Gasp! Why won’t somebody save that little girl in the photo from that scary looking Pitt Bull! Most likely, it’s because the dog she’s lovingly hugging isn’t the least bit vicious, but as a Pit Bull, has been stereotyped as dangerous, nonetheless.
In all seriousness, there is obviously nothing funny about being attacked by a dog, or the injuries that can result in humans and other animals. However, there’s been a lot of talk in various communities about what to do when it comes to dog bites and aggressive dogs. One solution that’s being considered in many places is breed-specific legislation (BSL).
BSL places bans or restrictions on certain types of dogs based on their appearance because they are perceived as dangerous. If the breed isn’t banned altogether, certain restrictions can include having to muzzle the dog in public or having to purchase excessive liability insurance.
Those who are in favor of this type of legislation no doubt have good intentions, and want to promote safety in their communities. However, BSL isn’t doing anything but targeting dogs based on how they look, with no regard for their actual disposition and it is not an effective approach in regards to controlling dogs’ behaviors within a community.
BSL is fraught with flaws:
- It does nothing to actually prevent bites and/or attacks.
- It punishes responsible dog owners…and sweet well-behaved dogs!
- It doesn’t hold irresponsible/criminal dog owners accountable.
- It requires dogs to be identified by breed, which can’t always be done accurately. Try taking this neat little test to see if you can identify the Pitt Bull.
- It costs a whole lot of money.
- It wastes animal control’s time, which they could be using to help animals that need it.
- It can ironically, in some cases, result in a increase in popularity of certain breeds by irresponsible or criminal owners.
- It opens the door for those who wish to abuse these dogs to move on to another breed.
BSL is also not supported by any legitimate canine organizations, such as The American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club, the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, the Humane Society, etc.. Even the Center for Disease Control (CDC) declines to support it stating that, “There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.” Aggression is also a behavior that isn’t determined by genetics alone.
While many dogs suffer scrutiny, the most targeted breed is the Pit Bull, which isn’t even really a breed, rather it’s a term used to describe several breeds. Lumping these breeds together and comparing the “Pit Bull” to other breeds regarding bites and attacks mucks up statistics a bit. It would be like comparing “large breeds” against a Pomeranian.
Other dogs that have been targeted include Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Akitas, Chows and even surprisingly Labradors and Jack Russell Terriers.
If not BSL, then what? Fear not, there are plenty of viable alternatives. For starters, education is a critical first step on informing the public about what they can do to avoid dog bites in the first place. The CDC, American Veterinary Medical Association and United States Postal Service have partnered to create National Dog Bite Prevention Week to educate the public. Since most dog bites occur in children, it’s particularly important to teach them how to interact with dogs, even if they don’t have one.
Just like people need to learn about dogs, dogs also need to learn what’s acceptable behavior. Training and socialization are vitally important for dogs. Owners can check out local facilities like shelters and rescue groups to see if they offer training services. If nothing’s available, see if they can get some funding. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, a task force examined the costs of a 1996 Pit Bull ban in the county. They found that the cost of confiscating and euthanizing one dog was $60,000. The total costs from one year of the ban amounted to $560,000. Seems like that kind of money would be better spent on prevention.
Last, but certainly not least, responsible breeding and prevention of abuse go a long way in keeping everybody happy and safe. Breeders, which are mostly unregulated, have the opportunity to play a role in dog’s future. Through responsible breeding practices and placement of dogs, aggressive tendencies can be reduced and dogs can live out their days with responsible owners.
For the most part, puppies are a lot like babies. They’re born a blank slate. It’s our responsibility to make sure they’re well cared for, and don’t fall into abusive situations. BSL is tantamount to banning cars in drunk driving cases, instead of punishing the driver.
Sign Care2′s petition to stop BSL here.