In yet another blow to BSL, the most recent peer-reviewed study on the DNA of shelter dogs concluded that one of the main components of BSL, identifying a dog's breed based on appearance, is highly unreliable with accuracy ranging between a low of 10% and a high of 67%. Published last month, the largest study on the DNA of shelter dogs to-date also concluded that 98% of pitbull-type dogs are mixed breed dogs and that behavior is more important than heritage (DNA/breed) when considering dogs for adoption. Furthermore, the study found that dogs labeled as a pitbull-type breed had an average DNA concentration of 43.5% from pitbull-type ancestry which would challenge the majority of breed-based bans that target dogs with a genetic background of "50% or more" from pitbull-type breeds. Below, we highlight key conclusions and information from the latest scientific study to contradict BSL and breed-based bans.
Summary of the study:
Key conclusions and information from the study:
The genetics of behavior is so complex ... breed-typing is worse than stereotyping members of our own species. Breed labels would be better dropped altogether.
Great news in Washington: On Tuesday, the city of Yakima successfully repealed their obsolete ban on "pitbull-type" dogs that has been in effect for more than 30 years. Supported by robust public support from city residents, the Yakima City Council easily repealed the ban in a 5-2 vote and ended the ineffective and discriminatory policy that banned dogs based only on their appearance or breed. The ban, or breed specific legislation (BSL), is being replaced with more effective breed-neutral regulations that address all potentially dangerous dogs, all irresponsible dog owners, and all unsafe dog-related situations - regardless of a dog's appearance or breed. Congratulations to the City Council and the residents of Yakima for improving public safety by repealing BSL and implementing a more effective and more equitable breed-neutral approach for addressing and reducing dog-bite incidents in the city. Yakima joins a list of 10+ cities that have repealed BSL in 2018 alone and are taking a decisive stand against old and long-debunked myths and stereotypes about "pitbull-type dogs".
A few reasons why the national trend against BSL is strong and enjoys robust public support:
Aside from the scientific studies and peer-reviewed facts, the reality is that the majority of the public no longer supports discrimination against pitbull-type dogs because simply stated, they are great dogs. They consistently achieve excellent temperament scores and are successful as service dogs, as therapy dogs, as K9 police dogs, and as family pets. All around the country and across many different political spectrums the trend is clear - BSL and breed bans are being challenged and of those challenged, many are being successfully repealed in favor of non-discriminatory and more effective breed-neutral regulations.
The American Bar Association urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral ... laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific provisions
Great news: On Tuesday, voters in Springfield (MO) rejected a ban on “pitbull-type” dogs by a landslide with over 68% voting against the proposed ban. While the vote is a strong win against breed discrimination, ineffective policies, and junk science - it also validates a growing national trend against all forms of breed-specific legislation (BSL) including breed-based bans. Furthermore, the vote aligns with a recent national survey where 84% of Americans polled were against breed-specific bans of any kind. Below, we summarize the decaying state of BSL in the U.S. and abroad. Congratulations to the voters of Springfield and a big thanks to "Springfield Citizens Against BSL" that lead the successful campaign against BSL and breed discrimination in Springfield!
The decaying state of BSL in the U.S. and abroad:
We could easily add more evidence of the decaying state of BSL to the list above, but the overall conclusion is clear and simple: BSL and breed-based bans are being challenged, repealed, voted down, and are becoming increasingly unpopular with citizens and voters all across the U.S. and abroad. Politicians and public officials who support BSL should consider themselves on notice - while there is a fringe but vocal minority that support breed discrimination, it's becoming evident that the majority of citizens are against invasive, ineffective, and discriminatory policies such as BSL and instead support more sensible breed-neutral policies that address relevant factors such as irresponsible ownership and/or a dog's behavior. Although there is still a lot of advocacy, education, and work to be done to combat breed discrimination and to eradicate BSL, the tide (and the majority) is slowly but surely turning against BSL and discriminatory appearance-based bans.
Enacting any ban based on stereotypes and junk science, instead of on peer-reviewed facts and expert information, is quite frankly an abuse of public policy and resources ... imagine if other bans were enacted using similar unsound standards. Dog bite incidents are a serious issue and comprehensive breed-neutral regulations are the most effective solution because they address all potentially dangerous dogs, all irresponsible dog owners, and all unsafe dog-related situations ... regardless of a dog's appearance or breed.
Since only 2016, at least 24 different breeds and mixed breeds have been implicated in fatal dog attacks (listed in Table 1 below) including: Akita, Belgian Malinois, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, English Mastiff, German Shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, Husky, Labrador Retriever, Rottweiler, and others. While every dog bite-related fatality is tragic, the number and variety of breeds involved in fatal attacks is clear evidence that serious dog bite-related incidents are not a breed-specific issue. The fact that many people are only aware of incidents associated with "pitbull-type" dogs is unfortunately a strong indication of media bias when reporting serious dog bite incidents. Not only is it irresponsible for the media to cherry-pick and emphasize some incidents over others (based on the breed involved) because it feeds myths, stereotypes, and misinformation - but it can also lead to poor public safety policy decisions such as breed-specific legislation (BSL) which multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded is ineffective.
The dog bite-related incident data for January/2016 through June/2018 fully debunks the myth that serious dog bite-related incidents are only associated with pitbull-type dogs - while also confirming that:
Table 1: Breeds involved in fatal dog attacks between January/2016 and June/2018 include:
(in alphabetical order, references to news sources with breed information provided in Table 2 below)
Table 2: News source references for breeds listed in Table 1:
(excluding pitbull-type dogs, see "Notes" below)
The data, scientific studies, and risk rates clearly show that serious dog bite-related incidents are not a breed-specific issue. For canine regulation, it is important to understand the differences between the two major types of regulation - Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) and Breed Neutral Legislation (BNL). BSL is a limited, single-factor, appearance-based approach while BNL is a comprehensive, multifactorial, behavior-based approach. For public safety, BSL imposes regulations on a minority of dogs based only on their appearance (regardless of a dog's behavior or responsible ownership) while breed-neutral regulations address all potentially dangerous dogs, all irresponsible owners, and all unsafe dog-related situations - regardless of a dog's appearance or breed. Consequently, multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded that BSL is ineffective; furthermore, it is a discriminatory trend in decline evidenced by the vast majority (98%) of cities and towns that use breed-neutral regulations as their primary and only form of regulation because of the many advantages of breed-neutral regulations summarized on our Breed Legislation page.
Breed specific ordinances have proven ineffective in reducing the ... number of dog bites. Breed Specific Legislation ... has generally been discredited in actual experience of cities, professionals and academic research as being both ineffective and expensive
In only the first half of 2018, eleven U.S. cities and towns have successfully repealed breed specific legislation (BSL) that targeted and discriminated against "pitbull-type" dogs and their owners. Almost always, ineffective BSL is replaced with stronger and more equitable breed-neutral regulations which are more effective because they address all irresponsible owners and all dangerous dogs - regardless of a dog's breed. All around the country and across different political spectrums the trend is clear - BSL and breed bans are being challenged and of those challenged, many are being successfully repealed. Below, we list the 11 cities and towns that have repealed BSL so far this year followed by a few key reasons for why BSL continues to be defeated.
U.S. cities and towns that have repealed BSL in 2018 (January-June):
Dangerous and/or vicious animals should be labeled as such as a result of their actions or behavior and not because of their breed.
BSL is being challenged and repealed for a number of reasons including:
Regardless of any personal opinions about specific breeds (or types) of dogs, multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded that BSL is ineffective and that pitbull-type dogs are not "more dangerous" than other strong breed dogs. Furthermore, the risk rates for pitbull-type dogs are fully in-line with other strong breeds given their growing population size. So it's really no surprise that when BSL is challenged by informed citizens and public officials, BSL is often repealed and replaced with stronger breed-neutral regulations that address all dangerous dogs, all bad owners, and all risky dog-related situations - regardless of breed. A big congratulations to the 11 cities and towns that have repealed BSL in the first half of this year!
Great news in Canada: Yesterday, in an important defeat of discriminatory breed-specific legislation (BSL), the province of Quebec abandoned a proposal to enact a province-wide ban against "pitbull-type" dogs and Rottweilers (comparable to a state-wide ban in the U.S.). After reviewing the scientific evidence, listening to expert testimony, and understanding the facts about canine behavior and aggression, Quebec officials firmly rejected the proposed breed-specific ban and decided to instead work on implementing stronger and more effective breed-neutral regulations. Furthermore, Quebec also refuted misinformation including unscientific statistics and fear-based stereotypes about pitbull-type dogs provided by discriminatory special-interest organizations.
There's been no scientific evidence to prove such a ban is effective ... or that the dogs are genetically inclined to be aggressive
Quebec Bill 128 (that we've been closely following) titled "An Act to promote the protection of persons by establishing a framework with regard to dogs" was introduced in April, 2017 and originally included provisions for a breed-specific ban against pitbull-type dogs and Rottweilers. While it at first appeared to have momentum, that momentum quickly came to a halt after citizens of Quebec, responsible dog owners, and public safety experts became aware of the breed-specific provisions in the bill. Now after over a year of review and debate, the bill will be moving forward but without any of the breed-specific provisions. Instead, Bill 128 will include the stronger breed-neutral provisions that were endorsed by numerous public safety and canine behavior experts during the bill's review and testimony sessions.
Breed-specific rules would be problematic ... we want to have rules that will be applied, that will be observed
A big congratulations to the government of Quebec for not only rejecting ineffective and discriminatory breed-specifc legislation, but also for making strong public statements against the misguided and ineffective practice of banning dogs based on appearance or breed. If the amended version of Bill 128 is enacted, it will be a strong endorsement of breed-neutral regulations that improve public safety by addressing all irresponsible dog owners and all dangerous dogs - regardless of a dog's appearance or breed. After reviewing scientific evidence and expert testimony, Quebec is the latest governing body to acknowledge that breed-specific bans are ineffective, not based on science, and that breed-neutral regulations are the superior option for public safety and safer communities.
After meeting the experts ... the government came to the conclusion that targeting a specific race (breed) is not applicable (effective)
There is nothing about a dog’s breed that makes them any more dangerous than another breed ... what is a factor is size, so bigger dogs can do more damage
While Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is being challenged and repealed in multiple cities across the U.S., BSL is now also being challenged in the UK which enacted a national ban against owning certain dog breeds including the Japanese Tosa, Fila Brasileiro, Dogo Argentino, and "pitbull-type" dogs in 1991. An analysis of the effectiveness of the ban has concluded that it has been largely ineffective as it has 100% failed to reduce serious dog bite-related incidents and also 100% failed to eliminate fatal dog attacks. Below, we summarize some of the initial findings from the analysis conducted by the UK's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the RSPCA.
Since the UK enacted the "Dangerous Dogs Act" in 1991:
The legislation is failing the public – since the Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in 1991, hospital admissions for dog bites in England have risen showing that the law simply isn’t working
After almost 30 years of BSL in the UK, the data is proving that BSL has been ineffective for reducing serious dog bite-related incidents and therefore has not improved public safety. Meanwhile, multiple towns and cities across the U.S. have recently repealed BSL and eliminated their breed-based bans because they have reached similar conclusions. The data and evidence (in multiple cities and countries with BSL) consistently shows that BSL is ineffective and that comprehensive breed-neutral regulations, that address all irresponsible owners and all potentially dangerous dogs (regardless of the dog's appearance or breed), are far more effective.
The fact is that the way a dog looks and his breed is not a predictor of whether he or she is likely to be aggressive
The government is responsible for protecting the public ... so it is essential that laws evolve alongside our understanding of what works
We are fairly confident that after the UK completes their investigation into the effectiveness of BSL that they will eliminate their ineffective breed-based policies and replace them with stronger and more effective breed-neutral regulations that not only benefit public safety, but also responsible dog owners and their four-legged family members.
Great news in Colorado: Last night, Castle Rock repealed Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) which banned pitbull-type dogs within the city and replaced it with more effective and equitable breed-neutral regulations. Supported by robust public support from city residents, the Town Council voted unanimously (5-0) to put an end to the ineffective and discriminatory BSL that banned dogs within the city based only on their appearance or breed. The vote replaces the city's BSL, which had been in place for 25 years, with stronger and more effective breed-neutral regulations that include well-defined provisions to more effectively address irresponsible ownership and dogs that have previously shown to be aggressive or dangerous.
Congratulations to the Castle Rock Town Council for voting to improve public safety by replacing ineffective BSL with stronger breed-neutral regulations that address all potentially dangerous dogs and all irresponsible owners, regardless of the dog's appearance or breed. Additionally, the Town Council can also be congratulated for rejecting long-debunked myths and stereotypes about pitbull-type dogs, misinformation, inaccurate statistics, and discriminatory agendas from special-interest organizations that they received in a number of comments, emails, and letters (that we also reviewed) through the public comment process. Moreover, the majority of public comments were in favor of repealing BSL.
Law enforcement officials also spoke out, telling the council that lifting the ban would not jeopardize safety
A citizen-driven grassroots group in Castle Rock, End Castle Rock BSL, began its efforts over a year ago to help repeal BSL within the city. The group collaborated and worked with the broader Castle Rock community, animal control, and the town government to replace the city's BSL with more effective and more equitable breed-neutral regulations. This demonstrates how a small but focused group of citizens can work with the community and the city government to successfully promote and bring about positive change. A big thank you to End Castle Rock BSL for their work towards ending ineffective and discriminatory BSL in Castle Rock.
BSL in Colorado is unpopular and rare as only 8 of Colorado's 271 municipalities have BSL enacted. And as of today, there are now only 7 cities in Colorado with BSL (mostly in the Denver metro area) - Castle Rock represents the first of these cities with BSL in Colorado to successfully repeal it. We believe that Castle Rock's model for repealing BSL with stronger, enforceable, and well-defined breed-neutral regulations can be used as a model to repeal BSL in other cities and towns that still have BSL - including Denver, Miami, and others. Castle Rock's new comprehensive and well-defined breed-neutral regulations made it an easy vote for the Town Council that benefits great dogs, responsible dog owners, and public safety.
The data confirms that serious dog bite-related incidents are not a breed-specific issue:
Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is ineffective and obsolete given the number of different breeds and dog types associated with serious dog bite-related incidents such as fatal dog attacks. Furthermore, the number of incidents associated with each breed is more closely related to each breed's population size and its risk rate than to any "inherent risk" in a specific breed or dog type.
To reduce the number of serious dog bite-related incidents and improve public safety, the data shows that comprehensive breed-neutral regulations are the more effective and equitable solution because they address all potentially dangerous dogs and all irresponsible owners, regardless of the dog's appearance or breed. Public safety is not a breed-specific issue.
All strong or large dogs (of any breed) can cause serious injuries or worse, fatalities. Over a 20 year period, a CDC study identified over 30 different breeds involved in fatal dog bite-related incidents in the U.S. alone. Just last month on March 7, there was a sad and unfortunate tragedy in Virginia when the family dog, a northern breed (Malamute/wolf-hybrid mix), fatally attacked an 8-day old baby girl. The attack happened when the baby was left unattended in her bassinet while her mother was preparing lunch in the kitchen. The dog was loved, properly cared for, had never previously shown any signs of aggression, and was described as "very friendly". It’s a tragedy that emphasizes the importance of always carefully supervising strong or large dogs (of any breed) when they are around infants and children - including loved and well-behaved family dogs. To educate on this point, below we list the 30+ different breeds and dog types identified in a CDC study that were involved in fatal dog attacks - evidence that attempting to legislate dogs based on appearance or breed is an ineffective and obsolete approach for safety because a wide variety of dog types and many different breeds and mixes have been implicated in serious incidents.
30+ breeds and dog types implicated in fatal dog attacks (alphabetical order):
The fact is that any strong or large dogs (of any breed) can cause serious incidents - including dogs that are considered the loved, family dog. This highlights why breed-based bans and breed-specific legislation (BSL) are ineffective because there are many different dog types, breeds, and mixes that can become aggressive and cause injuries or worse, fatalities. And while comprehensive breed-neutral regulations are the most effective approach because they address all potentially dangerous dogs (regardless of breed) and all irresponsible dog owners, tragic incidents will unfortunately occur and the extensive breed list above is clear evidence that these incidents are not a breed-specific issue - proper training, supervision, and safety awareness is required for all strong or large dogs, regardless of breed.
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Insight, news, and analysis on issues and topics relevant to pitbull-type dogs.