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America Against Breed Specific Legislation

Breed Specific Legislation

  • What is Breed Specific Legislation?
  • Whats the point?
  • What about Bite Statistics?
  • Dogs currently affected by BSL
  • How does BSL get started?
  • Why all breeds need to fight

What is a BSL?

BSL stands for Breed Specific Legislation. A BSL can be anything from requiring special licensing of a breed or breeds (breed restriction) to the total elimination of a breed (breed ban).

Why is BSL bad?


BSL fails to target the problem: bad dog owners. Those who are causing the problems with their dogs will not care about the law.  Either these owners will continue to own the breeds mentioned in the BSL or dump the dogs, get a new breed and continue the cycle. Or, a restriction will make the breeds more attractive to those who get a feeling of power by intentionally breaking the law. Some owners are simply poorly educated and do not know what it takes to properly raise, train, socialize and manage any dog.  Owners who are intentionally bad or owners who are undereducated and irresponsible are the problems that need to be addressed. Also, BSL are tough to enforce, expensive and often very vague with their descriptions and how to identify a dangerous dog.


Aren't the dogs mentioned in BSL dangerous?


Any dog can be a risk. Even small breeds have seriously injured and killed children.  An American Pit Bull Terrier in a good home is a safer dog than a Dachshund in a poor home. Humans decide how safe the individual dog will be.  In the majority of dog problems, there is the owner to blame. The dog ends up as much of a victim in many respects.   Is the dog to blame?  No, he is just reflecting the owner.  You can tell a lot about a person through his dogs.


If any dog can be dangerous, why are only certain breeds targeted?


These breeds are targeted because of a lack of education.  Legislators and the general public do not take the time to learn the truth behind many breeds mentioned in BSL. Instead, they believe hype and information from undereducated and unreliable sources. The people creating the most problem with dogs are: those using dogs as status symbols for the wrong reasons; undereducated owners who do not realize the time it takes to properly raise any dog; those who unintentionally allow undesired behaviors to grow and fail to address them.  How many people let tiny pups play tug of war with their hands or feet? Are they aware that this actually teaches the pup it is good to bite humans when playing?  Children often unintentionally or intentionally do things that can lead to a bite: teasing, inappropriate play, trying to pat strange dogs, scaring dogs, etc. It looks better for lawmakers to ban a breed than to target the true source of the problem with supposedly killer breeds: often young, unsupervised, poorly raised kids or the irresponsible adult looking for another status symbol to prove machismo. There is little personal accountability any more.  If something is being used for the bad, take it away from all as opposed to targeting the source of the bad – the human. Let's make an analogy: as this is being written there is a lawsuit against fast food restaurants: they are being blamed for obesity. A person can find salads, juice and milk at these fast food places or choose a smaller burger, fries and drink. Yes, the employees try to sell super-sized stuff, but you do not have to buy it.  A person can eat unhealthily at any restaurant from Beverly Hills to Boston. Yet only fast food places are being targeted.  Where is personal accountability? What lawmaker will jump on the bandwagon and try to restrict fast food places and what they can serve?  Can you make the analogy? Any dog can be a problem.  It is the human that decides what the dog becomes – regardless of the breed. Personal accountability. Who is in control of the dog? 


If it is the human causing the problem, why not target the owners?


That is what people opposed to BSL are trying to do: get legislators to address the root of the problem without punishing the good.  But legislators are often poorly educated and/or use the wrong sources for their information. They go by what is printed in the media and not reality. It looks better in the eyes of the undereducated to blame the dog than the human.



What if a lawmaker states they can positively identify a dangerous breed?


Breed identification is tough. The descriptions lawmakers use to try and identify "dangerous breeds" are often vague:

(1) The XYZ is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function… Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient... The most distinguishing characteristics of the XYZ are its short, dense, weather resistant coat… a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws…

(2) The ABC should give the impression of great strength for his size, a well put-together dog, muscular, but agile and graceful, keenly alive to his surroundings. He should be stocky, not long-legged or racy in outline. Head: Medium length, deep through, broad skull, very pronounced cheek muscles, distinct stop; and ears are set high. Muzzle: medium length, rounded on upper side to fall away abruptly below eyes. Jaws well defined. 


What breeds are defined here?  Both are American Kennel Club recognized and wording taken directly from the AKC standards.  One is a breed often mentioned in bans under a generic name.  The other is one often touted as the perfect pet.



What can I do to stop BSL?


When you hear of a BSL anywhere, start writing letters, faxes, phone calls, emails, etc. In a calm, rational and non-insulting manner, try to educate lawmakers about why BSL are not the way to go when addressing dog issues.  Push for laws that target the owner regardless of the type of dog owned.  Encourage them to create leash laws and see they are enforced. Increase penalties for animal abuse, cruelty and the use of animals as weapons.  In many communities it is a misdemeanor to neglect or abuse an animal.  Lastly, encourage owners of breeds not mentioned to become involved with the fight. 

Karen Peak
www.westwinddogtraining.com

What's the point of BSL?

The supportors of BSL claim their goal is to put an end to dog attacks by targeting certain breeds of dog that are "inherently vicious/dangerous", and dogs that tend to appeal to people who are involved in criminal activity (i.e. drug dealers, dog fighters, gangbangers, etc). 

Did You Know??  No studies have been conducted to prove which breed has the strongest bite pressure? The very few tests that have been done comparing the bite pressure of several breeds showed PSI to be considerably lower than some wild estimates that have been made. Recently Dr. Brady Barr of National Geoprahic conducted a comparative test between a Pit Bull, a Rottweiler, and a German Shepherd. The Pit Bull had the LOWEST PSI OF THE THREE, measuring in with a bite of 320 pounds per square inch of pressure.

What About Bite Statistics? Do They Prove We Need BSL?:

Dog Bite Statistics are unreliable sources of information regarding the "viciousness" or dangerousness of breeds for the following reasons:

1) Very few people can accurately identify dog breeds.

2) Breeds are not listed individually, but rather under group headings. For instance, under the heading "pit bull", you will find no less than 3 distinct breeds, mixes of any of those three breeds, any dog that appears to be one of those breeds, plus any misidentified dogs. And make no mistake, dogs get misidentified all the time. There is a case of an Akita attack that was reported as a "pit bull attack" in the media. This author's dogs have been mistaken for Boxers, Bulldogs, and yes, one was even mistaken for an Akita. Just about any Pit Bull owner can tell you of many cases where their dog has dealt with a case of mistaken identity.

3) Bite stats take into account only reported bites.

4) Bite stats do not take into account the dogs of a specified breed who do NOT bite. No one knows the overall percentage of Pit Bulls who bite compared to, let's say, the percentage of Dalmatians or Golden Retrievers who bite.

5) Bite stats do not list "provoked" bites that occur at grooming shops and veterinary offices. If you took a survey of groomers and veterinarians, I'm sure you'd find an overwhelming majority of them would tell you that the small, "cutesy" dogs that people generally hold as harmless are the dogs that give them the most trouble. This author is an ex-groomer and can attest to the fact that the big dogs, particularly the Pit Bulls, and other similar breeds, are by far the most cooperative.

6) Bite stats DO list the truly provoked bites, i.e. dogs who have bitten after being teased/harrassed/abused.

BSL Is Not The Answer:

While it is quite obvious that there is a problem in some communities regarding loose dogs harrassing/attacking people, criminal activity involving the use of dogs, and dog attacks in general, BSL fails to reduce the occurance of these problems because it fails to address the root cause: people. BSL doesn't work because it is purely predjudicial in nature. Instead of punishing owners who are irresponsible and criminals who use dogs for illegal purposes, the legislation targets dogs for simply existing, and people's rights to own the breed of dog they so choose.

BSL is also largely based on misinformation and truth-twisting, its authors citing the "inherent viciousness" of certain dog breeds as plenty reason to outlaw even those dogs that have never acted in a criminal fashion. Bite statistics are also used as justification since "pit bulls" often top such lists. Of course, no breed is inherently vicious, and the accuracy of bite stats are suspect as best.


BSL doesn't work because...


1) Current laws are barely enforced. New laws are going to be heaped on top of old ones, for what purpose? Take something as simple as the leash law. It is not very often enforced. Leashes save lives, they prevent dog bites and attacks. It is a simple, yet extremely effective means of lessening dog problems. The blatant disregard for leash laws is not something that should be allowed to go on.

2) BSL takes time, money and man-power to enforce. The responsibility for the enforcement of laws falls on Animal Control and sheltering systems. These are agencies that are already dealing with massive surpluses of animals, more calls than they can sometimes handle. Now they are being forced to deal with the additional weight BSL dumps on their shoulders.

3) BSL is predjudicial in nature. It punishes dogs and owners who have done nothing wrong. It is discriminatory against people who choose to own a particular breed of dog.

4) All dogs bite. All dogs can inflict harm. There is no scientific study to prove that one breed of dog bites more or causes more injury than any other breed of dog. There have been cases of tiny dogs, under 20 pounds killing or seriously injurying children.

5) If Pit Bulls and similar breeds are outlawed or severely restricted, one of two things happen: criminals and irresponsible owners will continue to get their hands on the dogs and simply ignore laws, or they will turn to other breeds to suit their purposes.

Alternatives to Breed Speficic Legislation:

1) Enforcement of generic dangerous dog laws, laws that hold owners accountable for the actions of their dogs regardless of breed.

2) Enforcement of leash laws. Let's be real strict about this. Tickets should be handed out like candy to individuals who disobey this law. Fine owners who let their dogs run loose or fail to keep them in enclosures that they cannot escape from. Let's have a 3-strikes and you're out law for people who refuse to keep their dogs under control. Use the money collected from these fines to fund community dog safety and responsible ownership programs.

3) Stop making excuses for animal cruelty, neglect, and irresponsible ownership. There need to be huge fines for those involved in any inhumane or irresponsible activity with animals.


Bite Stats

Do Pit Bulls bite more than any other breed? Do they really top some "most dangerous dog" chart? Does such a chart even exist? These answers to this questions are, respectively: "There is no way to know", "No", and "No". Want more information? Read on.

Millions of people are bitten by dogs across the US every year, and the population is clamoring for a scapegoat on which to place the blame. Supposed "bite statistics" allow an outlet for such anxiety. However, how accurate are these stats, really?

1) There is no national registry for such information. Most communities keep their own stats. In my county, for example, they are kept by the health department.

2) Most bite reports are based on information collected from the victim and/or a witness. This means that the dog's breed is named by the victim. Since both my Rottweiler and French Bulldog have been referred to as "pit bulls" by passersby I give very little credence to the victim's identification of a dog involved in a bite case.

3) Mixed breeds may or may not be lumped in with purebred dogs in such stats. I have seen the raw data collected by my county, and then heard the numbers released to the media..... they usually don't add up..... hmmmmmm

4) Without knowing the population of a given breed in a particular area, there is no way of knowing whether 10 bites by a given breed represent one really evil dog who has bitten many people, or 10 dogs who have each had a single incident.

5) Statistics are only as good as their interpretation. Any researcher will tell you so. "Who funded the study??"


Dogs currently affected by BSL in the United States...

I have only included 1 or 2 cities/states where the breed is affected by BSL so that the breeds can be verified as targets.

American Pit Bull Terrier (Note:  Laws dealing with “pit bulls” also state any mix of the 3 breeds AND the MOST important line, anything that has the characteristics or appearance of these breeds.  There are 20+ breeds that are commonly mistakenly identified as “pit bull” dogs. )  (Denver, CO)
American Staffordshire Terrier (Note:  Laws dealing with “pit bulls” also state any mix of the 3 breeds AND the MOST important line, anything that has the characteristics or appearance of these breeds.  There are 20+ breeds that are commonly mistakenly identified as “pit bull” dogs. )  (Denver, CO)
Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Note:  Laws dealing with “pit bulls” also state any mix of the 3 breeds AND the MOST important line, anything that has the characteristics or appearance of these breeds.  There are 20+ breeds that are commonly mistakenly identified as “pit bull” dogs. )  (Denver, CO)
Rottweiler
Doberman Pincher (Fairfield, IA) (Sisston, SD), (Westfield, IL), (Travelers Rest, SC)
Shar Pei’s (Smithfield, UT)
German Shepard (Fairfield, IA)
Belgian Malanois (Fairfield, IA)
Siberian Huskies (Fairfield, IA)
Alaskan Malamutes (Fairfield, IA)
Great Danes (Fairfield, IA)
Irish Wolf Hounds (Fairfield, IA)
Scottish Deerhounds (Fairfield, IA)
Mastiffs (Fairfield, IA)
Boerboels (Fairfield, IA)
American Bull Dog (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA), (North Little Rock, AR)
Akita (Ulyssas, KS)
Chow Chow (Travelers Rest, SC), (New Port, RI)
English Mastiffs,  (Yale, IA)
Tosa Inu (Aurora, CO)
Presa Canario (Aurora, CO)
Dogo Argentino (Aurora, CO)
Cane Corso (Aurora, CO)
American Bulldog (Aurora, CO / North Little Rock, AR)
Bull Terrier (Grandview, MO)
American Bull Dog, (North Little Rock, AR)
Presa Canario (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA), (Lanett, AL)
Wolf Hybrid (Huntington WV)  

NOTE:  These are breeds that are typically over 100lbs.  If your dog is less than 100lbs than they are safe in Fairfield.


Bull Mastiff  (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Neopolitian Mastiff (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Tibetan Mastiff  (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
New Foundland (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
 Anatolian Shepherd (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Great Pyrenees (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Komondor (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Kuvaz (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
St. Bernard (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Tosa Inu (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Dogo Argentino (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Cane Corso (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Fila Brasileiro (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Spanish Mastiff  (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Italian Mastiff (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Dogue De Bordeauxs  (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Akbash (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)
Leonberger  (Other dogs  in excess of 100 lbs - Fairfield, IA)

How does BSL get started?
by Karen Peak www.westwinddogtraining.com

This is a Fictional Scenario:

Big Time Gansta Rapper uses rugged looking dogs in many of his videos. Every fan of his just has to get this breed.  Popularity begins to soar.  Breeders are afraid of the backlash this music star's latest video is going to bring. Yes, the breed looks tough and needs an experienced owner, but in the right environment, it a very sweet pet.  They become very protective of the breed. Sadly, a few breeders end up selling to the wrong people, or a couple dogs get stolen. A new group of bad breeders start up.  They push for aggressive dogs and breed only those who they feel are the toughest out there.  They do not care to whom the pups go.  They sell the pups as great protectors and status symbols.  Gangs are starting to pick up on certain colors of this dog. One gang is known to prefer brindles, another fawns, and another prefers black.  The dogs are turning up in drug houses and guarding stashes.   John X down the street is a big fan of BTGR and gets a dog. He wants the image.  He already drives a car very much like BTGR, dresses and talks like his idol. John X is not unknown to the police for petty theft, minor drug violations and a few assaults.  John X goes to one of his dealing buddies and gets a pup. 

 

Pup is left chained during the day and isolated except when John X goes out for his daily toughening routine. He has big hopes for this pup. At night, it is brought inside, but the pup being a pup, played a bit rough with John X's daughter.  Pup now lives outside.  Better anyhow as the pup can warn of anyone trying to come on the property. John X spends a lot of time yelling at the pup to shut up, stop whining and barking. His young kids goes out with their friends to torment the pup. They throw rocks and sticks at it.  The pup grows and one day decides not to tolerate the kids. He bites one after being hit in the head. One time he jumped the four-foot fence in order to escape the kids.  John X beat the young dog for escaping and chains him to a rickety doghouse. Now the pup cannot escape. Every couple days he throws out an open bag of dog food and lets rain water fill the bowls.  If there is no rain, he fills the water every few days. Sometimes the dog goes for a few days without water or food if John X has been arrested.  His girlfriend will have nothing to do with the dog.  Kids keep tormenting it. The dog is now turning nasty.  He lunges and snarls at anyone walking by the fence.  He has learned to fear humans. Humans are bad.  John X sometimes walks him – when he had buddies to impress and maybe a dogfight to bet on. Dog shows several battle scars.  If the dog snaps at him, he beats the dog down.


One day, the kids are tormenting the now adult dog.  The dog is big, strong, and very distrustful. The dog starts lunging at the kids. The chain tethering him to the doghouse gets pulled free.  The dog manages to jump the fence. Dog tears after the kids.  One is bitten seriously.  John X comes out and the dog takes off. Over the next few days, the dog injures many people. The police finally shoot the dog. Across town, actually, several places in town, similar scenarios are playing out. Some dogs are the same breed as John X's dog was, some are not, but share similar traits. 

The media gets wind of the trouble and start printing stories about killer dogs. One breed, the type owned by BTGR, is mentioned over and over. But it is not always this breed causing the trouble. Yet because it sells papers, any dog resembling what BTGR owners is called this breed. No one bothers to talk to responsible owners of this breed. No one bothers to learn the truth behind the breed.  The general public and local legislation begin to fear this breed. According to the people, something needs to be done.  The council decides to get rid of the dogs. No more of this breed and the problem will stop. A program to restrict ownership of and eventually eliminate the dog from the program is started. 
 
John X gets a few more dogs. He does not care about the new law banning the breed. He just hides his dogs in the basement and takes them out after dark.  Sometimes one escapes and gets shot.  So what?  John X can always get another.  Finally, his home is raided and all his dogs taken. No big deal, this breed is becoming passť.  BTGR is losing favor with his fans. A New Star is rising.  His dogs are bigger, rougher and could eat BTGR's for lunch according to the rumors on the street. New Star's breed becomes the new choice. Concerned breeders and owners try to keep the dogs out of the general public, but a few bad people get them and start breeding. 


 The problem of dangerous dogs never goes away. The town council kept promising that once a breed a banned, the attacks would stop.  The dangerous dogs would be gone. But every time one breed is all but eliminated, another takes its place. Several years have passed; John X is now on his fifth breed. Punishments for owners like him are nothing. He pays a small fine and gets another dog or another breed.  Finally, his new girlfriend comes home with a breed assumed to be a great dog for kids.  John X is angry that she came home with this wimpy piece of crap. The kids continue to torment this dog.  But the kids are older and the torment is worse.  John X gets fed up and shoots it with a pellet gun. The hurt dog eventually gets loose.  One of his kids corners the dog and charges it. The dog panics and the child ends up seriously injured.  Doctors are not sure if the kid will make it. The dog is caught. But because of its breed, a local rehabilitation group is called to evaluate it.

Sadly, they recommend the dog be put down. The damage was done. John X had created yet another menace.  This time, people are outraged at a bad owner.  But it is too late. 


 
This is how breed bans get started: the wrong people getting a breed of dog for the wrong reasons, or, an irresponsible person getting a dog.  The dog reflects the human and becomes what the human makes it. When the dog ends up a problem in the neighborhood, it is the one blamed – not the human.  Eventually, there is enough bad press and problems because of a very small minority of dog owners and the result is more often a call for a restriction of the breed.  Instead, the restriction needs to be placed on the owners like John X who create the real danger.


Why All Breeds Need To Fight
by Karen Peak www.westwinddogtraining.com

Breed Specific Legislations, BSLs for short, are becoming a reality in many communities and even entire countries. BSLs encompass a wide range of legislations from requiring special licensing or accommodations for certain breeds of dogs to the outright banning and elimination of them.  This article is not going to discuss the reason why BSLs are wrong or ineffective: what it is going to do it look at why all breeds need to get active and fight.  Just because your breed is not mentioned in a ban does not mean it never will be. 

Even the seemingly innocuous laws requiring special licensing or accommodations for a specific breed is a gateway to a tighter legislation and even a ban. Once a breed is labeled as inherently dangerous and needing certain provisions in order to be kept, it is just a short step to a total ban.  Once one breed is restricted in some way, the door is opened for other breeds. Look at what happened in many regions of Germany.  When I first became aware of BSLs in Germany, only a few breeds were mentioned.  As time went on, more and more breeds were added. Then there were categories created: Category I are breeds to be banned; Category II are breeds to be monitored and banned if needed; Category III, dogs over a certain height or weight (over 40lbs or over 15.75 inches) that are risky because they are not small.  Once the door was opened with the call to ban a few breeds, the only dogs NOT ending up restricted were the smallest ones.  Scary to think how out of hand the legislations became in such a short period of time.  When I look at my own four dogs, three are restricted according to German law: one due to her breed (Great Pyrenees), two due to their sizes (an Australian Shepherd/Newfoundland cross and an oversized Shetland Sheepdog). Who says only certain dogs are ever banned and others will not be affected?  When was the last time anyone heard of Great Pyrenees being restricted? In Germany, they are Category II dogs. Any Category II dog is restricted for three years from breeding, etc., and the breed can become a Category I (basically banned) at any time. 
 
When we look at the breeds most commonly named in BSLs, it is not hard to see where these breeds can lead to other similar dogs being banned. Take for example Bull Mastiffs.  I have seen this breed listed in some BSLs. Who is to say the Mastiff will not be next?  It is an ancestor of the Bull Mastiff and therefore must pose some risk. At least some risk in the eyes of the undereducated person often responsible for drafting these laws. Hmmm… What other breeds went into Bull Mastiffs? Maybe they need to be mentioned as well. Boxers, yes, they have Mastiff in their heritage, maybe they need to be named as well! This is how legislators or other undereducated people think: if one breed is dangerous, any breeds related to it must be as well.  It is not a big step from an APBT to a Bull Terrier or from a Mastiff to a Great Dane.  What about the breed descriptions? Herding breeds are known to chase and nipping can be part pf herding.  Does this mean herding breeds pose more of a biting risk?  In the eyes of the undereducated, yes, herding breeds may pose a greater risk.  I have seen Australian Cattle Dogs listed in BSLs because it is thought, according to some accounts, of the breed history that Dingo and Bull Terrier blood went into them somewhere along the line.  Does this seem fair? 

This is why whenever we see Breed Specific Legislations in the works, regardless of where or what breeds are mentioned, dog enthusiasts all over the world need to take action and educate. Just because your breed is not mentioned, does not mean it never will be. 

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