Once again, a city has voted to enact breed specific legislation that restricts current “pit-bull type” dogs and outlaws the ownership of new ones. It is utterly infuriating on many levels for those of us who work with these “type” of dogs on a regular basis. But rather than belt out a profanity-laced, emotional post about the shortcomings of these laws, I’m going to show you the science, then I will outline what effective legislation would look like.
Study, after study, after study, after study, after study (there are plenty more) have shown Breed specific legislation(BSL from here on out) to be ineffective in it’s stated goal of reducing dog bite incidents. From Ireland to Italy, to the United States, the laws fall short of protecting the public from the high incidence of dog bites that we have seen over the last 30 years.
The reasons for this are easy to see after a bit of digging. Regardless of breed(which is just genetics), dogs that are routinely abused, neglected, or otherwise mistreated account for a large majority of dog bites(1, 2, 3)
The other major problem with dog bite reporting and statistics is the HUGE bias that exists in naming any dog involved in a biting incident as a pit bull. It is now well documented that even dog care professionals, that work with dogs every day, cannot reliably identify a dog with APBT, AmStaff, or other Bully breed ancestry. So, in order to stoke the flame of public outrage, media outlets/law enforcement, routinely are misidentifying dogs as “pit-bulls”.
These 2 major problems with dog bite reporting are largely responsible for the terrible laws that are being passed.
I want to see this senseless persecution of a breed that I hold near and dear to my heart stop. In order for that to happen, I needed to figure out how to address the epidemic of dog bites that has taken hold all over the world. So in order to find an effective solution, we first have to identify the problem.
Go to a dog park, or any park that allows dogs, sit and watch for a few hours. Take someone who is familiar with proper dog management, training, and behavior. I GUARANTEE you will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that bad dog owners are, by far, the reason for aggressive, mismanaged, set-up-to-fail, dogs. These are the same dogs that, somewhere along the line, will have a dog bite incident. You will witness hitting, pulling, off-leash-ness, yelling, screaming, kicking, and all sorts of other deplorable behavior from owners in these situations. You will see people allowed to get up in a dog’s face, tower over them, pet them, etc with no reaction whatsoever from the owner. These are just a few of the steps leading up to a dog biting.
In our society, whenever a person is going to take on the responsibility of owning or operating something that has the potential to cause serious injury or death they are required, by law, to complete some sort of class to teach them, as best as possible, to operate said something without killing someone. Cars, guns, cranes, forklifts, balers, etc all come to mind. The, very simple, solution to curbing dog bite occurrences in the United States and everywhere else, is to require EVERYONE to complete a basic dog behavior and training course provided by the state. A minimal registration fee can be required, which can also be a part of the “adoption fee” for any given dog. After completion of said course, the dog is issued a tag that must be worn while in public and the owner is issued a “dog ownership permit” for a predetermined amount of time before a refresher course is required.
This plan, conservatively in my opinion, would stop 60-80% of dog bite incidences within the first year of implementation. I’m willing to make this assertion because I know, unequivocally, that the problem is not the dogs. It is the owners. When forced to complete this type of training, laws can then be piggybacked onto this legislation to hold owners, who knowingly go against what is taught, to be held accountable for criminal prosecution. Not fines, not seizure of the dog, but felony charges similar to what is on the books to DUI infractions.
Stop The Madness
To put a bow on this discussion, I want to take a second to implore my readers to abide by a mantra of “seek to educate”. We(bully breed people) are often stereotyped as being on the fringes of society, which leads to a bit of an imaginary wall being put up between us and those we seek to teach. It is important to keep cool in the face of the absurdity that is the pro-BSL crowd. (But feel free to rage like its the apocalypse to each other!)