Breed specific legislation is an ill-guided attempt by communities to reduce serious problems such as dogs attacking people or livestock. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that such legislation makes communities safer. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) decided not to support such legislation following a thorough study of human fatalities from dog bites. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) outlines the problems with breed specific legislation.
What’s Wrong with Breed-Specific Laws?
BSL carries a host of negative and wholly unintended consequences:
- Dogs go into hiding
Rather than give up their beloved pets, owners of highly regulated or banned breeds often attempt to avoid detection of their “outlaw” dogs by restricting outdoor exercise and socialization and forgoing licensing, microchipping and proper veterinary care, including spay/neuter surgery and essential vaccinations. Such actions have implications both for public safety and the health of these dogs.
- Good owners and dogs are punished
BSL also causes hardship to responsible owners of entirely friendly, properly supervised and well-socialized dogs who happen to fall within the regulated breed. Although these dog owners have done nothing to endanger the public, they are required to comply with local breed bans and regulations unless they are able to mount successful (and often costly) legal challenges.
- They impart a false sense of security
Breed-specific laws have a tendency to compromise rather than enhance public safety. When limited animal control resources are used to regulate or ban a certain breed of dog, without regard to behavior, the focus is shifted away from routine, effective enforcement of laws that have the best chance of making our communities safer: dog license laws, leash laws, animal fighting laws, anti-tethering laws, laws facilitating spaying and neutering and laws that require all owners to control their dogs, regardless of breed.
- They may actually encourage ownership by irresponsible people
If you outlaw a breed, then outlaws are attracted to that breed. Unfortunately some people take advantage of the “outlaw” status of their breed of choice to bolster their own self image as living outside of the rules of mainstream society. Ironically, the rise of Pit Bull ownership among gang members and others in the late 1980’s coincided with the first round of breed-specific legislation.
Breed specific legislation overlaps with existing laws that if enforced, already address the problem of dangerous dogs. The CDC study found that reproductive status, socialization, and training were more powerfully correlated with problem dogs than was breed. The ASPCA supports enforcement of breed-neutral laws that hold dog owners responsible for the actions of their pets. Does your community favor or prohibit breed specific legislation?