Don’t Discriminate Against My Dog
|February 7, 2011||Posted by russmead under Breed Bans|
By Lydia Zaidman and Liz Arps
Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is any law that discriminates against owners based on the breed of dog they choose to own. While pit bulls are most often the targets of these laws today, across the country over 20 different breeds have been banned.
When "pit bulls" are banned, the laws always include "pit bull mixes." Not only is a "pit bull" not a breed (rather, it’s a category), but adding mixes into the law expands the breed to well over 25 breeds or more. Multiple breeds share similar body characteristics as pit bulls making it hard to identify what a "pit bull" is, without even considering the difficulties in identifying mixed breed dogs.
No dog is inherently dangerous: dog owners are the cause and the solution. News stories of dog attacks rarely report any factor involved in the attack that could have led the dog to be aggressive. The Pit Bull Placebo, by Karen Delise, showed that important details are often left out of dog attack stories, such as the fact that a dog who bit was dying of malnutrition or that a pair of dogs who attacked someone had ingested rat poisoning before the incident. There is also the trend that negatively hyping one breed of dogs increases their popularity, generally with unsuitable owners. BSL can have the same effect-now the banned dog becomes even more desirable with unsavory characters.
Pit bull attacks are over-reported compared to other breeds. Examples of this can be seen with the fact that a Husky killed a boy in Alaska and a man was killed by his mixed breed dog in California, but both incidents were only covered in a combined three stories in their local papers. However, over 100 sources worldwide reported a story about a child who was killed by a pit bull in Michigan. In 2007, the disparities of reporting grew to 230 to 1.
In Texas over the past 45 years there have been 64 dog bite-related fatalities. At least 18 different breeds/types of dogs have been identified in connection with these incidents. None of the dogs involved in dog bite-related fatalities had been spayed or neutered by their owners.
A significant number of the dogs involved were either being used for breeding and/or lived their lives at the ends of chains. The majority of the fatalities involving children were the result of unsupervised children and unfamiliar dogs (chained, yard dogs.) Dog bites occur in all breeds, and are generally provoked. One possible reason for dog attacks is the use of dogs as guardians of the house. A dog that is expected to protect a property from intruders cannot be expected to distinguish between malicious people and a neighbor’s child.
There is also the issue that many dogs that attack are approached while they are chained. Dogs that are kept chained up outside are subject to a host of unfavorable conditions, including extreme weather and attacks from loose dogs. Chained dogs are also generally territorial because they are only given that particular space to explore, which leads to defensive behavior because they cannot flee any frightening situation. Finally, dogs kept on a chain are rarely socialized, which results in inappropriate behavior with other dogs and humans.
It would cost Texans an estimated $31,000,000 to enforce BSL in the state. Italy and the Netherlands have recently lifted their discriminatory laws in favor of non-discriminatory legislation, finding the laws ineffective. Both countries have moved to laws focusing on canine and human behavior. Breed bans have shown no effectiveness in increasing public safety or decreasing dog bites, yet they are increasingly popular.
In the past 40 years in the United States, only between 5-10% of dog bites are reported as serious, and the odds are the same nationwide and independent of whether an area has BSL.
A special report published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal states that all dogs are a product of their environment regardless of their breed, and a dog’s particular personality is not only formed by genetics, but instead a mixture of genetics, socialization, training, and it’s treatment. To equate responsible owners with people who use their dogs as backyard breeders, or guard dogs (chained all day and night) with those whose dogs snuggle on the couch and receive proper training is simply wrong.
Until we as a society recognize that any breed will react differently if is part of the family versus an outside dog that is purchased to be utilized as a guard dog, a status symbol or for monetary purposes, there will continue to be tragedies.
Photo credit: Jennifer Hayes
Lydia Zaidman is Co-Founder of Love-A-Bull.org based in Austin Texas. Donations are needed and may be made on-line or mailed to: Love-A-Bull, PO Box 18792, Austin TX 78760. Lydia’s dogs (pictured) have CGCs and one is a certified therapy dog.