So what exactly is Breed Specific Legislation, or BSL?
BSL is placing restrictions or bans on dog ownership, based solely on their breed. It is used to target what some consider to be dangerous breeds, such as Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, Chow Chows, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, and German Shepherds.
The reasoning is that these breeds are inherently dangerous and by banning them, it will reduce the incidence of dog bites and attacks. But the simple truth is that BSL DOESN’T WORK! Countless experts, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States, Best Friends Animal Society, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the National Canine Research Council, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) oppose BSL.
The CDC even noted that once a breed becomes banned, people that exploit dogs and make them aggressive will simply replace them with another breed. There is much debate on the effectiveness of BSL, but studies that compare bite incidences before and after the enactment of BSL show that there is no change.
As an example, Prince George’s County, MD spends more than $250,000 annually to enforce its ban on Pit Bulls.
In 2003, a study conducted by the county on the ban’s effectiveness noted that “public safety is not improved as a result of [the ban],” and that “there is no transgression committed by owner or animal that is not covered by another, non-breed specific portion of the Animal Control Code (i.e., vicious animal, nuisance animal, leash laws).
No breed of dog is inherently dangerous. Any dog can bite, and no dog breed is more likely to bite than any other. The AVMA has looked at numerous studies and the data indicates that biting incidents are influenced by many factors including: the popularity of the breed (i.e. as the numbers of a particular breed of dog increase, so may the number of incidences); whether or not the dog has been neutered; the setting; the involvement of children; and the socialization, training and care the dog has received.
Statistics gathered by the ASPCA show that:
- More than 70% of all dog bite cases involve unneutered male dogs.
- An unneutered male dog is 2.6 times more likely to bite than is a neutered dog.
- A chained or tethered dog is 2.8 times more likely to bite than a dog that is not chained or tethered.
- 97% of dogs involved in fatal dog attacks in 2006 were not spayed/neutered.
- 78% were maintained not as pets, but rather for guarding, image enhancement, fighting or breeding.
- 84% were maintained by reckless owners—these dogs were abused or neglected, not humanely controlled or contained, or allowed to interact with children unsupervised.
Additionally, it is difficult to definitively identify breeds. Many of the existing BSL bans on Pit Bulls describe a muscular, stocky, medium-sized dog, with a square head, short legs, and short hair. This description could fit many other breeds and mixes beyond the Pit Bull. In the end, BSL takes loving family pets out of the home based solely on their looks rather than actions and places them in already overcrowded shelters.
Ultimately, most of these dogs are euthanized. BSL is costly to enforce, doesn’t improve public safety, and it destroys families in the process. Everyone needs to understand the dangerous implications of BSL. BSL has gained a lot of attention recently because of Pit Bulls, but this is not a problem only for Pit Bull owners. BSL can be written against any breed of dog and this issue needs to be addressed by all dog owners and supporters. There are only 11 states that have state level laws preventing local municipalities from banning specific breeds.
Become a vocal opponent to BSL and instead, support breed-neutral measures and legislation that truly are effective. Proactive strategies aimed at preventing bites from happening include; education, enforcement of leash laws and other animal control laws, spaying/neutering dogs, and responsible dog ownership (e.g. training, socializing, and providing dogs with a good quality of life). BSL is breed discrimination!
Written by Melissa Lederer
more to come…..