Why Breed Specific Legislation Misses the Mark and Doesn't Work
Somewhere along the way, bully breeds got an undeserved bad rap. Few breeds bond as closely with their human companions as the playful pit; few demonstrate so much unreserved love and affection. It's fair to say no breed surpasses them in these qualities.
On temperament tests administered by a variety of organizations, the American Pit Bull Terrier consistently scores in the top five of all breeds. Pit bulls are more likely to excel at obedience and agility than guarding and Schutzhund tests. Yet, somehow they gained the reputation as dangerous dogs, and now they find themselves threatened by Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) with the goal to eventually wipe the entire type from the face of the earth.
What is Breed Specific Legislation?
In case you haven't heard of Breed Specific Legislation, the term refers to any law designed to regulate or outlaw specific breeds or types of dogs. These laws have been passed in places ranging from small towns to entire countries. The most commonly affected dogs include pit bull types, Rottweilers, GSDs, Dobermans, Chows and occasionally some or all Mastiff types.
Usually, BSL prohibits breeding or importing the canines in question, with the goal of letting all dogs of the specified type eventually die out through natural attrition. Existing dogs must be muzzled whenever they are out in public. Sometimes their collars must be specific colors, and their homes or yards must display "Beware, Dangerous Dog" signs, without regard to whether the animal in question poses any actual threat.
In a few places, these laws go even further, mandating euthanasia of animals that fall under the scope of the legislation. Such a requirement forces affected dog owners to either give up their companions, move, or hide their canines and live in constant fear.
What Does BSL Accomplish?
While the current demonization of pits is completely unjust, BSL is a dreadful idea no matter which breeds are targeted. Punishing the multitudes for the actions of the physically similar few seems like a poor basis for any law, and the grotesque unfairness to the vast majority of good-tempered, well-behaved canines that make up all breeds (not to mention the responsible owners of these dogs) should offend the sensibility of any fair-minded person.
In addition, these laws fail at their stated purpose of improving public safety. According to study after study, they reduce neither the number of dog bites, nor the incidence of fatal attacks from canines.
In the UK, dog bites actually increased 50% in the decade following the passage of the Dangerous Dog Act in 1997, which banned all "pit bull types" and three other breeds. In the first five years after Spain passed its Dangerous Animals Act in 2000, which covered 9 types of dogs, dog bite statistics remained unchanged. And in Prince George's County, Maryland, a task force convened to study the effects of the county's BSL found that while the new law cost taxpayers $250,0000 a year, there was no positive effect on public safety.
However, animal control officers spent so much time responding to reported pit bull sightings that they lacked resources to adequately respond to other types of violations. The task force recommended the law be rescinded.
Perhaps these examples explain why organizations such as the Center for Disease Control, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the National Animal Control Association all oppose Breed Specific Legislation.
There are better, fairer ways to prevent and reduce dog attacks than to blame entire breeds. The first is to control the human element. The single greatest predictor of a dog causing serious injury is an abusive or neglectful home (present in 85% of all such attacks).
Statutes such as California's, which makes pet owners fully liable for the actions of their animal, along with tougher and more rigorously enforced animal cruelty laws, seem much less likely to hurt the innocent, and much more likely to improve public safety.
In short, BSL is just another short-sighted and ineffective government mandate, whose only purpose is to attract votes by "doing something". It offers nothing else. To learn more, you can visit StopBSL.com.