Three letters: BSL

They stand for Breed Specific Legislation. They are 3 letters that stand for legalized discrimination against certain breeds of dogs that people will be allowed to own. 

Sir Patrick Stewart is an icon of ultimate coolness.

He’s a Star Trek captain, an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and a staunch advocate for domestic abuse victims and LGBTQ rights. Stewart says he’s applying for U.S. citizenship just to be able to oppose President Donald Trump. ( love him for that) 

Lately, Stewart has even become a hero to animal lovers everywhere. Chalk it up to the influence of a couple of wonderful pit bulls named Sadie and Ginger.

Once upon a time, Stewart held misconceptions about pit bulls. He thought what so many still believe — that the breed is dangerous, vicious and untrainable. That perception died quickly after he met Sadie, a senior pit bull who moved in next door to him in New York City.

Patrick Stewart and Ginger Photo Credit: Patrick Stewart/Instagram

“I had a reaction to [the idea of meeting Sadie], which I am now significantly ashamed of, because pit bulls to me meant only one thing: aggression, hostility, violence,” Stewart told People magazine. “I was uncomfortable with the idea of meeting this dog, (but) immediately upon meeting her, something happened and I found myself simply absorbed in her, whether she was paying attention to me or not.”

And just like that, Stewart’s appreciation for Sadie’s quiet steadiness and affection made him a pit bull enthusiast. Yes, he was hooked.

Foster Dad Falls in Love with Ginger

Through the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals , or ASPCA, and rescue group Wags and Walks, Stewart and his wife, Sunny Ozell, asked to foster a rescue pit bull while they spent the winter in Los Angeles. That’s when two-year-old Ginger came into their lives. It was love at first sight.

“I find that my relationship to the world and to the news every day in the papers and on the television has been changed by Ginger,” Stewart told People, “because she has brought such a quality of patience and tolerance and fun into our lives, that it has, in a very short space of time, shifted my sense of where our world might be going.”

If you haven’t followed Stewart’s gleeful run as a doggie foster dad, check out his Instagram account immediately. There you’ll find adorable photo upon photo of Sir Pat and Ginger, having fun and becoming buddies. It’s truly a sweet thing to see.

“I literally find myself more optimistic than I was, and there is only Ginger to account for this,” Stewart told People. “It is the impact of sharing my life for only seven or eight days with Ginger.”

Breed Specific Legislation Separates Two New Buddies

There’s sadness to this story as well, unfortunately. Much as he’d love to keep Ginger, Stewart discovered he can’t.

Breed specific legislation, or BSL, in the United Kingdom forbids him and his wife from bringing Ginger home with them. This wonderful dog was guaranteed a safe, happy life with the Stewarts, but legalities stood in the way.

BSL forbids people from owning certain breeds of dog.

Most often those breeds include American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, American Bull Dogs, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers and dogs that are mixes of these breeds.

Typically, BSL is enacted in the aftermath of a terrible dog attack that maims or kills someone. It’s an overreaction to one incident, and it can doom perfectly obedient family pets to death in a shelter or animal control facility. It’s just wrong.

The ASPCA notes that it’s also an incredibly ineffective approach to safety. The Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association specifically recommend against BSL because there is “no scientifically valid evidence and no reasonable argument to support” it.


Sleepy time for Ginger. Photo credit: @sirpatstew Instagram account

Isn’t it time to get rid of BSL?

An entire breed is not automatically mean or dangerous — only individual, poorly trained dogs are. Fear and ignorance cause local governments to pacify angry citizens by enacting BSL. Such laws are not necessary and do infinitely more harm than good. Conscientious dog guardians and good dogs suffer needlessly.

Ginger’s Lasting Impact Will Help Other Dogs

Ginger’s effect on Stewart inspired him to become an animal activist. He’s now part of the battle against dog fighting. Stewart lent his name and star power to the ASPCA’s #GetTough campaign.

“No civilized society should tolerate barbaric practices that profit off animal torture, yet this is exactly what happens at dog fights – which occur more frequently, take place in more communities, and involve a broader population of individuals than most people realize,” said Stewart in an ASPCA press release.

Thank goodness Sir Patrick Stewart is lending his influential voice to the battle against dog fighting. Given his experience with Ginger, perhaps he’ll also be a vocal advocate for ending BSL. He knows better than most of us the heartbreak caused by such laws.

Never fear, Ginger has a forever home now with another loving family. Her story has a happy ending. Sometime soon, the Stewarts will have their happy ending too.

“This is not the end for us, we are now totally committed to fostering and adoption,” Stewart told People. “There will be a Ginger in our lives soon, because there has to be.”