Some states and localities legally designate certain breeds of dogs as vicious, including mixes of those breeds. Breed-specific laws were introduced to try to counteract severe and fatal dog attacks and were implemented by many countries worldwide, including the USA and the UK.
Different breeds can be classed as dangerous dogs and banned depending on the country, state, and locality the law is enforced in, but a few breeds remain universally banned, such as the Pit Bull terrier, while others are more fluid, such as Rottweilers, Staffordshire Bull terriers, and even Dalmatians.
Interestingly, Staffordshire Bull terriers have recently been crowned as the most popular dog breed in the UK, with the species being known for its silliness, high energy, and gentle nature. These dogs, conversely, are named as one of the most commonly banned breeds and are labeled as inherently dangerous. This article highlights and discusses the premise of breed-specific laws (BSL) and how blanket bans may affect animal welfare.
Arguments Against Breed-Specific Laws
Most animal groups and welfare groups, such as the ASPCA and the American Humane Society, concluded that BSL is ineffective and can negatively affect welfare. They cite each dog as an individual and criticize the blanket bans as masking more significant problems with animal control and education on managing dogs and socialization.
The vast majority (15-20% of all shelter dogs) are Pit Bulls or mixes, and around 80% of these dogs are euthanized yearly. Because of the blanket bans on these dogs and the term “Pit Bull” being applied to many who fit the physical description, these dogs may not have any “Pit Bull” in them, yet they are banned, sheltered, and euthanized because of the way they look.
The behavior of a dog is determined by its socialization and experience. While some consider Pit Bull-type dogs more aggressive, they consistently score highly in temperament tests¹. Despite this, millions of innocent dogs are being killed because of a label they don’t deserve.
Meanwhile, backyard breeders are selling puppies to irresponsible owners who will brew the perfect storm of inadequate socialization, isolation, and abuse. As a consequence, breeds such as Pit Bulls are the most abused dog breeds in the world.
The same is true for any “banned” breed, as any dog with black-and-tan markings similar to a Rottweiler, for example, could be labeled as a “mix” and banned, even though it may have absolutely no Rottweiler DNA at all. Because most states or shelters don’t test DNA, it comes down to the eye of the law (or veterinarians/ shelter staff) to determine what the breed is and if it has any banned breed mixed into it.
Arguments For Breed-Specific Law
Those who have been personally affected by fatalities or disfiguring injuries caused by dogs may agree with and advocate for BSL, as the injuries dog bites can be life-changing. Some anti-breed groups highlight fatality statistics and certain studies that have concluded that implementing BSL has decreased fatalities and severe bites from occurring.
With a large portion of dog bite fatalities involving children¹, many believe that broad breed bans are justified and that any laws that may prevent fatalities are worth implementing. Another argument is to protect the potential owners of these dogs from being prosecuted and serving jail time for the consequences of their dog’s actions.
This argument looks at the potential size, working group, and needs of these banned dogs (such as the large herding dogs Presa Canarios) being kept in small, ill-fitting environments such as in apartments in crowded cities. Without the education and means to give these breeds the job they were bred to do, aggression or other behavioral disorders can occur, meaning that, ultimately, the victim suffers significantly at the hands of a negligent owner.
Breed-specific legislation and laws have arguments for and against it, but the vast majority of professionals, animal behaviorists, and welfare groups are pushing for it to be either modified or abolished to stop innocent dogs from persecuting and suffering.
This will also protect the country’s citizens and ensure animal welfare and owner education are at the forefront of any changes. Each side has a compelling argument; this article aimed to bring both sides of the argument to pet owners so they can make their own informed decisions regarding breed-specific laws.
Featured Image Credit: David Robert Perez, Shutterstock