Why I Back Breed Bans: An opposing view…
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… Aggression simply isn’t a behavior that is determined by genetics alone.
The problem with statistics on dog bites appears to be that there is no consistency in where the figures are obtained, nor are there variables included in most studies. Some studies use AKC numbers, some use HSUS numbers and others use CDC&P numbers. The CDC was using newspaper articles. Few include causes or contributing circumstances to the attacks, nor are the total numbers of dogs in a certain breed taken into consideration. There is also no national recording system for non-fatal dog bites in the United States, according to Best Friends Animal Society.
As the National Canine Research Council points out, the circumstances where a bite occurred are extremely important when considering bite numbers. Without considering what happened, not all bite numbers can be chalked up to aggression.
What of the case where an animal control officer is bitten by an injured, and understandably confused and upset, dog. That bite number gets taken into account without regard for the situation. Is the dog aggressive? Highly unlikely.
Even the CDC’s website states that “A CDC study on fatal dog bites lists the breeds involved in fatal attacks over 20 years (1979-1998). It does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill, and thus is not appropriate for policy-making decisions related to the topic…These relatively few fatalities offer the only available information about breeds involved in dog bites. 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.”
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 quite a bit. It would be like comparing “large breeds” against a Pomeranian.
“The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 600,000 in the USA. Comparatively speaking you are 6 times more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to be killed by a dog of any breed. When you further break down the odds of being attacked and killed by a Pit Bull the odds are in your favor – approximately 1 in 145,000,000,” according to the American Pit Bull Registry.
Other dogs that have been targeted include Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Akitas, Chows and even surprisingly Labradors and Jack Russell Terriers.
The American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS), an organization that promotes uniform temperament testing, tested the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Terrier, who all scored above 83%, which is incidentally about the same as the ever so popular family dog the Golden Retriever, who received 84.6%. The average of all breeds was 81.9%.
Pomeranians scored less than 75%. The Scottish Terrier? 63.6%. Chihuahuas also did not fair so well here. A breed ban on any of these dogs is nothing short of laughable.
If not BSL, then what? Fortunately, 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 education and prevention.
Last, but certainly not least, responsible breeding and prevention of abuse go a long way in keeping everybody happy and safe. Breeders, who 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 based on flawed statistics and ignorance. It does nothing to protect communities, or dogs and is tantamount to banning cars in drunk driving cases, instead of punishing the driver.