As of September 30th, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune‘s pet policy will undergo further changes, banning all aggressive dogs and specific dog breeds.
The Marine Corps banned aggressive dog breeds in 2009, but owners who had lived on a Marine Corps base with a restricted dog before the ban were allowed to “grandfather in” their dogs and keep them on base, new residents however were not allowed to bring their restricted breeds on base when they moved after the initiative was adopted.
Recently Animal Control has taken over pet registration on the Camp Lejeune and MCAS New River bases resulting stricter enforcement of the pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf hybrids restrictions.
It was estimated in March of 2010 that of 200 dangerous dog breeds living on Camp LeJeune, only a quarter of the dogs were properly registered. Ongoing difficulties in maintaining proper registration of grand-fathered allowances may be one reason we’re seeing this change. However, when the original initiative was first proposed, a deadline of December 2011 was discussed.
Now, regardless of when the dog was acquired, all owners of pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf hybrids will face the difficult decision of moving off base or giving up their pet. In addition, all pet owners will be required to reregister their pets under the new system by the same date. Even though statistically it would appear the enforcement of the restrictions and requirements was difficult to enforce, base officials have elected to impose more restrictions for enforcement.
According to Sgt. Brent Mitzel of the Provost Marshal’s Office Animal Control, “It also has to do with base housing. There (have) been incidences in the past with bites and stuff like that, and we’re all just trying to limit the potential hazards.”
Alisa Johnson, a Marine and president of Dogs on Deployment, a 501(c)(3) national non-profit which provides a central online database for service members to search for individuals or families who are willing to welcome a Dog On Deployment into their home for the length of their owner’s deployment.
“Service members should never have to choose between their family pet and serving at their next duty station. Every day, I talk to families affected by these harmful policies and it’s time for that to end,” Johnson said. Johnson’s organization is currently spearheading a more suitable option to implement a military-wide standardized pet policy so there is no confusion for enlisted members when assigned to a new base. Her proposed policy would target aggressive dogs rather than focus on breeds or types of dogs.
In an interview with JDNews.com Mitzel said Animal Control will also test dogs for aggression during registration, and if the dog is considered aggressive by the staff, regardless of the breed, it will not be allowed on base.
“If they try to bite us, snap at us, growl, snarl show any type of aggression toward us, we’ll make that determination on whether we believe that pet is aggressive,” Mitzel said. “If it’s a three-pound dog and it’s trying to bite everybody’s hand off, we will not register that dog on the base.”
According to statements in the JDNews.com article, animal control will also determine if a dog is a banned breed or a mix of any of the banned breeds by visual ID. If they “suspect” the dog to be mixed with an affected breed, they will not approve registration of the pet on base according to Mitzel.
“We’re going to tell the owner they can contest it with a DNA test if they’d like. Once we get the results back, if it’s not one of those banned breeds and it’s not aggressive, then we’ll register it on base,” he said, adding that if the results come back positive, the dogs will be forced to leave the base, with or without their owners.
DNA testing has long been used by military bases and veterinary clinics to determine the breed of a dog. Many argue that testing is not accurate however and it is unclear if the dog’s owner will be responsible for the cost of the testing.
“In a memorandum distributed Army-wide on Feb. 3, 2012, Col. Bob Walter, director of the Army’s Veterinarian Service Activity, stated there is no scientific method to determine a breed and that breed bans are unlikely to protect installation residents,” the petition from Johnson’s nonprofit that calls for standardized pet policies across the military reads. “The letter recommends generic, non-breed, specific dangerous dog regulations with emphasis on identification of dangerous and chronically irresponsible owners.”
Currently, the Army and Air Force ban pit bulls, rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, chows and wolf hybrids, while the Marine Corps bans only pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf hybrids. Navy policies vary by installation. Some private base housing offices have additional breed restrictions beyond the listing of the military branch, meaning a family that moves from one base to another could be forced to give up their dog depending on the pet policy on that particular base.
“There is a huge lack of consistency with these policies,” Johnson said. “What we’re asking for is the DoD to give our military some piece of mind.” In an interview with Pit Bulletin Legal News Radio, Johnson said “It’s a huge morale problem when you have families that are being broken up over breed restrictions.” Johnson’s petition calls for a standardized, consistent military policy for all pet owners, regardless of the breed and asks that the military focus on strong enforcement of general dangerous dog policies and pet education programs for troops. When considering only 50 dogs were registered as required at Camp LeJeune in the past, certainly enforcement appears to be a matter of concern for effective animal control.
Johnson added that their petition is not “an attack on military policies.” Rather, it’s a request for the military to “make a change that’s going to help our military families, instead of hurt them.”
You can help by supporting Dogs on Deployment, signing and sharing their petition, and by contacting the House and Senate member for your state’s Armed Services Committee. In a POLITE, RESPECTFUL and INFORMATIVE explanation make them aware that the policies target responsible pet owners, innocent dogs and creates a burden on public shelters faced with the owner-release that results from the policies and attitudes of military animal control.
House Armed Services Committee:
Senate Armed Services Committee:
Dogs on Deployment Change.org petition:
Dogs on Deployment: