Congratulations to Hastings, Michigan for being the latest city to reject breed bans by repealing their breed-specific legislation (BSL) in favor of stronger breed-neutral regulations! Last week, the city council voted to strengthen their vicious-dog ordinance so that it addresses dangerous dogs of any breed (based on behavior) - instead of its previous limited focus that was based on a dog's appearance or breed. All around the country, the trend is clear: BSL and breed bans are being challenged and of those challenged, many are being successfully repealed. Below, we list several of the main reasons why many communities are rejecting ineffective breed bans in favor of stronger breed-neutral regulations.
Reason #1 - Pitbull-type dogs are popular mainstream dogs:
Pitbull-type dogs and their mixes are in no way “fringe” or unpopular dogs, they are instead one of the most popular dog-types in the U.S. and they have always been core to our history. The fact is that pitbull-type dogs are mainstream dogs known to have an excellent temperament that are loved by millions of Americans as they are the 3rd most popular dog type adopted from shelters and the 5th most popular dog type registered by veterinarians. Therefore, the popularity of pitbull-type dogs makes breed bans a challenge as they affect a large and growing number of responsible dog owners.
Reason #2 - Breed bans are not supported by science:
There is robust scientific evidence that dogs identified as “pitbull-type” dogs are not more dangerous than other strong breeds. On our scientific studies page, we list multiple scientific peer-reviewed studies that have concluded that pitbull-type dogs are not more dangerous, not more aggressive, and their bites are not more severe than other strong breeds. Furthermore, the studies have also found that factors related to irresponsible ownership (and not breed) are the primary factor for dog bite-related incidents and that breed-specific legislation is largely ineffective for reducing serious bite-related incidents. Regardless of personal opinions about specific breeds or dog types, the science is clear: breed bans are not only ineffective - but also not justified by science. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly difficult for cities to defend breed bans when they are challenged.
Reason #3 - Enforcement of breed bans is difficult and costly:
Breed bans assume that the visual identification of pitbull-type dogs is easy and accurate when in reality, the opposite is true: controlled scientific studies have found that visual identification of pitbull-type dogs is complex and prone to significant error. In fact, the average percentage of "pitbull-type" dogs that were misidentified in two controlled studies was 50% (half of the dogs that were visually identified as "pitbull-type" did not have DNA signatures from any of the pitbull-type breeds). Therefore, cities with breed bans are burdened with using public resources to regulate dogs primarily based on a dog’s appearance or breed (regardless of responsible ownership or a dog's behavior) which inevitably leads to increased and unnecessary enforcement related expenses (DNA tests, breed evaluations, court costs, etc.) and even costly legal challenges.
Reason #4 - Strong breed-neutral regulations are the more effective solution for public safety:
Effective canine legislation should focus on any and all dangerous dogs - regardless of breed. In 2017 alone, at least 12 different breeds were involved in fatal dog attacks, confirming that public safety is not a breed-specific issue. Therefore, public safety requires legislation that addresses all dangerous dogs (based on a dog’s behavior and/or history) and all irresponsible owners (regardless of their dog’s breed). There are many strong breeds (Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Mastiff-types, Dogo-Argentinos, and too many more to list) that require responsible ownership and effective behavior-based legislation. Breed bans do nothing to address the factors directly linked to serious dog bite-related incidents such as irresponsible ownership and dogs with behavior problems. The fact is that strong and comprehensive breed-neutral regulations are the most effective solution for public safety since they address all potentially dangerous dogs and all irresponsible dog owners.
Punishing responsible owners and good dogs instead of addressing irresponsible owners and dangerous dogs is not only nonsensical, but also detrimental to public safety. As more and more communities with breed bans realize this, breed bans will continue to be challenged in favor of stronger breed-neutral regulations that are more equitable for responsible dog owners and more beneficial for public safety.
One of the common arguments used by anti-pitbull activists and organizations to promote discriminatory breed-specific legislation (BSL) is claiming that “because we can't prevent irresponsible ownership, certain dogs should be banned”. If this same logic is applied to cars (because of the fact that we can't prevent irresponsible drivers), then all cars would be banned. Below, we examine the logic of the "irresponsible owner" argument and use cars as an analogy to show that the argument is a fallacy.
The "irresponsible owner" argument goes like this:
Keeping in mind that:
So, using cars as an analogy - the "irresponsible driver" argument would go like this:
Does banning cars sound ridiculous? That's because it is. Not only does banning cars assign blame to the car (instead of to the driver), but banning cars also punishes all other responsible drivers. The same is true for dogs - banning certain dogs assigns blame to the dog (instead of to the owner) and it punishes all other responsible dog owners.
The bottom line is that the "irresponsible owner" argument is a fallacy because the argument's logic fails when applied to almost all other elements of modern society that carry risk - cars, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, sports, and too many more to list. It's an irrational argument that isn't based on logic, science, or risk - but instead, based on long debunked myths and stereotypes about pitbull-type dogs.
A few public safety stats - on average every year in the U.S. there are:
The reality is that it’s impossible to completely eliminate all risk in society and the risk associated with dogs, including the millions of pitbull-type dogs and their mixes in the U.S., is already one of the lowest levels of risk in society (the risk of a fatal lighting strike is almost 2x higher than the risk of a fatal dog attack). For cars, effective laws and regulations that reduce risk apply to all drivers and their behavior - regardless of the type or model of the vehicle that they own. The same is true for dogs, effective laws and regulations should apply to all owners and their behavior - regardless of the type or breed of dog that they own. This is why breed-neutral regulations, which enforce and promote the responsible ownership of all dogs regardless of breed, are the widely preferred standard in the U.S. for public safety (less than 3% of cities and towns have BSL enacted). The objective of any canine legislation should be to promote and enforce the responsible ownership of all dogs, regardless of breed - and not ineffective and discriminatory bans that punish great dogs and responsible dog owners.
Blog & News
Insight, news, and analysis on issues and topics relevant to pitbull-type dogs.