Did you know that over 200 cities across the United States have some kind of breed specific legislation (BSL) in place? For anyone unfamiliar, BSL is a type of law that prohibits or restricts particular breeds or types of dogs under the legal presumption that such dogs are considered dangerous or vicious. It loosely covers American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and any other combination of bully breed that resembles a “pit bull.” In theory, BSL laws are supposed to make communities safer from the threat of dangerous dogs by preventing dog bites. Except it doesn’t work.
Any dog can bite, regardless of its breed. And the reasoning for each individual dog bite comes down to a number of factors - the dog’s individual history, behavior, general size, the number of dogs involved, environmental stimuli, etc. Legislation aims to make BSL a simple approach to a far more complex social issue; one in which statistical data disproves its effectiveness. BSL only serves to accomplish the euthanization of innocent dogs without any improvement to public safety.
Here are some examples of BSL's ineffectiveness across the globe.
- In the Netherlands, the Dutch announced it's repeal of a 15 year ban in 2008 after statistics showed that dog attacks continued to rise despite the ban.
- The United Kingdom's Dangerous Dog Act Ban, bans the American Pit Bull Terrier and three other breeds and their crossbreeds. Yet reports from the U.K. indicate that dog bites requiring hospital treatment have not decreased, and in fact have increased by 41% over 10 years.
- In Denver, CO, whose PitBull ban has been in effect since 1989, doesn't even have clear results about the effectiveness of BSL. And in recent press coverage it has been reported that “Between 1995 and 2006, Denver had almost six times as many dog-related hospitalizations compared to Boulder." Boulder does not have BSL.
So what actually happens under BSL?
- Innocent people continue to be threatened, bitten, traumatized, disfigured, or worse killed - by non-targeted breeds.
- Innocent dogs are killed because of their physical characteristics.
- Millions of dollars are wasted and animal control resources are stretched thin, in order to kill dogs and NOT save people.
- Abusive and irresponsible owners carry on with "business as usual."
- Good owners and their families are outcast if they keep their targeted dog, or devastated if they are forced to give up their targeted dog.
- Reason, science, and expertise are ignored.
- Nobody learns anything about dog-safety, responsible dog ownership or the real reasons why dogs bite/attack.
What actually needs to happen to keep our communities safer is to hold our elected officials accountable. Changing the stigma starts with the very government responsible for creating media hysteria. If a government is already spending endless monetary resources on a proposed plan in which plenty of data disproves its effectiveness, then those same funds should be reallocated to focus on dog-behavioral analysis, providing resources to the public to help curb aggressive behavior in their pets, in addition to holding irresponsible pet owners accountable when tragedies occur. No dog breed is inherently dangerous. When we have a supportive government that effectively serves to educate the public and provides actual resources to the community, that is when the change begins to occur.
If you'd like to learn more about any breed specific legislation in your own communities, please visit BSL Census.