Breed Discrimination & Breed Specific Laws
A DOSE OF REALITY
What is BSL?
BSL is legislation that targets specific breeds of dog (namely Pit Bulls and
"pit bull types") because they are supposedly inherently dangerous and therefore deserving of prejudicial rules and regulations. BSL can be loosely
divided into two types:
Bans make it illegal to own, house, harbor, import, train, or breed any of the dogs listed in the legislation in a particular location. Dogs that already exist in the area of the ban are usually grandfathered in, but their owners have to omply with extensive laws in order to keep their animals. These laws usually require owners to take out expensive liability insurance on their dogs, muzzle the dogs in public, keep the animals confined in kennels, mandatory spay/neuter, among other things.
Type 2--Ownership regulation
Regulation legislation doesn't outright ban a breed, but rather makes it extremely difficult to own a certain breed. Requirements such as liability insurance, mandatory spay/neuter, higher licensing costs, muzzling in public, etc. are typical of legislation like this. Ownership regulation also places age limits on who can own or handle certain breeds. Through this type of legislation, the government is basically deciding who is and who is
not allowed to own certain dogs.
What's the point of BSL?
The supportors of BSL claim their goal is to put an end to dog attacks by targeting certain breeds of dog that are "inherently vicious/dangerous", and dogs that tend to appeal to people who are involved in criminal activity (i.e. drug dealers, dog fighters, gangbangers, etc).
What About Bite Statistics? Do They Prove We Need BSL?:
Dog Bite Statistics are unreliable sources of information regarding the "viciousness" or dangerousness of breeds for the following reasons:
1) Very few people can accurately identify dog breeds.
2) Breeds are not listed individually, but rather under group headings. For instance, under the heading "pit bull", you will find no less than 3 distinct breeds, mixes of any of those three breeds, any dog that appears to be one of those breeds, plus any misidentified dogs. And make no mistake, dogs get misidentified all the time. There is a case of an Akita attack that was reported as a "pit bull attack" in the media. This author's dogs have been mistaken for Boxers, Bulldogs, and yes, one was even mistaken for an Akita. Just about any Pit Bull owner can tell you of many cases where their dog has dealt with a case of mistaken identity.
3) Bite stats take into account only reported bites.
4) Bite stats do not take into account the dogs of a specified breed who do NOT bite. No one knows the overall percentage of Pit Bulls who bite compared to, let's say, the percentage of Dalmatians or Golden Retrievers
5) Bite stats do not list "provoked" bites that occur at grooming shops and veterinary offices. If you took a survey of groomers and veterinarians, I'm sure you'd find an overwhelming majority of them would tell you that the small, "cutesy" dogs that people generally hold as harmless are the dogs that give them the most trouble. This author is an ex-groomer and can attest to the fact that the big dogs, particularly the Pit Bulls, and other similar breeds, are by far the most cooperative.
6) Bite stats DO list the truly provoked bites, i.e. dogs who have bitten after being teased/harrassed/abused.
BSL Is Not The Answer:
While it is quite obvious that there is a problem in some communities
regarding loose dogs harrassing/attacking people, criminal activity
involving the use of dogs, and dog attacks in general, BSL fails to reduce
the occurance of these problems because it fails to address the root
cause: people. BSL doesn't work because it is purely predjudicial in
nature. Instead of punishing owners who are irresponsible and criminals
who use dogs for illegal purposes, the legislation targets dogs for simply
existing, and people's rights to own the breed of dog they so choose.
BSL is also largely based on misinformation and truth-twisting, its authors
citing the "inherent viciousness" of certain dog breeds as plenty reason to
outlaw even those dogs that have never acted in a criminal fashion. Bite
statistics are also used as justification since "pit bulls" often top such lists.
Of course, no breed is inherently vicious, and the accuracy of bite stats are
suspect as best.
BSL doesn't work because...
1) Current laws are barely enforced. New laws are going to be heaped on
top of old ones, for what purpose? Take something as simple as the leash
law. It is not very often enforced. Leashes save lives, they prevent dog bites and attacks. It is a simple, yet extremely effective means of lessening dog problems. The blatant disregard for leash laws is not something that should be allowed to go on.
2) BSL takes time, money and man-power to enforce. The responsibility for
the enforcement of laws falls on Animal Control and sheltering systems.
These are agencies that are already dealing with massive surpluses of animals, more calls than they can sometimes handle. Now they are being forced to deal with the additional weight BSL dumps on their shoulders.
3) BSL is prejudiced in nature. It punishes dogs and owners who have done nothing wrong. It is discriminatory against people who choose to own a particular breed of dog.
4) All dogs bite. All dogs can inflict harm. There is no scientific study to prove that one breed of dog bites more or causes more injury than any other breed of dog. There have been cases of tiny dogs, under 20 pounds killing or seriously injuring children.
5) If Pit Bulls and similar breeds are outlawed or severely restricted, one of two things happen: criminals and irresponsible owners will continue to get their hands on the dogs and simply ignore laws, or they will turn to other breeds to suit their purposes.
Alternatives to Breed Specific Legislation:
1) Enforcement of generic dangerous dog laws, laws that hold owners accountable for the actions of their dogs regardless of breed.
2) Enforcement of leash laws. Let's be real strict about this. Tickets should be handed out like candy to individuals who disobey this law. Fine owners who let their dogs run loose or fail to keep them in enclosures that they cannot escape from. Let's have a 3-strikes and you're out law for people who refuse to keep their dogs under control. Use the money collected from these fines to fund community dog safety and responsible ownership programs.
3) Stop making excuses for animal cruelty, neglect, and irresponsible ownership. There need to be huge fines for those involved in any inhumane or irresponsible activity with animals.
More on BSL: Some Helpful Articles
Bite Stats (by Rottnut)
Do Pit Bulls bite more than any other breed? Do they really top some "most dangerous dog" chart? Does such a chart even exist? These answers to this questions are, respectively: "There is no way to know", "No", and "No". Want more information? Read on.
Millions of people are bitten by dogs across the US every year, and the population is clamoring for a scapegoat on which to place the blame. Supposed "bite statistics" allow an outlet for such anxiety. However, how accurate are these stats, really?
1) There is no national registry for such information. Most communities keep their own stats. In my county, for example, they are kept by the health department.
2) Most bite reports are based on information collected from the victim and/or a witness. This means that the dog's breed is named by the victim.
Since both my Rottweiler and French Bulldog have been referred to as "pit bulls" by passersby I give very little credence to the victim's identification of a dog involved in a bite case.
3) Mixed breeds may or may not be lumped in with purebred dogs in such stats. I have seen the raw data collected by my county, and then heard the numbers released to the media..... they usually don't add up.....
4) Without knowing the population of a given breed in a particular area, there is no way of knowing whether 10 bites by a given breed represent one really evil dog who has bitten many people, or 10 dogs who have each had a single incident.
5) Statistics are only as good as their interpretation. Any researcher will tell you so. "Who funded the study??"