Alternatives to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)

I do not own a Pit Bull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Doberman Pinscher, or any other breed victimized by Breed Specific Legislation. So why am I writing this post? This post is not inspired by my own dogs, but rather by the dogs of my friends and students who I know and love, and who I feel for when they voice their fears of Breed Specific Legislation.

Chipper - Bully Ambassador Photo Credit:  https://www.facebook.com/chipperbullyambassador

Chipper, a friend’s Pittie MIx. Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/chipperbullyambassador

 

What is Breed Specific Legislation? Breed Specific Legislation or BSL is a law or series of laws regulating or even banning certain breeds deemed “dangerous” in certain cities, counties, or states. What makes a breed dangerous? Put simply, bites resulting in serious injuries or death. But, if we look at this concept more in depth, we can conclude that poor breeding and/or training are actually the primary factors in what makes a dog dangerous. Unfortunately, a poorly bred and/or trained large dog is more capable of a bite resulting in serious injury than a poorly bred and/or trained small dog.  This fact alone is why we see breeds such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers on BSL lists, but not Chihuahuas.

Chipper - Bully Ambassador and friends

Chipper surrounded by canine friends at a human & canine Christmas party hosted by Dog Mom Days (http://dogmomdays.com/). Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/chipperbullyambassador

 

Why am I opposed to Breed Specific Legislation? Because it doesn’t actually solve the problem. BSL is a band-aid. Sure, there will be fewer Pit Bull attacks if there are fewer Pit Bulls, but what about Australian Cattle Dog attacks? Sure, that’s a smaller breed, one not on the BSL lists, but being bred to work cattle, they have a strong bite too. I’m not saying a decrease in “dangerous” breeds is going to cause an increase in attacks by other breeds, but rather that the dog bite problem will not go away.

Chipper - Bully Ambassador

Chipper in an advertisement for PetSmart.com. Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/chipperbullyambassador

So what else can be done?

 

Instead of banning breeds, maybe we could try legislation requiring dogs in public places who are on the “dangerous” breed list be walked on a Gentle Leader, Head Halter, or Muzzle.  I’m sure most owners of these breeds would rather be required to use specific equipment when walking their dogs in public (with the exception of aversive equipment….I am NOT condoning shock collars, prong collars, or other corrective devices for ANY dog), than be worried about traveling to certain locations and having their dog confiscated.

 

Or, an even more reasonable option might be legislation requiring people who wish to own dogs who are on the “dangerous” breed list to complete a dog training and behavior certification course.  I’m sure many local behaviorists, rescue groups, and even humane societies would be interested in setting up a free or low-cost education program that will promote responsible, knowledgeable owners.

 

The first time I was ever the victim of a dog bite, it was from a Chihuahua.  I now own, and love, two Chihuahuas myself.  It’s a fortunate thing that I did not paint the whole breed with the same brush, as I never would have been able to experience how incredibly loyal, smart, and just adorable this breed is.  Don’t let Breed Specific Legislation stop you or someone you know from possibly experiencing a wonderful companion.

 

Do you have any suggestions on ways we can stop Breed Specific Legislation?  Have you been the victim of breed stereotyping?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

Want to follow my friend Chipper?  Check him out at Chipper – Bully Ambassador on Facebook.  His mom is awesome, and has a dog walking company in Arizona, check out Move Your Mutt on Facebook.

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13 thoughts on “Alternatives to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)

  1. My friend had a 120lb Rottie. Her name was Daisy. She was the sweetest, most gentle dog I will ever meet in my life. When we would take her out, people would literally go to the other side of the street as to avoid us. It was absolutely heartbreaking. More people need to take the time to educate themselves on the facts, and get to know a dog before they judge it. They always say “don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” so why do people continue to do that? The rule doesn’t just apply to humans.

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  2. My suggestion would be that our legislators punish people who breed dogs for aggression, not the dogs themselves. And to stop promoting fear mongering. As awful as dog attacks are, there really are very few against people – only 34 deaths last year out of 340 some million people. Many more people than that are killed purposely by other people. People are the problem for the most part, not dogs. And yes, good idea about taking responsibility and using appropriate equipment that prevents a dog from biting or being accused of it.

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  3. I think the key here is training. I know a lot of pet parents who wouldn’t be thrilled with having to make their dog wear a muzzle. I know it’s not aversive, but I think it does have a negative association and I think that could cause people to think that a certain dog is dangerous when he isn’t. I think your idea about a training course is an interesting one. While I think every dog should go through some kind of training, I’m not sure how people would react to making it mandatory, but I certainly think it would help!

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  4. I definitely agree. I remember reading the annual statistics of dog bites and the number one factor was whether or not the owner had control of a dog at the time. I think your idea of having people go through training is a great idea, although unfortunately with all the Pits and Pit mixes I see on craigslist for “trade” I doubt there would be complete compliance. I wish I knew the solution. I was surprised when I had my dog Laika dna tested. Her results were Pit/German Shepherd/Rottweiler. I just laughed and told her “You better watch out and be good – if we move one town over you’re illegal.” BSL isn’t going to solve anything, I think it just makes it worse. Anytime you label a breed as bad or dangerous you’re going to have more backyard breeders trying to take advantage of the situation.

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  5. I think you hit it on the head…Its all about responsible pet ownership. Imagine if people who had more behaviorally challenging dogs were required to do training with them. Forget that…all dogs, imagine it! I think its really important to keep in mind that there are lots of dog bites from goldens. It all comes down to owners training their dogs (setting limits, teaching appropriate behavior) and knowing them (keeping them out of situations that make them uneasy, stressed, or panicked).

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  6. Nothing annoys me more than breed legislation. It is designed by people who know absolutely nothing about dogs and how they work. I have actually never met a mean bullie or any of the dogs on the list. Every dog is super sweet as long as they have proper training and love!

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  7. Many times, the owner does not know how fierce the dog is. (Sometimes the dog does not, either.) The one time I was attacked by a dog (I was in 8th grade at the time), it was not one I recognized as a “fierce” breed. And he did not bite me, he scratched me. Dogs sometimes forget that they are not cats and as such cannot physically put their claws away; this dog just thought he was being friendly. (After the owner locked the door, he said “He won’t hurt you.” Too late!)

    I have known other dogs who were taught not to put their claws on the side of the car/truck door when their owner came home.

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  8. I despise BSL, it is cruel & inhumane and not at all effective. You’re so right, the issue is the breeders and owners who deliberately want to create aggression in their dogs. I like your ideas on requiring specific equipment and training, very good solutions. In addition, mandatory spay/neuter unless you are a responsible, registered breeder who complies with all the breeder standards within your state – and every state should have strong regulations around breeding dogs. Confiscating a family pet is devastating, and the height of cruelty to both the dog & the family. Great post.

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