lot more b/c of dog bites than like any city in the entire state of Colorado.

For months upon months, both Denver and Aurora have dragged their collective feet. It's been almost a year, which is ridiculously slow for county and city law-makers to move. You're not an 80-seat state house of reps, for cripes sake.

Aurora has finally decided to stop being so damn judgmental and illegal. They will allow Pit Bulls as service dogs and they will complain and bitch about it. According to them, they're just not interested in going to war with the Department of Justice. Are they serious? This should not be a war, Aurora. There should be zero effort needed to require you to abide by federal law and allow disabled people the "WHOLE-COUNTRY" right to a service dog, if they require one.

Now if everyone and their mother decides to go out and get a Pit Bull, claim they're service dogs, then sure, sue somebody. There's people in Miami-Dade county that claims there is an epidemic of like six dog guardians who might have done just that. Nothing screams certainty like a statistically insignificant number and vague possibilities of something or other. More likely, just like has been done for ages, people with actual physical disabilities will sometimes rely on a dog to get by in the world. And most service dogs will, as has been shown to be true in the past and present, belong to people who are actually handicapable/handicapped or disabled. MAGIC! I'm willing to risk people flaunting their illicit "service dog" labeling in order to ensure disabled/handicapable people can do "normal" stuff like buy vegan cupcakes at a bake sale.

And sure, most people aren't going to use Pit bulls. Not because they wouldn't make decent service animals, but because it's a lot more convenient and affordable to work with existing agencies that provide service dogs...generally free of charge. These agencies operate kennels and breed dogs and, for the most part, rely on more "socially acceptable" breeds of dogs, like Labs and Goldens. But so what? If a dog resembling a Pit bulls has the ability, behavior, and inclination to act as a service dog, and some cool folks can work really hard to train that dog, then a person has a federally mandated legal right to be partners with that dog and give them cookies and loads of praise, of course.

So,  sorry Aurora, but you suck. You and Denver. Your belief that disabled people do not have the legal right to walk on the sidewalk with the help of a dog - no matter breed - is unsurprising, but still prejudicial and sad. That you defend your breedism is, well, it's admittedly a little creepy. Just stop, please. Or the National Guard will INVADE YOUR CITY. Ha! Just kidding. I guess it doesn't work that way.

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