The fundamental reason why breed bans are ineffective and irresponsible

Breed bans unnecessarily discriminate against particular types of dogs.

by Good Dog

If you live in an apartment building, or have tried to get pet insurance, you may be familiar with “Breed Specific Legislation.”

This is a term that encompasses a collection of laws that either “regulate or ban certain dog breeds in an effort to decrease dog attacks on humans and other animals.” These laws are designed in an attempt to protect humans from the dangers of dog bites and any medical complications that could come from them; however, this brings a negative connotation to certain breeds, when it’s completely possible for any breed of dog display aggressive behavior.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “breed-specific bans are a simplistic answer to a far more complex social problem, and they have the potential to divert attention and resources from more effective approaches.”

Breed-specific legislation, in theory, is designed to “protect” people from getting bitten by certain “aggressive” dog breeds. These breeds, typically in the pit/bull terrier family, become misunderstood, mistreated and surrendered to shelters much more than other breeds of dogs.

In addition to pit bulls, these laws can also commonly affect American Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers or any mix of these breeds—as well as dogs who look like these breeds.

Because of the wrongful association with violence, some apartment buildings, residential areas or insurance companies will refuse to accept dogs of specific breeds.

The Love-A-Bull organization outlined a few of the negative effects of breed specific legislation rulings, namely: it’s expensive to implement, ineffective, and it can be difficult to completely identify the breed of dogs due to inaccurate records of parentage.

Additionally, breed specific legislation has not been proven to reduce the number of dog bites. "Following a thorough study of human fatalities resulting from dog bites, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided to strongly oppose BSL. The CDC cited, among other problems, the inaccuracy of dog bite data and the difficulty in identifying dog breeds (especially true of mixed-breed dogs).”

So, if breed specific legislation doesn’t offer the protection it intends to, what does it do?

It unnecessarily discriminates against particular types of dogs. This can make it difficult for people to adopt or own pit-bull type dogs, due to the breed specific legislation in their area or apartment building. Therefore, it also creates an influx of those dogs facing life the shelter system which can have a significant negative impact on their mental and physical health.

There’s also an argument that overall public health and safety suffers due to these laws, too. By creating laws that act as "compromises," the legislation ignores the true cause of this social problem.

Then what would be a more effective approach for creating a safe environment and fewer dog bites?

The AVMA argues for:

  • More focus on responsible dog ownership
  • "Prohibition of dog fighting
  • Encouraging neutering for dogs not intended for breeding
  • School-based and adult education programs that teach pet selection strategies, pet care and responsibility, and bite prevention”

More education and better training routines for all dogs, not just those deemed unfairly “dangerous,” would reduce the number of “dangerous” dogs by increasing the number of responsible owners.

As an example of what this successfully would look like, Love-A-Bull highlights the city of Calgary in Canada: “Calgary, saw a five-fold reduction over 20 years – from 10 bites per 10,000 people in 1986 to two in 2006. Rather than banning breeds, Calgary uses strong licensing and enforcement plus dog safety public education campaigns.”

Overall, breed specific legislation does not appear to benefit society at large by effectively reducing the rates of dog bites. It mostly unfairly misaligns certain breeds, giving them a label as “dangerous,” and sets them up for failure within society and the shelter system.

If you’re interested in owning a breed commonly affected by breed specific legislation, it’s essential to research if your apartment building, neighborhood, insurance, local dog park, or doggy daycare have any particular legislation against your breed of choice before you make the commitment to getting a new dog. You could also contact a responsible rescue organization or shelter, as they typically have a large number of surrendered or abandoned dogs due to the deep misunderstanding of these breeds.