Professor's House

Do Breed Bans Work?

A Miniature Poodle bites a child, breaking the skin, and the media hype is non-existent. There is not even a hospital visit over the incident. A pit bull bites a child, does not break the skin, and the media swarm the home like a nest of aggravated hornets.

Considering neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have ever issued a report or press release naming the types of dogs most likely to bite, it seems breed bans are a knee jerk reaction to what experts say is not actually the cause of the problem.

The AVMA report published from the research collected by the AVMA Task Force on Canine Aggression states:

“There are several reasons why it is not possible to calculate a bite rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds. First, the breed of the biting dog may not be accurately recorded, and mixed-breed dogs are commonly described as if they were purebreds. Second, the actual number of bites that occur in a community is not known, especially if they did not result in serious injury. Third, the number of dogs of a particular breed or combination of breeds in a community is not known, because it is rare for all dogs in a community to be licensed, and existing licensing data is then incomplete.

If this is true, do breed bans work?

It seems every decade or two a new breed must be demonized. In the 70’s, it was the German Shepherd. In the 80’s, it was the Doberman pinscher with the hype somewhat fueled by the TV show Magnum P.I. where two male Dobermans, Apollo and Zeus, did an admirable job of keeping Tom Selleck on his toes. With the 90’s came the pit bull and bull breeds. Breed specific legislation (BSL) quickly followed but do breed bans work?

BSL ranges from requiring certain breeds to be spayed or neutered to outright banning the breed entirely. Many countries added to the list of breeds to be banned, including Rottweilers, Japanese Tosa Inu, American Bulldogs, Cane Corso, Fila Brasileiro, Dogo Argentino, Presa Canario, and Presa Mallorquin.

Since the implementation of breed bans, many countries have repealed the legislature after realizing that it did not actually lower the incidents of dog bites or attacks. In fact, in the United Kingdom, one of the first adopters of BSL in 1991 with the strictest rules reported in 2008 that dog attacks increased by 50% in the previous decade. If anything proving that breed bans do not work and actually lowered public safety. Considering the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is nicknamed the ‘nanny dog’ in the UK because of how good the breed is with children, you would think they would look at the history of the breed in their own country, not the hype created over a single incident.

A 2006 study in Australia titled Breed-specific legislation and the pit bull terrier: Are the laws justified? Concluded that ‘the evidence does not sustain the view that pit bulls are a uniquely dangerous breed, and breed-specific laws aimed to control it have not been demonstrated by authorities to be justified by its attack record’.

Unfortunately, breed bans paint every member of the breed with the same brush meanwhile ignoring the actual problem the lack of responsible ownership. The majority of pit bulls and banned breeds are perfect members of canine society loving, playful, well-behaved, endearing pets much loved by their people.

Owned by an irresponsible owner, any dog can become dangerous. Ask the Californian family of the two-month-old baby who was killed by their 5lb Pomeranian or the Canadian mail carrier who was seriously mauled by a pack of Chihuahuas. Conscientious pet owners understand what it takes to keep their pet happy, healthy, socialized and safe.

Thankfully many countries have repealed their breed ban laws and adopting responsible pet ownership models. Educating pet owners is one side of the coin, the other is working with parents to educate their children on how to behave around dogs. On average, 70% of reported dog bites are in children 12 and under. Never leave a child alone with any pet and teaching children how to approach and behave around dogs is the most effective way to lower dog bite incidents in any community.

Do breed bans work? No. Responsible pet ownership is the only solution to preventing dog bites and attacks.

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