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Breed Specific Legislation

BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION (BSL)

Breed specific legislation is exactly what sounds like… regulation of your right to own or, in many cases, not own, a dog based solely on the breed or “type” of dog, not your responsibility as an owner. Pitties.Love.Peace, Inc is strongly opposed to any form of BSL. Some of the reasons we disagree with any legislation that would take away our right to own a pit bull, or any other breed or mix of dog for that matter, are below:

Breed-Specific Ordinances

Breed Specific Ordinances are not a sufficient long-term solution for the following reasons:

1. Dog problems are generally problems with owner responsibility and are not limited to a specific breed or “type” of dog. When breeds are singled out as dangerous or vicious, responsibility is removed from the dog owner which is where it belongs. Irresponsible people are also less likely to follow the law – and as a result, everyone has to suffer.

2. By limiting the ability of citizens to own certain breeds, responsible law-abiding citizens will shy away from those breeds. These are the types of owners that communities need to encourage, not drive away.

3. Communities that have instituted such bans often find that the irresponsible owners and the criminals who use dogs for illegal purposes simply switch to another breed.

4. Breeds and mixes are hard to identify and often dogs are mislabeled and destroyed based on paranoia and prejudice and punish those that are good canine citizens. Many breeds function as assistance dogs for handicapped owners, search and rescue dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, police dogs, etc. and breed bans will drive them out of the community.
The American Veterinary Medical Association and several state veterinary medical associations oppose breed-specific legislation for just this reason.

5. The dog most restricted is the “pit bull.” A pit bull is a type of dog, not a recognized breed.

6. Passage of laws that are only enforced through complaints cause two problems: 1) they create disrespect for the law if authorities require compliance only upon complaint, and 2) they provide ammunition for neighborhood feuds.

Suggested Alternatives to Breed Bans

1. Stronger enforcement of existing dangerous dog laws. If they are not already in place, lobby for protection from untrained and unsupervised dogs of any breed or mix. This is a broad-based effort that protects all citizens as any dog can bite and be a nuisance when owned by an irresponsible owner. Those who would deliberately train a dog to act aggressively towards people or other animals, or to use dogs in the commission of a felony or misdemeanor should face additional penalties.

2. Encourage local animal rescue and welfare agencies to provide responsible dog ownership seminars and canine safety education. The American Kennel Club has a free education program created for elementary school children.

3. Protect the rights of all citizens with nuisance ordinances such as anti-barking, pooper scooper regulations and leash laws.

Pitties.Love.Peace’s position on Breed Specific Legislation:

Dog bites are a serious problem in the United States, with approximately 350,000 injurious bites reported per year.

In order to deal with this threat to public safety, many cities around the country have introduced breed bans. Pit Bulls are often the target of breed-specific legislation due to their reputation as vicious, powerful, fighting dogs. However, breed-specific legislation aimed at Pit Bulls is ineffective. It punishes responsible dog owners and allows reckless dog owners to continue to violate dog ownership responsibilities without decreasing the number of overall dog bites.

Many factors play into situations that lead to dog aggression and biting. In most cases, dogs that bite have histories of being tethered or running loose, suffering abuse, malnourishment or dehydration, and are unaltered (not neutered or spayed) and are poorly socialized. 82 percent of fatal bites result from dogs running loose. Keeping a dog outside, tied or tethered, also increases aggression, and tethered dogs are much more likely to retaliate and bite someone.

Many cities across the country are choosing to introduce breed-specific legislation primarily aimed at Pit Bulls. Many of the counties consider the ban to include any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentina, Presa Canario, Cane Corso, American Bulldog, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of the above breeds (more so than any other breed), or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of the above breeds.

Breed bans deprive responsible pet owners of their right to private property without impacting the overall number of bites in the county. Breed bans target all the Pit Bulls, or other breeds that may be included, in the county, whether they are well-behaved family pets or have an aggressive history. This approach places blame on the breed of dog, which does not decrease bite rates, rather than on the behavior of the owner. Denver, CO enacted a Pit Bull ban in 1989 and has lost about $250,000 per year since then due to enforcement costs.  Despite this long-standing and costly ban, Denver has a higher hospitalization rate due to dog bites than any other county in Colorado. The chart below from the National Canine Research Council shows that Boulder, a city with approximately half the population of Denver, had only one-sixth the amount of serious dog bites as Denver, even though Boulder has no legislation directed at Pit Bulls.

From 1995-2006
Denver 567,000 people 273 dog bite hospitalizations Breed ban enacted in 1989
Boulder 290,000 people 46 dog bite hospitalizations No breed-specific legislation

Breed bans/Pit Bull bans affect responsible owners who have raised their pets as family members. These types of dog owners are the owners that follow leash laws and anti-tethering laws and would adhere to the Pit Bull ban. Negligent owners who are attracted to Pit Bulls because of their negative reputation and who use them as status symbols or for fighting will not be influenced by the law. According to the American Kennel Club, “To provide communities with the most effective dangerous dog control possible, laws must not be breed specific. Instead of holding all dog owners accountable for their behavior, breed specific laws place restrictions only on the owners of certain breeds of dogs. If specific breeds are banned, owners of these breeds intent on using their dogs for malicious purposes, such as dog fighting or criminal activities, will simply change to another breed of dog and continue to jeopardize public safety.” Rather than punishing dog owners that exacerbate the problem of dog bites, breed bans deny responsible owners the right to private property and subject them to unnecessary regulations and hardships.

Legislation should target careless and irresponsible dog owners rather than certain breeds of dogs. Concerned counties should consider strengthening ordinances that cite reckless dog owners by increasing fines for owners who let their dogs run loose. By encouraging responsible ownership and penalizing negligent owners, they would reduce bite rates in a fair and cost-effective manner.