Don’t Judge a Dog Based on His Looks, Says Obama
The same week the White House welcomed a new canine family member, it came out with an official statement denouncing breed bans in response to calls for a federal ban on breed specific legislation (BSL) on We the People, the White House’s site for citizen suggestions.
BSL places bans or restrictions on certain types of dogs based on their appearance because they are perceived as dangerous, with the most notable victims being pit bulls – although other breeds including German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and Chows, among others, have also been targeted.
According to the statement:
We don’t support breed-specific legislation — research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.
In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at twenty years of data about dog bites and human fatalities in the United States. They found that fatal attacks represent a very small proportion of dog bite injuries to people and that it’s virtually impossible to calculate bite rates for specific breeds.
The CDC also noted that the types of people who look to exploit dogs aren’t deterred by breed regulations — when their communities establish a ban, these people just seek out new, unregulated breeds. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they’re intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive.
While these types of bans are enacted in communities that are trying to improve public safety, the problems they cause continue to outweigh the benefits and punish responsible owners and innocent dogs. These types of bans are also not supported by organizations including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the United Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club, the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors and American Bar Association, or numerous animal advocacy groups.
The statement also pointed out that the the CDC recommends a “community-based approach” to prevent dog bites, which the agency believes is a “better way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners.”
These types of bans have been enacted in dozens of cities across the U.S. while opponents continue to fight against myths and stereotypes surrounding pit bulls and stop bans from being enacted, or to repeal current bans. Unfortunately, they continue to pop up in new areas, despite being costly and difficult to enforce, not to mention the issues that come with trying to identify a breed based solely on looks or the fact that “pit bull” isn’t actually a breed.
One notable area that’s been highlighted for problems associated with breed bans is Prince George County, a suburb of Washington D.C.
In 2003, Prince George County authorized a task force to check out the results of its 1996 pit bull ban and the results were appalling. The task force found that the cost to seize and euthanize just one pit bull came to $68,000, while the total costs of confiscations for just one year came to $560,000. Worse, it concluded that the “public safety benefit is unmeasurable” and that the ban may have actually had a negative impact on public safety by leaving animal control and law enforcement stretched too thin, in addition to causing pit bulls to take up valuable shelter space.
Even worse than that is that responsible pet owners of dogs who were guilty of doing nothing but looking like a pit bull paid a price no one can put a number on. The Maryland Dog Federation will be calling on the County Council to repeal the ban in Prince George County this September.
Hopefully, the White House’s stance on BSL will also have an impact on bans that have been enacted for certain types of dogs on U.S. military bases.
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