My beloved bullys....Before they were demonized, pit bulls were known as loyal and friendly dogs. Their loyalty and train-ability makes them incredibly good service dogs. In fact, Stubby, a pit bull, was a service dog in World War I that was so honored that he was promoted to Sergeant.
History loves the pit bull breeds. They were not only known as “nanny dogs” because of how good they were with children, but also as “America’s dog”. Yes, the pit bull breeds were, once upon a time, a favorite within the US.
In present day, pit bulls are regarded as some of the most dangerous and uncontrollable dogs. Misconceptions, sensationalized stories and urban legends have loaned to the erroneous opinion of the bully breeds. Breed Specific Laws (BSL) are based on the fear created by bad information.
In reality, the pit bulls that act out have usually been abused or mishandled. A study from Bristol University in 2013 proved that a dog’s owner is to blame for aggression.
Pit bulls are strong, large dogs and they do require attention and training, but they are not innately aggressive. There are statistics that prove it.
The American Temperament Test Society provides information on the natural temperament of pure-breed and mixed-breed dogs. Breeds are giving passing or failing grades and the totals are matched against each other and transferred into percentages that pass. The American Pit Bull Terriers, those most commonly used in dog fighting, actually have an 86.8% score. and many of the other bully breeds scored even higher.
A common myth about pit bulls is that their jaws lock. If that was true, that would certainly make them a great deal more dangerous than they are. According to the ASPCA, that is just another bad fact. There’s nothing “unique about the anatomy of a pit bull jaw.”
When it comes down to pure facts, pit bulls have never been inherently dangerous. Fear and misinformation, however, have led to BSL.
What is breed-specific legislation?
Breed-specific legislation (BSL), also referred to as breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL), is a law or ordinance that prohibits or restricts the keeping of dogs of specific breeds, dogs presumed to be specific breeds, mixes of specific breeds, and/or dogs presumed to be mixes of one or more of those breeds. The most drastic form of BSL is a complete ban; but BSL also includes any laws or governmental regulations that impose separate requirements or limitations, including but not limited to: mandatory spay-neuter, mandatory muzzling, liability insurance requirements, special licensing and additional fees, mandatory microchipping or tattoos, owner / walker age requirements, property posting requirements, confinement and leash requirements, breed-specific pet limits, sale or transfer notification requirements, restrictions on access to certain public spaces with the dog [e.g.: public parks, school grounds], required town-issued items [e.g.: fluorescent collar; vest], training requirements, requirement that photos of the dog and/or owner be kept on town file. BSL, in all of its forms, results in the destruction of many pet dogs.
What breeds of dogs have been targeted by BSL?
Various breeds have been or currently are targeted by BSL. Until the law was repealed in 2009, Italy regulated the keeping of 17 breeds. In the United States, jurisdictions have either banned or put discriminatory restrictions on one or all of the following: Akita, “Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldogs”, Alaskan Malamute, “American Bandogge”, American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Belgian Malinois, Bullmastiff, Bull Terrier, Cane Corso, Chihuahua, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Doberman Pinscher, Dogo Argentino, “Fila Brasileiro”, German Shepherd Dog, Miniature Bull Terrier, Neapolitan Mastiff, "Pit bull" (please note that "pit bull" is not a breed of dog), Perro de Presa Canario, Rottweiler, Shar Pei, Siberian Husky, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, “Tosa Inu”, and wolf-hybrids. These ordinances also target dogs suspected of being mixes of one or more of the named breeds.
What position do legal, animal-related, and non-animal related organizations take on BSL?
All of the following organizations DO NOT endorse BSL:
American Animal Hospital Association, American Bar Association, American Dog Owner's Association, American Humane Association, American Kennel Club, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, Association of Pet Dog Trainers, Australian Veterinary Association, Best Friends Animal Society, British Veterinary Association, Canadian Kennel Club, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federation of Veterinarians in Europe, Humane Society of the United States, International Association of Canine Professionals, National Animal Control Association, National Animal Interest Alliance, National Association of Obedience Instructors, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (UK & Australia), United Kennel Club, and the White House Administration. In addition, many state and local-level veterinary medical associations and humane organizations oppose BSL.
Aren't certain breeds of dogs more likely to injure or bite than others?
There is no evidence from the controlled study of dog bites that one kind of dog is more likely to bite a human being than another kind of dog.
Does BSL reduce dog bites?
No. BSL has not succeeded in reducing dog bite-related injuries wherever in the world it has been enacted.
BSL is very costly, penalizes responsible pet owners, diverts resources, and is open to challenge.
• Use the Best Friends Fiscal Impact Calculator: to calculate an estimate of the additional expenses for your community (and you as a taxpayer) that will result from BSL: costs for enforcement, kenneling, euthanasia and litigation, among others.
• Miami-Dade County banned “pit bulls” in 1989. The ban did not reduce dog bites, but has generated litigation costs. Hearing officer proceedings, as well as a circuit court case, have questioned the enforceability of the law.
• The Department of Justice guidelines for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) state that it is contrary to the Act to deny a disabled person equal access to public facilities based upon the presumed breed of their service dog. This has exposed municipalities with BSL to litigation costs when they have attempted to deny such access based the presumed breed of a person’s service dog.
What is the trend in BSL?
There is a growing awareness that BSL does not improve community safety and penalizes responsible dog owners and their family companions. From January 2012-May 2014, more than seven times as many American communities have either considered and rejected a breed-specific ordinance, or repealed an existing one, as have enacted BSL. Massachusetts, Nevada, Connecticut, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Utah have recently enacted state laws that prohibit their towns and counties from regulating dogs on the basis of breed. Eighteen states now prohibit BSL. The White House Administration has announced its opposition to BSL, stating that “research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.”
What is the best way to reduce dog bite-related incidents in a community?
The trend in prevention of dog bites continues to shift in favor of multifactorial approaches focusing on improved ownership and a better understanding of dog behavior, education of parents and children regarding safety around dogs, and consistent enforcement of dangerous dog/reckless owner ordinances in communities. Effective laws hold all dog owners responsible for the humane care, custody, and control of all dogs regardless of breed or type.