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|BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION—
BASED ON FACT --OR FALLACY ???
By Carolyn Chan
|Breed specific legislation (BSL) is any law that seeks to eliminate or single out a particular breed of canine, usually premised
upon a fictitious belief that such breed is somehow "dangerous."On its face, singling out a dog breed may appear to address what
some believe are safety issues with "certain" canines. However, both scientifically and socially, when one examines the issues
squarely on a factual basis, it becomes apparent that this type of discrimination is not based upon facts, nor accurate data. In
addition, it becomes more obvious that this type of disparate treatment will not only be extremely expensive to implement and
enforce, but also that its purpose will not be accomplished due to the faulty premises upon which it is based.
Why is this so? Most BSL is enacted in response to a highly publicized, and often sensationalized canine altercation in which a
human is either hurt or killed. Since fatal attacks by canines are actually rare, when and if they happen, it is news fodder and it
SELLS. Sensationalism is prevalent and a huge industry in the media world.
When enacting a law in response to such sensationalized stories, lawmakers do NOT take steps to ensure the stories are factual.
Therefore, stories about a "pitbull" may really be about a "mastiff/lab" mix, or a "shepherd/boxer" mix, or any number of mixed breed
dogs. Since there are at least 25-35 dog breeds that may resemble a "pitbull", it is extremely common for any canine bearing ANY
resemblance to a terrier to be labeled a "pitbull."
There have been studies conducted in the past that are heavily relied upon by those who want to push for BSL. The fact is, those
studies (there are only several) are not complete scientific studies, they were not done with complete variables, the evidence used
was not adjusted for variables not taken into account, and the extrapolation from such studies is flawed due to the failure of not
having set the foundation correctly to start with. Valid scientific studies take into account nearly every conceivable variable that
might affect the outcome. Carefully controlled studies are done precisely and under carefully controlled circumstances—as
opposed to "guessing", "speculation", and "we are not sure, but...."
Unfortunately, the SCIENCE of canine genetics has been thrown to the wayside, and has been reduced instead, to a few paltry
"studies" relied upon by lawmakers, where such studies are not reliable, nor proven. This is even admitted by the people who did
these studies, because they had incomplete data. Incomplete and inaccurate data does NOT lend itself to producing valid
The result? You have laws which are based upon fallacy.
When lawmakers seize upon "singling" out breeds, they usually tend to select those breeds which are either large, or protection
line types, or which tend to get the bad rap in the media. The "choosing" of such breeds is basically done on guesswork,
speculation, and perhaps even upon propaganda pushed by extreme animal rights groups such as PETA.
Let us assume for a moment, that two breeds of canines have been singled out because lawmakers think they are "dangerous."
Now, is that because they have read stories in the newspapers? Seen the news on television? Heard about stories on the radio?
Knew someone who was mauled to death? Owned one of the breeds and was injured? Worked in canine handling and
experienced these very breeds first hand? It would be my educated guess that the first two reasons listed are the answer. Most
lawmakers know little and nothing about canine genetics. But they know that the public may be upset when something "happens"
in their community involving a dog.
This then brings us to the issue of HOW do such things get taken care of?
In many cases, it appears that animal control seems to suddenly pipe up that certain breeds are being "euthanized", because no
one "wants" them.
Then, extreme animal rights groups pop up with their position statements that such dogs are better off "exterminated" completely,
or even worse, that all homeless pets should be killed rather than saved. One must remember that extreme animal activists have
heavy followings of donators, and many of these are people who are already involved with animals (such as shelter volunteers,
rescue people, and activists who promote "spay and neuter" as a mantra........)
To further convolute the issue, supporters of BSL like to bring in the topic of pet "overpopulation" and how it is allegedly caused by
So now we have lawmakers looking at a few studies, which are flawed both scientifically and statistically, coupled with
sensationalized media stories naming specific canine "breeds", and then heaped upon that, we have assertions by shelters and
extreme activists that "overpopulation" is a problem caused by breeders. It should be noted that the overpopulation issue is
purposely set up to detract from the "dangerous" aspect, because once that is done, many people forget about "dangerous" (which
is false) and remember overpopulation. It’s called convenient detraction to me.
SO-----if one puts that all together, what we come up with is known as "BSL".
We now have a plan to "eliminate" canine breeds, perceived as "dangerous" by the media, and ostensibly whose members are
taking up too much shelter space.
Does anyone else see a problem with this thinking?
First of all, wouldn’t it be logical to consult with canine geneticists and behaviorists on the so called issue of "danger" in selected
breeds? Apparently not in today’s world, because despite the opinions of the AVMA and leading canine authorities (who do NOT
support BSL)—lawmakers have now basically IGNORED the science aspect completely.
In California, it was not until this year that the legislature decided to forego its "non-specific" breed law. The non-specific breed law
is and was based upon scientific evidence that no canine breed is inherently dangerous, and that therefore, no specific breed of
canine was allowed to be considered as such.
Perhaps only after a highly sensationalized canine incident, lawmakers decide to revisit the specific breed issue. Somehow, the
lawmakers believe that the former law should be changed so that ALL California counties could enact laws against named
"dangerous" breed dogs, EVEN THOUGH NO DOG BREED IS TO BE CONSIDERED DANGEROUS.
The alleged intent of the new law specifically states that elimination of uncontrolled and irresponsible breeding is its "target."
Why? Because theoretically, according to lawmakers, this breeding is creating a public safety "risk" through production of
"defective" animals (as currently stated in Chapter 7, Section 122330, Health and Safety Code of California.)
Note that only the alleged breeding of specific breeds is the TARGET of such legislation. Whether such owners may be the actual
cause of canine problems due to their inappropriate treatment of animals is completely disregarded.
So if we are to believe that the actual so-called problem is the PEOPLE who may create "defective" canines, we should be
controlling the PEOPLE who are supposedly to blame. Since it is a known fact that animal abuse (starving, torturing, chaining,
never socializing, fighting, etc) will create a very unpredictable and possibly aggressive canine, it is very clear to me that the owner’
s treatment of the animal can be paramount to the dog’s disposition. In other words, the owner may create a monster by
inappropriate treatment of the dog, rather than having "bred" a defective dog.
Before one can make the huge leap from no specific breed of canine is inherently "dangerous" (which is the scientific truth, and
proven )---- to choosing breeds to "eliminate or reduce" because they "ARE" dangerous, one needs to have accurate, factual,
proven data. Information that has a reliable foundation, using scientific principles, and not based upon guesstimates, conjecture,
or newspaper stories. BSL has no scientific basis--- unless you count media stories as genuine scientific evidence.
Spaying and neutering "every dog" in society is clearly not the answer, yet in Los Angeles, that is exactly what has been proposed
since SB861 (aka BSL) started this year!!
The proposal must be the second most asinine proposal in terms of eliminating unsafe canines—second only to BSL which is
based upon nothing but fallacy.
It is a shame, but dog owners today must prove their mettle in a court of law due to media hype, uninformed lawmakers, and
radical animal groups focused on eliminating not only specific canine breeds, but domestic pet ownership itself.
In July 2003 the American Canine Foundation hired Ohio attorney Sol Zyndorf to challenge Ohio’s O.R.C. 955:11- 955:22 breed
specific laws. On March 3, 2006, the Sixth Appellate District Court of Appeals in Lucas County, Ohio, issued a published decision
finding that the breed specific law in question was UNCONSTITUTIONAL, on three separate counts, and the court entered
Judgement for the pitbull owner!!!
This major VICTORY at the Appeals level shows that with hard work, a good team of experts, and keen counsel, dogs will get their
day in court and prevail!
Attorney at Law
|Copyright 2006-2007 American Canine Foundation. All rights reserved