DNA Test Saves Dog from Breed Ban

Salina, Kansas bans pit bulls. The issue, as always with breed bans, is what is a pit bull?

The ordinance defines "pit bull" to include 3 breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Ordinance Nos. 04-10210, 10224. The ordinance also bans dogs that has the "appearance and characteristics of being predominately" of these breeds. As is typical in these bans, "breeds" "commonly known" as pit bulls are also outlawed.

"Pit bulls" in the city at the time of the ordinance’s 2004 effective date were allowed to stay but there are a number of oppressive restrictions including special permits, fees, special collars, warning signs, confinement, onerous insurance requirements, reporting requirements, and on and on. All designed to force owners to surrender their dogs.

The penalties for violating any part of this law can mean a fine up to $2,500 and a year in jail. The dog, of course, can be seized, impounded and euthanized.

Pit bull bans are based on the myth that breed or appearance can determine a dog’s behavior. Worse, these bans are premised on the false notion that animal control officers, police, neighbors and owners can identify the breed of a dog based on its appearance. That is virtually impossible.

The availability of DNA testing for dogs has driven that point home at least in Salina. Last week animal control officers picked up a dog, Lucey, they believed was a pit bull dog or looked like she was "predominately" one of the 3 banned breeds. The owner, Angey Cartwright, asked for a DNA test which they agreed a veterinarian could perform on the dog. The test saved her life. The city accepted the results and returned Lucey to her owner.

It turns out Lucey had less than 12.5 percent each of the DNA of bull terrier, boxer, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. She was mostly, 25 percent, Bernese Mountain Dog. Well, really, she’s mostly just a dog. Lucey, by the way, has never shown any aggression towards anyone or other animal.

Companies that manufacture DNA tests for dogs warn against using the results to enforce breed bans. A Miami-Dade County hearing officer in two cases has accepted the results in challenges to the county’s claim the dogs were pit bulls.

For more information: Shelter Medicine: A Comparison of Visual and DNA Identification of BREEDS of Dogs

Dog Breed Specific Legislation: The Cost to People, Pets and Veterinarians, and the Damage to the Human-Animal Bond 

Miami Dade County: Two decades of BSL has produced no positive results

Denver: Selective Counting and the Cost to Dogs and People

Information Your Community Leaders Need to Know about BSL