Thursday, May 30, 2024


Breed Specific Legislation

November 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Dog Activities and Training

If you’ve been watching the blog lately, you know that activists are working hard to stop officials in Detroit from euthanizing a stray dog simply because he is a Pit Bull.  Stories abound in the media about dogs being banned or put down because of breed specific legislation.  What about it?  Should municipalities have rules against certain dogs based solely on breed?

The argument for breed specific legislation

Legislators will tell you that the reason they feel so strongly about banning certain breeds of dogs is because their constituents insist that doing so keeps communities safer.  Whether because of any dangers the dogs themselves possess or because of the business interests of some owners of these breeds, the mere existence of the dogs indicates a hazardous condition.

It’s not just Pit Bulls in most cases.  Breed specific legislation often includes other breeds such as Cane Corsos, Doberman Pinscher, and even Rottweilers.  Some proponents of this type of legislation say that because drug lords, dog fighters, and other unsavory characters disproportionately own breeds which might be classified as vicious that all animals of these breeds should be banned.

The other main reason given for banning certain breeds is that the dogs themselves are classified as bad, vicious or incorrigible.  Because this is a hot-button issue, these allegedly dangerous breeds are often featured in news reports when they do something wrong.  Yes, it’s true that Pit Bulls sometimes attack, and when one does, it seems to make the news more often than when other dogs display the same behavior.

A big deal is often made of the fact that dogs of a certain breed can produce so many pounds of pressure per square inch when they clamp their jaws together.  Some even believe that Pit Bulls have locking jaws so that it becomes impossible to remove whatever body part becomes entrapped between the dog’s teeth.

The bottom line is that proponents of breed specific legislation believe that any dog that belongs to a specific breed presents a known hazard.  Even if the dog is of mixed heritage, the belief is that the aggression is such a strong trait that it will always surface and dominate any other tendencies which might be present in the other breeds making up a mutt-i-gree.

The argument against breed specific legislation

Activists who lobby against breed specific legislation put forth the opinion that just as we cannot judge an entire group of people (darker-skinned, gays, blondes) by the actions of a select few, we should not judge entire breeds by the actions of the minority.

For every “bad” Pit Bull, opponents of breed specific legislation can point to dozens of sweet, well-adjusted animals who have never hurt anyone.  Although any dog who has teeth has the potential to bite someone, these folks argue that Pit Bulls, Cane Corsos, Dobermans, and other often banned breeds are no more likely to bite than any other dog, all things being equal.

Opponents of breed-specific legislation point the finger of blame not at the dogs themselves, but rather at owners who may be inhumane or cruel to their dogs, in effect teaching them to be aggressive.  This line of argument goes that all dogs are born to be sweet, but bad owners (and bad breeding programs) cause certain dogs to become the type of dogs we see so often in the news.  Following this to its logical conclusion means that if drug owners and dog fighters owned Golden Retrievers, these lovable dogs would become vicious and dangerous as well.

The American Kennel Club opposes breed-specific legislation, stating “To provide communities with the most effective dangerous dog control possible, laws must not be breed specific. Instead of holding all dog owners accountable for their behavior, breed specific laws place restrictions only on the owners of certain breeds of dogs. If specific breeds are banned, owners of these breeds intent on using their dogs for malicious purposes, such as dog fighting or criminal activities, will simply change to another breed of dog and continue to jeopardize public safety. “

Other opponents of breed-specific legislation include the American Medical Veterinary Association, the American Dog Owners Association,  the Westminster Kennel Club, and the National Centers for Disease Control.

A reasonable compromise

There are grains of truth in both sides of the argument.  Not all Pit Bulls or other banned breeds of dogs are dangerous.  However, perhaps the reason why criminals own the dogs they do is because it is relatively easy to make these dogs into something dangerous.  Lacking the influence of cruelty, these dogs likely would remain sweet, calm, and loving.  As a dog lover, I agree with this.

However, as a parent, I can’t tell you that I wouldn’t be worried if a Pit Bull moved in next door.  For the most part, banned breeds are large, powerful, and capable of at least sounding very mean and aggressive.  I would have a hard time allowing my children to play near one of these dogs until I got to know it a little better.

Wherein lies the compromise.  Rather than banning all dogs of a particular breed, doesn’t it make more sense to regulate those who own the dogs?  I’m not advocating a “wait and see” approach, where every dog gets three strikes before being declared vicious or dangerous.  Even one person being harmed by an aggressive dog is one too many.

However, it seems to me that the sensible approach is to make owners who keep these breeds take precautions to make sure their animals don’t attack.  Mandate taller fences, enforce leash laws, require muzzles in close quarters.  Charge higher registration fees and mandate socialization training.  Award dogs of these breeds a “good citizenship” license (of a different color) once they have proven to be non-violent.

And these rules should be followed for any dog of any breed who has proven himself to be vicious or dangerous.  If that Golden Retriever begins attacking, he or she should be required to conform to the same policies as those dogs who are pre-supposed to be vicious by virtue of their breed.

These common sense approaches keep citizens (particularly children who suffer more dog bites than grown-ups) safe, while not getting rid of entire breeds.

Find out the laws in your state.


4 Responses to “Breed Specific Legislation”
  1. Ok, so if I’m hearing you correctly, you endorse Breed Specific Legislation.

    “However, it seems to me that the sensible approach is to make owners who keep (((these breeds))) take precautions to make sure their animals don’t attack.”
    Whether you want to acknowledge your own “profiling” mind set or not, you are still seeing the dangerous dog issue just like a crooked politician does.
    If you were GENUINELY neutral, the statement should read…

    “However, it seems to me that the sensible approach is to make owners who keep (((any breed))) take precautions to make sure their animals don’t attack.”
    Just because the media (which you obviously subscribe to) bastardizes one breed in the name of higher ratings and selling more newspapers doesn’t make them the ONLY BREED ever guilty of biting or attacking another dog or a human.

    The only true and effective way of controlling dog bites and attacks (of any breed) is the use of generalized dangerous dog laws. This type of legislation targets the cause, the root, the disease itself: irresponsible owners, OF ANY BREED.

    And if that does not define your blatant racist views…
    “However, as a parent, I can’t tell you that I wouldn’t be worried if a Pit Bull moved in next door. For the most part, banned breeds are large, powerful, and capable of at least sounding very mean and aggressive. I would have a hard time allowing my children to play near one of these dogs until I got to know it a little better.”

    In your ignorance, you’ve turned a blind eye to the fact that Border Collies, Chows and Shar Pei’s (All mid-sized dogs) have a higher propensity to bite than all other breeds. Let’s not discount the fact that most of the Spaniel Breeds led all other breeds in frequency of bites in the mid-late 1980’s.

    Let’s take a trip down memory lane… way back to our statistics classes in college. Example: If Toyota’s are the most popular and common make of car on the road, they will account for the greater percentage of automobiles involved in accidents. Since the mid-late 1800’s, Pit Bulls have been in the top three most common and popular breeds in America… thus, “America’s Dog”. Doesn’t it mathematically work that they would account for the greater percentage of dogs involved in bites and attacks? (Google it)

    Now let’s visit our good old history class. The original Molossoid dog (ancestor to the modern day Staffordshire Bull Terrier, under the Mastiff family of breeds) was originally bred to herd live stock, flush rodents out of houses, and protect families from bears and other wild animals in the British Isle in the 1500’s. MOST people confuse the Pit Bull breeds for the original fighting breed (Neapolitan Mastiff) used for fighting as early as the Roman Empire era.

    In our modern day society, the educated citizen, the moral citizen does not engage in dog fighting. This citizen wants a family friendly dog, a dog who is social, a dog that is loyal, and a dog that is a well balanced member of the family. Unfortunately, not all those in our culture are educated or moral. These sub-humans think nothing of taking a perfectly healthy animal and turning it into a money making machine… either in over-breeding or dog fighting. Both cause unstable, unhealthy dogs. And when that dog can produce no more, it is cut loose. Unstable, Abused, Scared, Unhealthy Dog + Our General Populous = Dog Related Incident.

    Again, focusing on breed is not only ignorant and “wearing blinders”, but it sets the scenario for people to continue to be involved in dog related incidents with other breeds. The focus of genuinely thorough and well thought out legislation should be on the relationship between people and dogs, responsible dog ownership (ANY breed), and accountability for those who feel the laws don’t apply to them.

    Lastly, do a little research on the topic. Search for and educate yourself on the theories and practices of one Mr. Bill Bruce. Mr. Bruce is the Director of Animal Control and By-Laws for the city of Calgary Canada. He is well respected and noted as the leader in Animal Control in North America… and is contracted by cities all over the US and Canada to revamp their failing/ flawed animal control depts. In his home city of Calgary, they enjoy and extremely low percentage of homeless pets, over population, and animal related incidents due to his tried and true practices. NO WHERE in their by-laws do they refer to any one specific breed of dog or laws pertaining to one breed and not others.

    Get true, accurate, and up-to-date information on Pit Bulls and responsible dog ownership at

  2. Katherine Swisher says:

    I feel that Pit Bulls have been given a bad rap. After all, they are #2 on the “bad dog” list, German Shephards are #1. Why aren’t they being put on these banning lists and euthanize immediately lists?
    Just like children, ANY DOG will behave as their owners have taught them. Of Course, there are exceptions to that rule.
    Every single Pit Bull I have ever come across has been sweet and lovable. I can not say the same for Shitzu’s, Shephard’s, Chihuahua’s, Cocker Spaniel’s, etc.
    People fear what they don’t know and because of that, they are being killed at an enormous rate, terribly unfair.

  3. tea says:

    Pit Bulls have given such a bad rap because their are so many people that raise them to be aggressive and as has already been stated they are the ones that make into the media all the time. I believe any person who owns any breed of dog has the responsibility to train them properly and if they have not done so then they should be the one held responsible for the dogs actions. How is it that just get rid of these beautiful animals or say that they should automatically be killed because of their breed. This makes absolutely no sense to me.

  4. Julsburd says:

    I found Team Pit-a-full’s comments very interesting and informative but I still agree with Beth. I would not want to live next door to a pit bull, I walk on the other side of the street with my 2 dogs when I see one headed my way, and I foster shelter dogs but will not bring one into my home… (and believe me there are an over abundance of pit bull and pit bull mixes in our shelters… why is that?). It is a known fact that they have a very strong prey drive and their jaws are extremely powerful which makes them very frightening to me. I understand that they can be sweet etc. but I am not willing to take the chance with me or my dogs. Pit A Full refers to stats that show that other breeds are more likely to bite, but it seems to me that Pit Bulls make the news because they not only bite, they kill, and in many cases it is their own family members and children! It only takes a few stories like that to make the general public afraid of them. I am a firm believer that there should be special requirements to own pit bulls. High fences, required obedience training etc. wouldn’t be out of the question. I know I sound “racist” against this dog, but I am just telling it like it is with most dog owners who have other types of dogs. Pit Bulls have a reputation that preceeds them and they seem to have earned it by killing or maiming the owners that feed them!

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