Friday, July 12, 2013

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Breed Specific Legislation - the idea of banning certain dog breeds - is popular amongst some people afraid of dogs. It doesn't work. There will always be irresponsible dog owners, and they'll remain irresponsible regardless how many family dogs are seized and killed.

Looking at statistics from areas that implement Breed Specific Legislation, the public safety benefit is unmeasurable, while loved pets and service dogs are ripped away from their families and put down because they happen to be - or look like - an outlawed breed.

I know this doesn't have anything to do with books and writing, but it's a subject close to my heart, so please bear with me.

In my opinion, the owner determines what a dog will become. 

You can make any dog vicious. Unfortunately, a certain type of owners are attracted to a certain type of dogs. Punishing law abiding families and their dogs can never solve that problem. Even if you seize and kill 2,000 family dogs the criminals and really irresponsible dog owners will make sure that they still have theirs.

Protecting the public from criminal elements and dangerous dogs is a great idea and BSL is founded in good intentions, but it doesn't work. If the population experiences a problem and the current solution doesn't do anything to solve the problem, shouldn't we look for a better solution?

Also, a lot of people think they're not affected by BSL because they don't have Pit Bulls. I myself have Border Collies and an American Eskimo, what do I care?

While I can understand that line of thought, I'd still recommend everyone to think long and hard before making up their minds when it comes to this. Observing areas where BSL is in place today, all sorts of dogs are seized and killed, and these are not exceptions to the rule. In many places it's enough that the dog is large, has a split face, or a wide forehead. Bulldogs, Boxers, smooth Border Collies, Ridgebacks, Vizlas, any dog that remotely resembles a Pit Bull becomes free game. Sure, there are cases where the owners get their dog back, after going to court, and in some cases fighting for years.

I'm not saying everyone has to love every kind of animal, but legislation stemming out of fear is rarely effective. May 24th, Governor Brian Sandoval signed Nevada AB 110, stating "A local authority shall not adopt or enforce an ordinance or regulation that deems a dog dangerous or vicious based solely on the breed of dog." Good for Nevada!

In Florida, BSL is not allowed, but counties/cities that already had it were grandfathered in. That's how Miami can have a breed specific legislation.

Prince George's County in Maryland has done the most thorough assessment of BSL to date. They found that:
  • The cost for the county to confiscate and euthanize one single pit bull came out to around $68,000
  • In the fiscal year 2001-2002, these expenditures totaled a dazzling $560,000
  • The county lost revenue due to a dramatic reduction in dog shows and exhibitions
  • Dog bites decreased at the same rate amongst all breeds
Amongst the indirect losses, the investigators found people moving away from the county because of BSL. Tourism decreased because people with banned breeds can't - or won't - visit. And, there is the loss of trained service dogs, not to mention the heartbreak of families who lose their pet.

The ASPCA states the problem is never the breed, but the way a dog is treated by the humans around it. The three most aggressive breeds are actually the Dachshund, the Chihuahua, and the Jack Russell Terrier. Ironically, none of these have ever been covered by a breed specific ban. These are small dogs, of course, and probably appeal to a different kind of owner than the large and muscular dogs normally associated with dog bites.

A friend of mine pointed out that she'd rather be bit by a Chihuahua than a Pit Bull. I can see her point of view. However, she shouldn't have to worry about being bit by any dog. As a dog owner, it's your responsibility to train and look after your dog. As an adult member of society, it's your responsibility to know something about how to approach/not approach a dog. As a parent, your children are your responsibility. You have to teach them how to behave around animals.

A majority of serious/fatal dog bites in this country pertains to children left alone with a dog. No one knows what took place between the child and the dog before the bite. A dog can warn in a large number of subtle ways before they actually bite, and a kid or a person unused to dogs might never pick up on the warning signs. It can look like the attack came out of nowhere even though the dog has been trying to say "no" for several minutes.

Be aware and use common sense. Do you want to be poked in the eyes? Neither does the dog. Do you want someone to pull your hair? Neither does the dog. And so on.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) made a study on dog bite fatalities in the US and have published an interesting fact sheet. They conclude that each year, 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs. These bites result in approximately 16 fatalities. Out of a population of 314 million, 16 people each year die of dog bites. Don't get me wrong, these 16 are tragedies, but it's hardly a number statistically large enough to cause worry. According to the fact sheet, the data on which breeds might be more dangerous is inconclusive, and they say, "Many practical alternatives to breed-specific policies exist and hold promise for preventing dog bites."

The CDC also gives some good hands-on advice on things to consider before getting a dog, and on how to prevent dog bites.

To round this discussion off, I found this interesting image. Here are 25 dog breeds. One of these dogs is a Pit Bull. I bet you that if any of them bites a human it's likely to be recorded as a Pit Bull bite, because people in general aren't trained to spot dog breeds. Seriously, I'm a dog person who works in the pet industry, and I did horribly on this test. I haven't even heard of some of the breeds before!

1. American Bulldog
2. Dogue De Bordeau
3. Alapaha Blue Bulldog
4. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
5. Vizsla
6. Rhodesian Ridge Back
7. Dogo Argentino
8. Labrador Retriever
9. Bull Mastiff
10. Jack Russell Terrier
11. Fila Brasileiro
12. Rottweiler
13. Presa
14. Boxer
15. Cane Corso
16. American Pit Bull Terrier
17. Patterdale Terrier
18. Olde English Bulldog
19. Catahoula
20. Bull Terrier
21. Black mouth Cur
22. Alano Espanol
23. Boerboel
24. Car de Bou
25. Thai Ridgeback

1 comment:

  1. I agreed that Religion is a matter that we shouldn't discuss things. But cats are animals and human friendly, they also have a right to live. But if its in someones religion to sacrifice them, then nobody can bring a change for that. So let your brain free from this and stay happy.


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