Breed bans single out particular breeds of dogs, usually pit-bull-type dogs, and ban or restrict them. These breed bans are over-inclusive and penalize responsible dog owners.
Breed bans are also under-inclusive: These bans do not target all dogs that present a danger to the public. Typically, a number of types of breeds and mixed breeds are responsible for bites. For example, pit bulls and pit-bull mixes were responsible for only 8% of bites in one community considering a pit-bull ban. A pit-bull ban wouldn’t have protected the public from the dogs that caused 92% of the bites.
If dogs bite or attack, it’s not because they belong to a particular breed. Instead, it’s usually because of owner irresponsibility: The dog may not have been socialized or trained properly. The dog may have been abused, chained, neglected or isolated. Or the dog may have been trained to be aggressive or for fighting.
There are no major animal or health organizations that support BSL, including American Veterinary Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control, ASPCA, National Animal Control Association, American Kennel Club, American Canine Foundation, Humane Society of the US as well as countless others.
The National Animal Control Association: (Reviewed/Revised by the NACA Corporate Office- 09/17/02)
Dangerous and/or vicious animals should be labeled as such as a result of their actions or behaviors and not because of their breed.
Basis for Policy
Any animal may exhibit aggressive behavior regard-less of breed. Accurately identifying a specific animal’s lineage for prosecution purposes may be extremely difficult. Additionally, breed specific legislation may create an undue burden to owners who otherwise have demonstrated proper pet management and responsibility.
Agencies should encourage enactment and stringent enforcement of dangerous/vicious dog laws.
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA):
In 2001, a task force on Canine Aggression and Canine-Human Interaction was formed by the American Veterinary Medical Association. In its paper, "A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention", the task force concluded there is no evidence any breed of dog is more vicious or dangerous than the others. The AVMA does not support BSL and instead recommends a dangerous dog law.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
In 1996, the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention observed in a paper on fatal dog attacks that BSL does not address the reasons dogs bite.
BSL does not work to prevent or reduce dog bite incidents
1. In a well known study researchers in the UK examined the frequency and severity of dog-bite injuries at a hospital accident and emergency department. The UK’s Dangerous Dog Act bans four breeds of dogs, the pit bull, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro, as well as mixes and dogs with the behavioral and physical characteristics of these breeds. Under that law the Secretary of State can also ban any dog bred for fighting or which is of a "type bred for" fighting.
Researchers looked at a three month period before the breed bans and found there were 99 bites, 3% of which were by pit bull types. Two years after the ban was implemented, there were 99 dog bites in a 3 month period, and 5% were by pit bull type dogs. The percentage of bites involving "dangerous" dogs increased from 6% to11% following passage of the Dangerous Dogs Act.
The study also determined that the Act did not result in any decline in dog bite incidents with 73.9% before and 73.1% after enactment of the law. ("Does the dangerous dogs act protect against animal attacks: a prospective study of mammalian bites in the accident and emergency department", 1996, Klaassen B, Buckley JR, Esmail A., Department of Accident and Emergency, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, UK)
2. In fact, the UK Dangerous Dogs Act was declared a failure in 2007 when it was found numbers of dog bites had risen 10% in a year and 50% since 1998-1999. According to the BBC, hospitalizations due to dog bites increased by 25% after ‘pit bulls’ were banned in Britain.
3. A recent Spanish study compared dog bites during a four year period, 1995-1999, before BSL, and those from 2000-2004, following BSL. Breeds listed as dangerous were responsible for only a small percentage of bites both before and after the legislation. ("Spanish dangerous animals act: Effect on the epidemiology of dog bites", 2007, Beln Rosado DVM, MSc,, Sylvia Garca-Belenguer DVM, PhD, Marta Len DVM, PhD and Jorge Palacio DVM, PhD, Animal Pathology Department, Faculty of Veterinary, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain; Merial Laboratorios, S.A., Tarragona, Barcelona, Spain)
4. Another study in Germany from 2000-2002 tested several hundred dogs belonging to several breeds including those banned or deemed dangerous according to BSL. 95% of the dogs, regardless of breed, reacted appropriately during testing. 5% displayed excessive aggressive behavior in inappropriate situations. These instances were associated with the dogs’ fear or inappropriate handling by the owner.
The study found no significant difference between breeds and no indication of dangerousness in specific breeds. The study found no justification for the BSL. (Is breed specific legislation justified? Stud of the results of the temperament test of Lower Saxony, 2000-2002, Esther Schalke, DVM, Stefanie A. Off, DVM, Esther Schalke, DVM, Amelie M von Gaertner, DVM, Hansjoachim Hackbarth, DVM, PhD, Angela Mittmann, DVM, PhD, FTA; Institute for Animal Welfare and Behavior, University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover, Hanover, Germany)
The results were then compared to tests done on a control group of golden retrievers. Again, no significant difference was found among the breeds in displays of aggressive behavior. There was no scientific basis for BSL. (Is there a difference? Comparison of golden retrievers and dogs affected by breed specific legislation regarding aggressive behavior, 2002, Stefanie A. Off, DVM, Esther Schalke, DVM, Amelie M von Gaertner, DVM, Hansjoachim Hackbarth, DVM, PhD, Institute for Animal Welfare and Behavior, University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover, Hanover, Germany)
Basing its opinion on these studies, the Central Administration Court in Berlin, upheld a ruling that voided Lower Saxony’s ban on Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Pit bull Terriers and regulation of Rottweilers and Dobermans.
5. Just last month, in June, 2008, the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Gerda Verburg, announced to the parliament that the 15 year old rule banning pit bulls in The Netherlands would be lifted. A rule banning rottweilers that was instituted in 2000 will also be lifted. The reason? The breed specific legislation failed to reduce incidents of dog bites.
These laws known as RAD or "Arrangement for Aggressive Animals" exempted registered, purebred dogs. RAD sought to eliminate non-registered dogs if their appearance was of the "pit bull type".
John Payne, president of The Netherland’s Institute of Animal Control Officers, told the committee that then recommended elimination of the BSL, that an American pit bull terrier could be an "extremely good animal" depending on the owner.
6. According to the city of Winnipeg’s own data, when Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada banned ‘pit bulls’ in 1990, there were 214 reported dog bites that year. For the decade following Winnipeg’s ‘pit bull’ ban, there were an average of close to 50 more dog bites per year.
7. There had been just over 500 reported bites, the year Kitchener, Ontario, Canada decided to ban the #8 ‘breed’ in their dog bite statistics (‘pit bulls’, but not the #1 breed, German Shepherds, and not even the #7 breed, Poodles). Eight years later, in 2004, the city again reports just over 500 dog bites.
8. Communities that have repealed pit bull bans because they were found to be (1) too costly; (2) difficult to enforce and (3) ineffective: Detroit, MI, East Point, MI, Redford, MI, Saginaw, MI, Baltimore, MD, Belton, MO, Bourbonnais, IL, Beloit, Kansas, Alguna, Washington, Hudsonville, MI.
In April of 2007, Middletown, Ohio lifted its 2 year old pit bull ban. Pit bulls accounted for 5% of bites the same percentage of bites before and since the ban.
9. Despite its famous, long time ban on pit bulls, Denver’s Director of Animal Control, Doug Kelly, recently said, "We’ve experienced a continuing upward trend of pit bulls impounded since 2001. The ban hasn’t ended the popularity of the pit bull breed in Denver. There are still pit bulls, apparently more every year." When asked if the ban has been effective, Kelly responds, "I don’t know."
BSL is costly to administer and enforce, particularly given that it does not work to reduce bites
1. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, the cost to enforce a pit bull ban from 2001 to 2002 was at least $560,000. Of the 900 pit bulls euthanized during that time, animal control reported that 720 were nice family pets.
2. Baltimore, MD estimated that in 2001 it cost the city $750,000.00 a year to enforce the BSL which was later repealed as ineffective, unenforceable and too costly.
3. Ontario spent $170,000 per year on enforcing a pit bull ban. After the ban passed in 2005, animal control spent 25% of its time on pit bull-related calls, but only 4% of licensed dogs were pit bulls.
4. Cincinnati, Ohio spends $160,000 per year trying to enforce a pit bull ban and millions in litigation defending challenges to the ban.
5. A pit bull ban means additional animal control workers for identification and enforcement and litigation, sheltering, vet care and other costs of care for restricted breeds that have been impounded and must be held pending hearings; less in licensing fees as owners decline to register restricted breeds for fear of not being able to afford or follow through on restrictions; an increase in restricted breeds in shelters in surrounding communities, less shelter and resources for other animals that are euthanized.
Dogs are often mis-identified as pit bulls
1. Pitbull is not, in fact, a breed of dog. The term "pitbull" is typically associated with these three breeds: American Staffordshire terrier, American Pitbull Terrier, and Staffordshire bull terrier.
2. There is a genetic test to determine a specific dog breed, but not aggression. The only way most dogs are identified is by appearance. In her research, Dr. Cornelia Wagner, concluded aggression in dogs cannot be determined by appearance. She found no basis to conclude aggression beyond that found in all dogs is hereditary. (Wagner, Cornelia, DVM, MS, "Are certain dog breeds more dangerous than others?", October 18; 2001; Wagner, Cornelia, DVM, MS, "Is it possible to identify dogs as members of a specific breed?", September 9, 2002.) Also, there are virtually no genetic differences between breeds. (Serpell, J, "The domestic dog: its evolution, behaviour, and interactions with people", 2001, Cambridge University Press, pp 162-178).
3. There are 20+ breeds of dogs that have similar appearances and are commonly mistaken for pit bulls. It is almost impossible for the average person to accurately identify a pit bull.
4. In the case of Margolius v. Denver, the court found animal control officers could not definitively identify a dog as a pit-bull terrier.
5. In the Ohio case of Toledo v. Tellings the dog warden testified if a dog was 50% pit bull but didn’t resemble a pit, then the dog was not considered a pit bull. If a dog looked like a pit, regardless of the % of breed, he considered it a pit bull. The dog warden agreed one cannot really tell whether or not many dogs have pit bull in them. The Tellings appeals court noted "Criminal charges have likely been brought based on purely individual and speculative decisions on whether the jaw of a dog is "massive" enough or the chest is muscular enough or the brow is broad enough to be designated as a "pit bull". The appeals court found the process of identifying a pit bull was too subjective, basically that there is no definitive way to prove a mixed breed is a pit bull. The appeals court found it was likely many non-pit bull dogs had been mis-identified.
6. "Pit Bulls are not naturally human aggressive. The majority of attacks on humans reported to be by Pit Bulls are made in error through misidentification of the breed or through the wrongful lumping of mixed breeds in with reported bite statistics." (Pit Bull Registry)
7. The chance of being killed by a pit bull is one in 145 million. (American Pit Bull Registry)
Remember: There are few genetic differences between breeds.
Pit Bulls have "locking jaws."
"We found that the American Pit Bull Terriers did not have any unique mechanism that would allow these dogs to lock their jaws. There were no mechanical or morphological differences ." Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, University of Georgia
Pit Bulls have massive biting power measuring in 1,000s of pounds of pressure per square inch.
On average, dogs bite with 320 pounds of pressure per square inch. The bite pressure of a German Shepherd, an American Pit Bull Terrier and a Rottweiler were tested. The American Pit Bull Terrier had the least amount of bite pressure of the three dogs tested. Dr. Brady Barr, National Geographic
Family pet pit bulls turn on their owners.
No single neutered household pet pit bull has ever killed anyone. * Karen Delise, founder of the National Canine Research Council
Pit Bulls attack without warning.
"Pit Bulls signal like other dogs." * The Institute of Animal Welfare and Behavior of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Germany, which temperament tested over 1,000 dogs.
Pit Bulls are "ticking time bombs" that turn on their owners.
"No single, neutered household pet pit bull has ever killed anyone." * Karen Delise, founder of the National Canine Research Council
While there are some pit bulls with good temperaments, they are the exception not the rule.
The American Temperament Test shows pit bulls consistently score above the average for all breeds tested, year in and year out! * The American Temperament Test Society
Pit Bulls are more dangerous than other dogs.
"A dog is only as dangerous as its owner allows it to be." * Diane Jessup, founder of LawDogsUSA
Source: Animal Farm Foundation
Proactive, positive solutions to keep communities safe
Calgary, Alberta, Canada, developed a successful method for reducing dog bites, and even making their animal control department financially self-sufficient…and they did so without banning any breeds. Calgary boasts the lowest dog bite rate of any major Canadian city, after having reduced dog bites by 70% using the very techniques nearly all experts agree are key in reducing unprovoked dog bites:
1. Educational programs to teach dog owners responsible dog ownership. Promote socialization and training with community-wide programs to reward responsible dog owners and encourage socialization and training as part of basic and common canine care practices.
2. Increased access to off-leash parks for proper socialization of dogs is vital. Representatives from Calgary feel that a large part of their success in reducing dog bites is attributed to the ample access dog owners have to leash-free parks for socialization purposes. Calgary has the largest number of dedicated off-leash areas, of any major city in Canada, with over 200!
3. Pass a dangerous dog law that recognizes that any dog, regardless of breed, is potentially dangerous or considered dangerous if the dog has demonstrated aggressive behavior. The dangerous dog law should allow for different levels of aggressive behavior. The point is to protect the public by encouraging owners to take action to control and manage their dogs – through spay/neuter, training and pet owner responsibility classes – before their dogs’ behavior causes them to be classified at a higher level of aggression.
4. Pass strictly enforced leash or dog-at-large laws that require spay/neuter after the second violation. 82% of dog bites are by dogs running loose. (JAVMA, September 15, 2000) After passing a leash law, the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, reported a 35% drop in dog bites.
5. Pass laws that restrict the tethering, chaining and penning or caging of dogs. Dogs that are chained are 2.8 times more likely to be aggressive. The American Veterinary Medical Association has stated: "Confine your dog in a fenced yard or dog run when it is not in the house. Never tether or chain your dog because this can contribute to aggressive behavior." (May 15, 2003). Lawrence County, Kansas, adopted an anti-tethering ordinance. From 2005 to 2006, the number of calls concerning cruelty and dog fighting dropped from 800 to 260. Officials attribute the decline in large part to the anti-tethering law.
6. Encourage spay/neuter and provide low-cost spay/neuter in your community. 90% of fatal dog attacks are by dogs that are not spayed or neutered. Research cited in a 2000 Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association study indicated unsterilized dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite. (Delise, National Canine Research Council) 80% of dogs seen by veterinary behaviorists for dominance aggression were not spayed/neutered. (JAVMA, Vol. 218, No. 11, June 1, 2001) More than 81% of dogs involved in bites or attacks were found in one survey not to have been spayed/neutered. (Texas 2002 Severe Animal Attack and Bite Surveillance Summary) The key to encouraging spay/neuter is education and also the availability of a subsidized, low cost spay neuter program. Also, mandate spay/neuter for potentially dangerous dogs, dogs adopted out by shelters or rescues or sold by breeders or pet stores, and dogs impounded more than once or found at large.
7. Encourage responsible dog ownership, including socialization at an early age and training. Dogs should be part of the family. 81% of fatal dog attacks are by dogs that were isolated or not included in the family’s activities.
8. Strengthen dog-fighting laws, and ban training of dogs for aggression. Make animal neglect and cruelty laws more specific and easier to enforce, with tougher penalties. Breeders should be registered or licensed and subject to inspections and sales of their dogs tracked. Sales of dogs along roads, in flea markets and other public places should be banned. Stop felons from owning dangerous dogs. 61% of fatal dog attacks are by dogs that were not humanely controlled, or had been abused or neglected.