Starting in the 1990’s communities started passing laws that discriminated against certain breeds of dog. Many of the laws were drafted in reaction to horrendous accidents or based on sensationalized stories in newspapers and magazines, that vilified particular dog types. The laws fell into two distinct categories: Breed bans and breed discrimination laws.
Breed bans targeted dogs that are are often considered power breeds: dobermans, german shepherd dogs, American Bull Dogs, American Pit Bull Terriers, Bull Dogs, Mastiffs, Staffordshire Terriers and the like. The laws went to such ridiculous lengths that they often included the term “or any dog that shares characteristics of these breeds”. That meant that if your dog looked in any way like someone’s idea of a pit bull terrier type dog, it could be seized. What the law was in fact saying was that how a dog looked determined how he would act, regardless of DNA.
Breed discrimination laws were designed to punish owners who chose certain types of dogs. They often required such things as muzzles in public, six foot fencing, ridiculously expensive insurance policies and mandatory spay/neuter laws.
In the past 20 years what we have found is that BSL simply does not work.
- It gives people a false sense of security while is does nothing to make our communities safer or reduce the number of serious dog bites.
- Instead of targeting irresponsible owners and dangerous dogs, it targets dogs who are trained, socialized family pets.
- BSL gives certain breeds “street cred” and made them more desirable to unsavory people and criminals.
- Studies show us a dog’s breed has absolutely no bearing on it tendency to bite
- Visual dog breed identification, especially among mixed breeds, is subjective and notoriously unreliable.
- Dogs who are among the banned breeds often do not get the medical care or socialization they need as their owners are afraid they will be seized if taken in public. This lack of normal human interaction can actually cause a dog to become dangerous.
- Breed bans and breed discrimination are expensive for communities to enforce.
In some ways, BSL is actually a property rights issue. This is the United States, and responsible dog owners should be allowed to own any breed they choose. Instead of BSL, laws that target problem dogs and owners are becoming the norm. As of 2014, 19 states have passed laws making Breed Discrimination illegal. Instead of laws that target how a dog looks, laws are being passed that address how a dog acts.
However, the battle against discrimination is not over. There are organizations who make it their life’s work to target specific breeds of dog. There are communities who refuse to accept state law and work tirelessly to overturn it. One such community is Pawtucket, Rhode Island. When Rhode Island passed their anti-breed discrimination law in 2013 Pawtucket attempted to have the law over-turned in court. They lost. But now they are trying a different tact.
Here are the details in the words of Handsome Dan’s Rescue for Pit Bull Type Dogs located in Rhode Island:
I want to see the end of killing in America’s shelters. And the fact is that many of the dogs who are dying are pit bull type dogs. Bad laws cost dog lives. If you live in RI, if you have family or friends in RI, please respectfully register your protest. Killing dogs for how they look is ridiculous. As a society it is time we leave behind witch hunt mentalities.