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Breed Specific Legislation

There have been times, unfortunately, that dogs have been aggressive towards people and/or other dogs. Sometimes, these situations are accidental; other times, the dogs feel backed into a corner; and unfortunately, there are more than a few times in which dogs have been trained into fighting. Over the years, dog bites and attacks have resulted in injuries, fatalities, and in many cases, dogs being put down. A fear of these incidents have meant that there are places with breed specific legislation (BSL) that ban or restrict certain breeds from living in the area.

There are a lot of resources and articles that want breed specific legislation, including a Time.com article about the problem with pit bulls. The reason I mention this specific article is because it doesn’t seem to be particularly well researched, perpetuates negative stereotypes about pit bulls (and dogs that look like this breed), and seems to be in favor of breed specific legislation despite numerous organizations and research that say BSL does nothing to prevent attacks. This article seems to be filled with inaccuracies, including the fact that it starts off with a potentially fake story about a young girl and her grandmother were kicked out of a KFC because the girl’s facial injuries from a pit bull attack were troubling others.

At another point later on, this article also seems to make up a quote from a statement on pit bulls from the ASCPA that supports the idea that pit bulls are inherently aggressive dogs that are naturally mean to humans. I’ve yet to find that quote (or anything remotely similar) on the ASCPA website and in fact, the ASCPA does not support breed specific legislation and has a position statement on pit bulls, in which they do say that “while a dog’s genetics may predispose it to perform certain behaviors, tremendous behavioral variation exists among individuals of the same breed or breed type”. (Meaning that both nature and nurture play a role in how aggressive a dog might be.)

Even with my severe skepticism of that article, I will admit that there have been fatalities because of a dog attack or bite. But while these incidents are incredibly tragic, there’s not much evidence that supports the idea that banning specific breeds does anything to lower the rate of dog bites and/or attacks. The only accomplishment to come from these laws is that they generalize entire breeds/types of dogs and paint all the dogs of one breed as dangerous. Not only is this incredibly inaccurate but it’s also dangerous for dogs and people alike because it allows for many dogs of one breed to be euthanized regardless of their individual disposition and it fails to protect anyone from dog attacks/bites.

All kinds of dogs are unfortunately capable of attacking and there are many organizations that suggest the best way to prevent these kinds of attacks is to not focus on specific breeds. Instead, the best ways to prevent any dog attacks or bites include training, not spooking a dog, and being calm around unfamiliar dogs. Proper socialization and training (including baby training!) and securely fenced yards are going to do a whole lot more to prevent any kind of attack than banning an entire breed.

Some of these organizations that do not support breed specific legislation (and thus, banning one breed from living in a city, county, or even an entire country) include: the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the American Kennel Club, the American Bar Association, and the Humane Society of United States.  Plus, there are several famous dog trainers that don’t support breed specific legislation or reject the negative stereotypes of pit bulls, including: Cesar Millan (AKA the “Dog Whisperer”) and Zak George. Even the Obama administration came out against breed specific legislation back in 2013.

Having some legislation applied to all dogs (and not just specific breeds) can be helpful. If you move to a new country with your dog for example, your dog might have to go through quarantine and stringent medical checks. This is to prevent your dog from potentially bringing over a disease that could decimate the local dog population or getting sick themselves from a local bug. And having spay and neuter laws can help to reduce large, unwanted dog populations.

Dog attacks and bites are incredibly tragic events but passing legislation banning or restricting one breed isn’t the way to prevent these incidents. Instead of having breed specific legislation, we should be investing in education and proper training and socialization for dogs and their owners. Breed specific legislation is the easy but utterly ineffective solution; real change is going to be a lot more work but ultimately worth the effort.

4 comments on “Breed Specific Legislation

  1. Great article Andrea! I would like to add that training for people who own dogs is very important.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the link to my blog post within your article. You may be interested to read about the work of Born Innocent, an organisation I am involved with here in the UK, campaigning against BSL. Born Innocent’s work and research has been published in national newspapers and dog magazines, and we’re determined to see a reform of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 which does nothing to protect the public in its current form.

    Grace

    Liked by 1 person

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