Breed Bans: Anything with a mouth can bite Four paws, wagging tail, and cold wet nose, the image that comes to mind probably isn’t a Rottweiler, Doberman, or Pit Bull even though the description covers all dogs. Assuming you are like most people you associate those specific breeds with junkyards, heavy chain leashes, and flash of sharp white gnashing teeth. Have you ever been bitten by one of these breeds or had a negative encounter? Probably not, but just like so many other misconceptions provided by the media, you believe it.
Per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Approximately 4. 5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States. ” (“Dog Bite Prevention”). There always seems to be two sides to dog attack reports; those who want to blame the person, owner or victim, and those who blame the dog or breed. Unfortunately, the breed as a whole, often gets the blame which is where breed specific legislation stems from. These laws punish good owners and dogs while doing very little to protect anyone from “vicious” dogs.
Breed specific legislation does not protect the general public from dog bites. Laws should be focused on more severe consequences for irresponsible owners. These breed bans or breed specific legislation deprive good pets of homes and good owners of lifelong companions. Unfortunately getting an accurate number of Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and other breeds traditionally considered dangerous that are currently living as beloved pets without incident, is impossible. So, what gives anyone that right to declare an entire breed unacceptable based on the actions of a few?
Those in favor of BSL laws (Breed Specific Legislation) use “facts” and “statistics” reporting, “The danger of pit bulls and Rottweilers is well established, in that they account for 75% of all reported canine-inflicted human deaths in the past two decades. “, to support their argument (“Argument in Support of Breed Bans”). However, a statement by the American Veterinary Medical Association describes the flaws in the “facts”: Dog bite statistics are not really statistics, and they do not give an accurate picture of dogs that bite.
Invariably the numbers will show that dogs from popular large breeds are a problem. This should be expected, because big dogs can physically do more damage if they do bite, and any popular breed has more individuals that could bite. Dogs from small breeds also bite and are capable of causing severe injury. There are several reasons why it is not possible to calculate a bite rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds (qtd. in Breed-Specific Policies: No Basis in Science). As stated by the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are common factors among owners of dogs involved in attacks.
One of the more publicized dog attacks in Cincinnati involved a six-year-old girl suffering nearly fatal injuries after being mauled by two pit bulls. As reported by Local news station Fox 19, “Police searched Irby’s home and charged him with weapons under disability, drug abuse and drug trafficking. “, and, “This wasn’t the first visit police have made to Irby’s home,” (“Dog Owner Jailed,”). Can you imagine having your dog ripped from your home because someone else’s dog, a criminal’s dog, bit someone? A horrible image that no one should ever have to think about except this has happened to real families and pets because of these breed bans.
Banning one type of dog may reduce bites for a short period but only until another breed replaces it. Removing pets or keeping dogs from homes is not a viable solution to dog attacks. The media sensationalizes “bully breed” bites even if injuries are minor while more severe injuries go relatively unreported if inflicted by a “safe” breed. Conducting a quick search of recent dog attacks reported in the media gives four incidents since the beginning of the year. Of the four stories, two attacks are reported as fatal and two stories involve children with one of the attacks on a child being fatal.
Both articles covering the fatal attacks are relatively short, presenting mostly just the facts. The other two, non-fatal attacks, are more embellished accounts. The breeds involved in the attacks were, three mastiffs, one pit bull mix, and one undisclosed breed. Based on the media’s coverage, which breeds do you think were involved in the fatal attacks? The opening sentence of an article on a non-fatal attack reads, “It was typical afternoon in Marion, but then screams broke out in one backyard, so did the cries for help” (Bradley).
The sentence seems unbiased but creates an image in the readers’ mind setting the stage to paint the dog in question as the villain. This kind of reporting creates the pitchfork and torch wielding mobs hunting the “monster” responsible for the crime. The “monster” is the owner and dog involved, not the entire breed. The few neglectful, irresponsible owners and dogs involved in the attacks should be held accountable, not an entire breed of dog and their upstanding owners.
Malcom Gladwell describes the correlation between the dogs who attack and the people that own them: The strongest connection [i. . , “characteristic” or “sign”) of all, though, is between the trait of dog viciousness and certain kinds of dog owners. In about a quarter of fatal dog-bite cases, the dog owners were previously involved in illegal fighting. The dogs that bite people are, in many cases, socially isolated because their owners are socially isolated, and they are vicious because they have owners who want a vicious dog. The junk-yard German shepherd — which looks as if it would rip your throat out — and the German shepherd guide dog are the same breed.
But they are not the same dog, because they have owners with different intentions. (qtd. in Argument in support of breed bans). As Gladwell states, often dogs involved in attacks have not been raised in a normal loving home. Being isolated on purpose isn’t a life for any living being but instead of changing the dog’s life, not allowing this kind of treatment, we are focusing on eliminating the breed. If we banned all the breeds considered vicious most likely these irresponsible owners will either turn another breed vicious or ignore the law. There are more effective ways to protect the public from “dangerous dogs”.
Several agencies, regarded as experts in animal care and behavior agree with the American Bar Associations’ resolution encouraging, “comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws” (qtd. in “Breed-Specific Policies: No Basis in Science”). Ohio law does not include breed specific language but also does not prohibit the states municipalities from banning dogs based on their perceived breed. In May of 2016 the city of Cincinnati removed breed specific language from its vicious dog ordinance. However, several other cities within the state still define vicious or dangerous dogs by breed alone.
A quick scan of these laws shows a disturbing trend, most of these cities are singling out one breed, pit bulls. What good is breed specific legislation if it’s targeting one breed only. A study of the breeds involved in fatal attacks conducted by representatives from the AVMA, HSUS, and the CDC stated, “More than 25 breeds have been involved in fatal human attacks over the 20-year period (1979 – 1998)”, (Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks,). Common sense says that focusing on the owners and dogs responsible for the bites, would be more effective than targeting one breed.
Anything with a mouth can bite; harsher punishments for offenders will not stop dog attacks completely. But if offenders are fined or face jail time for the actions of their animals they are more likely to work harder to keep them confined and away from the public. Removing happy, settled pets from loving, responsible homes solves nothing. Breed banning and breed specific legislation focus efforts on the wrong methods of protecting the public from dangerous dogs. We need to create laws that target the individuals, dog and owner, involved in dog attacks.