About Breed-Specific Legislation
What It Is
Breed-specific legislation is designed to place restrictions on owning certain breeds of dogs. Typically, the restricted breeds include those that are popularly believed to be inherently aggressive.
Breed-specific legislation creates a number of restrictions or regulations
on any one breed. Owners of certain breeds of dogs may be required to:
The most common kind of breed-specific legislation completely bans all dogs of a certain breed! This means that all dogs of the banned breed must be surrendered to the local animal shelter and euthanized.
Firstly, breed-specific legislation requires that every dog be classified as a certain breed. This is not always easy to do! Are Staffordshire Bull Terriers the same as American Pit Bull Terriers? They are very similar breeds in temperament and appearance! Are American Bulldogs included under general legislation against Pit Bull dogs? What about mixed breed dogs? What about "mutts"?
Secondly, what happens once a certain breed is banned? If pit bull terriers are banned, what stops a vicious person from getting a Rottweiler or German Shepherd? The reason pit bulls rank so highly in the annual deadly dog bite statistics is not because the dogs are vicious, but because they are frequently owned by cruel, heartless owners that breed and train for fighting and "guarding". So, what happens when those sick, twisted people are blocked from owning pit bulls? They'll probably just get some other breed to do the job. Indeed, across the decades we have seen those bad owners create bad reputations for Dobermans, then Rottweilers, and now to pit bulls. Banning a breed punishes the innocent dogs, not the sicko creeps that want to create a vicious dog.
Thirdly, what happens to the breed that is outlawed or restricted? Dogs that are not allowed to attend obedience classes or must stay confined in a small area will almost certainly become unruly and uncontrollable. It is unfair to the dog to force it to wear a muzzle when it has not exhibited aggressive tendencies. Rescuing dogs of restricted breeds from abusive situations will not be desirable because rehabbers have better things to do than fight miles of red tape. And dogs of a breed that are banned have to go some place. The animal shelters will have to slaughter countless dogs simply because they are a certain breed. The dogs that are not surrendered will be hidden away without access to veterinary care or socialization.
Fourthly, breed-specific legislation is expensive and difficult to enforce! There are just not enough animal control officers to patrol the entire city searching for outlawed animals. There are not enough cells at the city pound to contain all those outlawed animals. How many animal control officers can tell the difference between an American Staffordshire Terrier and an American Pit Bull Terrier? The extra training needed to ensure that officers don't apprehend the wrong breeds would be expensive and time consuming. Lack of education leads to the mistaken identity and unjust imprisonment of many more animals. Owners who are dedicated to their dogs will undoubtedly take their arguments to the court, which takes more taxpayer time and money.
Lastly, breed-specific legislation does not take into account the owner's responsibility for the dog or the individuality of each dog; it punishes an entire breed. ANY dog can bite - even little bitty poodles and cute Dalmations! Why, then, should a particular breed get all the blame? The owners should be held responsible, and yet, BSL does not punish stupid or cruel owners that create monsters (those owners will simply find a new dog to victimize) - it only punishes responsible dog owners and innocent dogs.
Why not hold owners responsible for their dogs? Almost every city in the U.S. already has this kind of legislation. If a dog bites or attacks someone, the owner is legally responsible, and restrictions are placed on the "guilty" dog. Why is breed-specific legislation necessary if there are already legal means in place to punish irresponsible owners and put restrictions on dogs that are proven to be aggressive?
Why not require an owner education class prior to allowing someone to own a dog? We require drivers to pass a driving test and immigrants to take a citizenship test. Teaching people about their responsibilities as dog owners is just as important, and yet, very few pet owners bother to seek education before or after getting a dog.
Why not encourage or even require people to spay or neuter pet dogs? In many cases, aggression can be significantly reduced or eliminated by neutering a dog. Most dog bites come from unneutered male dogs.
Why not teach people how to avoid dog bites? Many dogs bite out of fear or from provocation. Teaching people the best way to avoid a confrontation with a dog will keep everybody, including the dog, safe and happy.
Why not require people to socialize and train their dogs? Socialization as a puppy is one of the best ways to reduce aggression in dogs. Training reinforces the owner's status as "top dog" and reduces the likelihood of owning a dominant or aggressive dog.
Breed-specific legislation is pointless and unjust. The OWNERS should be responsible for the actions of their dogs, not the dogs themselves! Responsible dog ownership and an educated populace are the keys to eliminating confrontations between dogs and humans.
This page copyright 2002-2005 by Jennifer Peterson.
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UPDATED MARCH 13, 2013