Zeke, Berwick, LA

Hi! I’m Zeke, and my family and I are fighting a racially and financially-motivated Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL).

In my previous life, I was named Keke but on August 3, 2010, I ended up in New York City Animal Care & Control. I was only a year old and I don’t know why my old owner didn’t want me anymore.

I guess my life was not suppose to end there. A woman in Northern Maine saw my photo on the internet 10 days later. She kept going back all day looking at my photo because her heart was telling her I was supposed to be with them. When her daughter got home late that afternoon, she showed her the photo without comment. The daughter looked at the photo for a full minute, looked up at her and said “We have to go get him.” Her daughter’s husband was serving in the Persian Gulf at the time so she volunteered to drive to NYC with her. She had a brand new SUV so a crate or any items we would need would fit into her car easily.

They contacted the webpage that posted my picture which in turn set them up with the first of three rescues that got involved. They also called their vet for her support and to let her know what they were doing. Once everyone was on board with their effort, they started the 12-hour all-night trip to NYC.

They arrived at 9:30 the next morning and a rescue met them there. When everything was done and the rescuer stepped out those doors with me, their hearts were near full to bursting. I came through the doors with an empty water bottle in my mouth, as if to say, “I’m packed, let’s roll!”

The rescuer walked for several blocks with us, to be sure they knew how to handle me and that I was comfortable with them. And off we go!!

I made a funny noise about two hours out and they wondered what was wrong. They decided to pull over and let me out — they didn’t know that I had figured out a way to let them know I had to go to the bathroom. They were so proud that I had no accidents in the car, behaved very well and tried to snuggle with them from the backseat. I guess I knew this is my new family! I didn’t know that they drove all the way to get me (30 hours!) — my mom told me I’m worth every minute of it!

I immediately fit into my new family — even the cranky old beagle accepted me. I was interested in everything around me. The parrots even let me put my nose to the cage without biting me. :-)

I like my doctor too! Dr. Teer is my caregiver and champion. She saw me as soon as I got home and it was love at first site, for both of us. She acknowledges my preferences and allows me to be me. She’s never been afraid of me, nor any member of her staff. They think I’m just a big clown. I don’t like being placed on the scale or exam tables, so they let me go to the back office where I can lie right down on the floor and let them do anything they need to do.

My dad retired from more than 22 years of active duty in the US Coast Guard. My parents decided to buy a house with my human brother in a small town in S. Louisiana called Berwick. Since our arrival in January 2011, my family had been busy working on the house, reconnecting with old friends and family, and walking me and my fursiblings twice a day all around town. There has been no problem with anyone, and people were complimentary about us dogs, our good behavior and manners.

People were amused that we have to sit and stay still when other pedestrians approach or before crossing any street. On these twice daily walks, we have been all over the town — on the walking trail, on the sidewalks, in front of the town hall and the police station, even in front of the police chief’s house. The town people even cut back some trees that had low branches over the sidewalk, as spiders and other bugs were dropping on us as we walked.

Then it all came crashing down on Monday afternoon, August 15, 2011. A neighbor who had been difficult on numerous occasions let us loose and called the dog catcher. When the dog catcher arrived, I was sitting right at my dad’s feet. I remained seated as she approached. I did not bark, growl, or display any aggression at all. When she opened the truck, I went right into the cage on voice command. I was calm and gentle — I even tried to lick people’s hands through the cage.

This is the moment my parents learned there is BSL in this town. The information is not posted on the town website; There are no signs posted in town, at town hall, on town correspondence, in the local vet’s offices, or in real estate offices and lawyers office that handled the closing on the house. It is so well hidden as to seem non-existent. Even if the law was posted, my family had no way of knowing it related to us, as my adoption papers and all vet exams have me listed as a Labrador Retriever mix. When my parents offered to show all of my documents to the dog catcher and the police chief, the chief informed us that ALL vets lie. The dog catcher even told my parents that she’d been the dog catcher for 8 years and she knew more about dogs than any vet would.

I was seized, taken to the police station, and left outside in the truck in the hot sun! An animal right’s activist appeared, started taking photographs and she was threatened with arrest. (They did move the truck into the shade of an awning.) I’m an inside dog and I was treated inhumanely at best. My mom offered to take me straight out of town, but her request was refused. I was held overnight and my parents were told the chief could decide to destroy me. It was all his choice. According to him, the BSL gives him sole authority to determine what a dog’s breed is and he decided I’m a pit bull.

Finally, the next morning, at 8:15, I was released with the stipulation that my parents drive me right out of town, and my dad was forced to sign a document stating we would not return to town. Overnight, my mom had thrown some clothes, important documents, family photos and food and water for us dogs in the car. We had to go on the road, temporarily homeless, but all my parents care about is that I’m safe.

My family had listed the house, but they were in the middle of some renovation work and had to abandon the house as it was. The chances of them selling it in its current condition is very slim. They can’t go back to complete the renovations; my parents can get arrested because the police refused to accept electronic payment for the fine and have not cashed the check. With the fine not being paid, my family is subject to arrest!

My mom called Dr. Teer for advise. She immediately offered to speak with the police, mayor or council. They, of course, were not interested in hearing what she had to say. The police chief actually told my mom that ALL vets lie, and that if she gave $10 to any vet, they would say I was a poodle. Dr. Teer examined me as soon as we got me back to Maine, to see if I was sick or had been injured while “under detainment.” She was very angry and concerned that people could be as cold and cruel as the town officials of Berwick had been. She is willing to write a full report as to my temperament and blood lines whenever the town is willing to listen. (She is such an angel!)

The cost of this hidden BSL has been very high for my family. We now live in a small apartment as my parents still have to pay for the house in Berwick. My parents say it is OK because I’m safe and I have been invaluable in helping my daddy recover from a service-connected injury. We lost the parrots — we had to find them a new home and they were adopted by a family in Louisiana. My parents miss them terribly because they had been members of the family for 15 years.

The so-called pitbulls that were living in the town when the BSL was passed were ‘grandfathered,’ so my parents asked if they could be given that courtesy since all of my papers list me as a Lab mix and my family members served this country. The police chief told us military service meant nothing to him and no, he would not extend that courtesy to us.

My family is very distraught. How can a law that has been proven not to work, that splits families apart and drive decent responsible people from their homes be a law that is good for any town? My parents wrote to the attorney general of the state, reported the threats made against us, the town’s refusal to deposit the check they sent to pay the fine and asked for safe passage to clear out the house and hand the keys to a real estate agent. Thankfully, that has been accomplished and we moved to another state. I’m safe once again because my family love me and fought for me.

My family and I will continue the fight as other companion animals remain at risk from BSL. Please join us on our Facebook page: Berwick Louisiana, it’s discriminatory Breed Specific Law, one-drop rule.

Thank you!
~Zeke

Parents: Nan & Timothy

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