Pitbull People Part 3: BSL is BS
What is breed specific legislation (BSL)? Does it work?
Spoiler alert: No
According to Animal Farm Foundation, (an awesome organization with tons of comprehensive resources on their site):
"Breed specific legislation (BSL), also referred to as breed discriminatory legislation (BDL), is a law or ordinance that prohibits or restricts the keeping of dogs of specific breeds, dogs presumed to be specific breeds, mixes of specific breeds, and/or dogs presumed to be mixes of one or more of those breeds."
Does BSL make people safer?
No, it does not.
This is an excerpt from an article published on Slate.com in 2016 when Montreal was considering a "pit bull" ban:
...Instead, to the contrary, dog bites have gone up in the wake of implementation in certain places—such as in Ireland, Sioux City in Iowa, and Toronto—perhaps because the law creates the false belief that all other dogs will not bite, which in turn leads to unsafe behavior. These laws are also costly, with animal control and law enforcement officers charged with enforcement, shelters required to house seized animals, and inevitable lawsuits that ensue.
In her book, Pitbull: The Battle Over An American Icon (which everyone should read immediately), Dickey explains that single-breed laws are contrary to scientific evidence and are counterproductive.
“If anything, they jeopardize [public safety] because they divert animal control resources away from truly dangerous individual dogs and use it to round up dogs who haven’t harmed anyone.”
As explored in her book, Dickey points out that there are actual consistent statistics in dog bite related fatalities—and none of them are breed. At the time her book was published, these were the stats on a number of catalogued dog-bite related fatalities (DBRF) she reported:
84% of the dogs involved were not spayed or neutered, almost 80% weighed between 50 and 100 pounds, 60% were male. Socialization also plays a huge role: 76% of the DBRF cases involved dogs that were habitually isolated in some way (chained in the yard, kept in a small pen, crated, or confined in a seldom-visited area of the house, and never allowed a normal social development.) Nearly 1/3 of the cases involved chained dogs.
Basically, my (admittedly not formally educated) conclusion is that implementing BSL makes people LESS safe for a number of reasons.
- There's no way to visually identify a pit bull, as we learned in our last blog post
- This makes enforcing a law like this extremely difficult- and could result in thousands of dogs unncessarily losing their lives because they look a certain way
- There's no way to predict behavior based on looks, so saying that BSL is a "ban on dangerous breeds" is inherently ineffectual
- (and this is the big one) It takes focus away from the actual being at fault, which is always the owner*
*This is not to say that it's nature vs nurture. It's absolutely not "how they're raised" (an upcoming blog post topic) because I did not raise any of my dogs, I have fostered tons of dogs I didn't raise, and I have seen sweet, amazing, resilient dogs from terrible pasts, and I've seen dogs who never had a bad day in their lives turn out to be total jerks. This is just to say that now in the present, management of your dog's behavior is up to you every single day.
I cannot say this emphatically enough: WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN DOGS. No matter what breed of dog you have, you are responsible for it's behavior. If it's not reliable off leash, don't let it off leash. If it bites, muzzle it while you work on training. If you're socializing, use a muzzle while you work on training. I believe we should spend the money used to enforce BSL that doesn't work to provide free or low cost spay and neuter for anyone who wants it, training programs, and workshops to educate owners. I believe we should fine people whose dogs bite repeatedly or are off leash where it is illegal to be. Fine the crap out of them. Put the onus on the owner to do better next time. Don't blame the dog. Blame the owner. Use the money from the fines to help another owner who is trying to do the right thing by getting his or her dog fixed and trained, and provide safe basket muzzles free of charge.
Getting rid of BSL starts with us. It starts with our well-behaved (and/or well-managed) bully breeds. It starts with advocating for the right things, and not getting aggressive with people who react out of fear. We need to be loud, but factual and logic based with our arguments. Our dogs deserve it.
Photo by @prodigypuppy