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.
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.
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.
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!