Deirdre “Little Darling” Franklin is more than a hero: she’s an educator, an advocate, and a voice for dogs everywhere. As the founder and CEO of Pinups for Pitbulls, Inc., Little Darling works tirelessly to end discrimination, abuse, and the unecessary killing of pit bull-type dogs nationally, while educating people world-wide about the ineffectiveness of Breed Specific Legislation. PBP had the pleasure of interviewing Little Darling for our Anti-BSL issue.
PBP: You have been an advocate for pit bull-type dogs and an opponent of Breed Specific Legislation for many years. What led you to the field of animal welfare and advocacy?
LD: I have been an animal lover since as early as I can remember. Even as a little kid, I wanted to know why certain animals were favored and others were considered less valuable or meaningful to people. I wanted to befriend every creature that had fur. At the age of 12, I became a vegetarian and studied animal rights pamphlets to understand their argument and to see if they had a sensible argument against things like animal testing for makeup, vivisection and other atrocities. It was a natural occurrence that I became an animal advocate, and I really haven’t been swayed in any other direction since those days. It only amplified as I grew up and began to have the courage to use my voice to fight things that I did not believe were fair. After I adopted Carla Lou around the age of 19, I began to see a whole new side of animal advocacy that I had never heard of before, that of banning certain dog breeds. I wanted to understand it more so that I could be a voice against it, if the argument made sense to me. I quickly learned that these laws were unfounded and lacked any level of scientific basis. Carla Lou inspired me to educate myself with facts so that I could speak on her behalf and for others like her. I’ve always identified with the term “voice for the voiceless.”
PBP: You recently graduated from Drexel University with a Master of Science in Public Policy. Your thesis, which you successfully defended, is titled “Public Policy: Community Safety through Breed Bans?” What does the research that you’ve done suggest regarding the effectiveness of breed bans?
LD: The research that I conducted ended in the outcome that I had hoped to arrive at. I took every avenue that I could to find something that could prove that dog bans can work. In my heart I knew they could not and logic also told me that dog bans could not work, but I had to prove that dog bans could not work with rational, science-based facts. What I discovered was that there is not a single peer reviewed study that proves that dog bans work. There is not a single medical journal, veterinary journal or law journal that could prove that one dog breed is any more dangerous than another. In fact, even if they tried to prove it, their theories were debunked in their research. All dogs are individuals and context is everything in the dog world. I was so excited to not only prove that breed bans cannot work but to discover that it’s impossible for them to work since all dogs have teeth, therefore, all dogs have the propensity to bite. Furthermore, in my research, I delved deep into the pro-pit bull ban proponents. I discovered that the loudest voices and strongest dog ban advocates were not experts in any field that would give them credibility, but rather, they had strong ties to media outlets and rallied with their opinions and feelings rather than any sound scientific argument. I also spent a lot of time in my research looking into studies about fear and the effects that fear can have on people. Fear has long lasting effects on our minds. We can spend a lot of energy obsessing over something that seems prevalent (i.e. reading about a dog bite in the news). This kind of obsessing leads us to have irrational fears based on something that seems to be recurring in multiple news outlets. What people do not understand about dog bite stories is that they are often reported quickly and rarely discuss the context of the bite. The dogs you read about in the news are dogs that are statistically always a selection of the following situations:-unneutered/unaltered-chained dogs (dogs that live outside and are not socialized)-at-large dogs-dogs that are abused/neglected (either physically starved or injured)-dogs that have a physical ailment i.e. neurological problems-fearful dogs (often as a result of shock, choke, and dominance training)
I also wondered how such news reports were quick to blame a dog in a situation rather than their caretaker. For instance, when an infant is
“randomly” attacked by a dog; it’s usually a story such as “a 2 year old walked into the neighbor’s yard.” My first question is, “what is a 2 year old doing walking around without an adult?” News reporters are often so busy worrying about getting the story out first that they are carelessly causing hysteria amongst the ignorant masses. I long for the days of journalism and quality detective work.
Lastly, in my research, there was the instance where certain cities enacted a “pit bull” ban for example that bragged that after they removed “pit bulls” from their community that they successfully eliminated pit bull bites. What they didn’t talk about was that other dog breeds became the main biting dog in their community. I also found that a dog breed that is a majority in region, like a Husky in Canada, for instance, was often the dog with the most recorded bites. This seems logical since if there are more of one type of dog in a community that the likelihood of that type of dog having more bites. What I argued for instead of breed bans since they clearly did not work in a single case was for cities to enforce leash laws, tethering laws, and for education for people with dogs and even people who did not have dogs. Education is the only answer to reduce dog bites. Education costs a lot less and can save a lot more lives, both canine and human.