Breed Specific Legislation – It’s in the mind not the math.

Banning dogs is not the answer. It is proper education that solves the issues surrounding dogs.

The history of banning certain breeds of dogs in the USA started in 1989 in Denver Colorado. Since then it has spread to many cites, states, and smaller demographics such as tenant housing, and gated communities.

Over the past 25 years since BSL has had it’s chance to prove the merits of it’s effectiveness the national average of dog bites have held steady, the category of “banned breeds or types” has remained healthy and immersed in all areas of society, and deaths attributed to dog bites has also stayed roughly the same or in some cases risen due to perhaps the increase in the total dog population as well as the human population.

One thing BSL has not done is it has not solved the problem of dog bite related fatalities and it has not educated the public at all about responsible dog ownership and proper practices for training and maintaining dogs.

So why does Breed Specific Legislation stick around and keep being bandied about as a “solution”? Fear. It is “panic policy”.

We usually see the introduction of BSL or a DDL – Dangerous Dog Law after a lethal or fatal dog bite incident.

The math of dogs and dog bites should be enough for most people to see the real danger is not the dogs but the people that are supposed to be in their care.

The CDC reports the following numbers surrounding dog bites.
4.5 million dog bites are reported annually by emergency rooms. Most are on par with kitchen accidents or playground accidents.
Fewer than 200 dog bites need major surgery.
There is a 0.0002% chance of being killed by a dog.
300 million humans in the USA
77 million registered dogs
Yearly the CDC states that on average over a 10-year cycle 16 people are killed from dog related injuries.

These are hardly the numbers that detail an “epidemic”.

In 2011 there were 30 fatalities attributed to dog bites.
In all human fatalities or lethal dog bite incidents there is a criteria that involves human behavior this criteria repeats in part or total for all incidents involving dogs and fatalities or lethal bites.

Karen Delsie has detailed this criterion in her book The Pit Bull Placebo.

Criteria surrounding lethal and fatal dog bite incidents.

  • Dog is a resident dog not a companion dog. Dogs is subjected to no or low socialization, harshly “trained” kept for protection, guarding breeding or fighting.
  • Dog is tied or housed 24/7 – creates stress, fear, anxiety and aggression.
  • Dog is left unattended with children
  • Dog’s roaming or loose.
  • Domestic violence – Franklin County OH did a survey and found the most dog bites occurred in the zip codes with the most domestic violence.
  • Dogs are not spayed or neutered.
  • Dogs in groups.
  • People pushing boundaries.

All of these are based on human behavior. All of these are also avoided when dog owners and the public are educated properly.

There are 5 reasons why BSL and DDL are not effective.

1-Cost VS Effectiveness-since its inception in 1989 BSL has cost
millions of tax payers money, yet the “pit bull” population has not been diminished. Dog bites and deaths related to dogs have all held steady for nearly 45 years. Prince Georges County Maryland spends over a million dollars a year to enforce it’s BSL. The “pit bull” population has stayed the same as well as dog bites stats.

2-Breed Identification – Many times dogs are misidentified as “pit bulls” when they are not. Even if the ID was accurate, identifying breeds does not keep people safe, education about proper dog ownership and legitimate dog training will reduce dog aggression and improve ownership practices.

Go here and find the “pit bull”.

3-Over inclusive Under inclusive – By only focusing on certain breeds or “types” the point is missed. If a breed in the un-banned category is dangerous and has behavior issues or reckless owners they go under the radar, if a breed is safe but banned and owned by responsible people they will be unfairly accused of being dangerous dogs and reckless owners by the law. That is not fair.

4-People will get another breed of dog. Many times people with ill intentions for their dogs will just get another breed or mix. It happens more than you think. The Dogo Argintino is a very popular replacement for the “pit bull”. Go look at them, very similar but not a “Bull n Terrier”.
There are only three breeds that can be accurately called a “Pit Bull”.
The American Pit Bull Terrier – “Pit Bull”.
The American Staffordshire terrier – “AM Staff”
The Staffordshire bull terrier – “Staffy Bull”.

All other dogs are something else other then a dog that has been bred to be a Pit Bull terrier.

5-Does not address the root cause or the main concerns. No matter where in the BSL discussion someone may fall, the goal of everyone is to have safe dogs and educated owners. Banning dogs does not address either of these issues.

What is the Solution? Education is the answer not legislation. Teach people legitimate dog training & behavior skills as well as how to be a responsible dog owner. This should be required of every registered dog and their owner. Then there is an actual education, not the fomenting of fear. We have enough legitimate info that could be made into a “standard” dog owner “manual” and given out at adoption time. Who will take the lead on this remains to be seen. Are any of those big Orgs listening?

Here is another number to consider. 5,479 “pit bull” type dogs are euthanized every day in the USA. Roughly 2.5 million dogs a year presumed to be “pit bull types” are killed due to their “type” or over crowding in shelters. So if the anti dog lobby is concerned about who is “winning” look at the numbers.

30 people died from dog bites in 2011
2.5 million dogs presumed to be “pit bulls” were killed by way of euthanasia.

Many shelters and rescues due to the fear fomented by the media and the proponents of BSL are not adopting out dogs that are healthy and behaviorally sound solely because they are fearful.

I will reference a piece of wisdom Marthina McClay of Our Pack said to me a number of years ago. This is what she tells her students and those advocating for dogs.

“Do not let people outside of dogs make decisions for you and your dogs”.

The only way canine prejudice will end is when dog owners, all dog owners do not allow people that have no right what so ever speaking about or making law’s about dogs do just that. Would you let a plumber fix the your car? No you would not. Why then let people that are ignorant about dogs dictate the future of dogs?

Remember “they” cannot “legislate hate”. That only occurs when people do not use their better judgments, when people stop listening to those that are knowledgeable and do understand dogs. That only happens when you are silent and do not take a stand.

Hatred and fear of dogs does not make them “dangerous” people do that by their words and actions or inactions towards understanding dogs.

Understanding why a tragic event occurred will then show us how we can prevent it from happening again. Then we’ll be helping dogs and helping people. Until then all banning dogs will do is create higher taxes, more fear and higher euthanasia rates. Italy, The Netherlands, The State of Ohio and many other places have ended their BSL & DDL. All others should follow suit.

Banning dogs is not the answer. It is proper education that solves the issues surrounding dogs.

Drayton Michaels, CTC is a graduate of the Academy For Dog Trainers. He works with over 300 dogs each year, is producer of the educational film The Pit Bull Hoax, appears in the film Beyond the Myth, blogs for Dog Star Daily and is featured dog training and behavior resource for Dog Fancy Magazine.

Drayton can be contacted through his website

151 thoughts on “Breed Specific Legislation – It’s in the mind not the math.

  1. (I Agree)we don”t kill humans because they kill or hurt some one .and there suppose to know wrong from right.well lets kill certain humans. You get more love out of animals then humans.

  2. 100% agree! I see first hand, bias towards giant breeds… we have a Pyr, spayed female. She is very well socialized, “cat safe” etc, but we’re not stupid!! she weighs 82 pds, and is a “Guardian Breed”. She will do what her DNA tells her to, if she determines a threat, but her bark is her first line of ‘offense’ (for lack of a better word). I have witnessed children who have run screaming towards us (with dimwitted parents watching on): “I wanna pet your dog!!!”, I say “No dear, today is not a good day for you to meet” and I’ve had kids as young as 6 & 7 actually ARGUE back to me, “Well i wanna meet your dog and I don’t want to wait!” I tell them a firm “No” and to go back to their parents, and they do, but whining about what a mean lady I am… jesus! When I do allow a meet & greet with kids they always want to lean down and hug her, and I use this as a teaching opportunity about how to properly greet a dog of ANY size. I’d say 90% of the kids listen, and they end up coming back on different days to say hi. So far we’ve had no issues, just a few whiny, bratty kids 😛 But the parents! they drive me nuts. You either listen to my instructions around our dog or stay the heck away.

  3. I have been an obedience instructor for over 20 years and the FIRST thing I teach my clients is how to read the body language of a dog. Dogs communicate 24/7 and it is OUR job to understand what they are saying. Most people ignore the warning signs, such as when a dog turns their head away when approached. Dog is saying, “I’m not interested in being bothered right now.” When people come to my house, they have SPECIFIC rules to follow with my dogs. If they do not follow the rules, they leave. No exceptions.

  4. Agreed! Dogs generally warn before biting. People should learn how to understand the signals dogs send out. It would make life better for everyone.

  5. TRUE!!! People are the bad trainers/owners, especially for gaurd dogs. LACK OF SOCIALIZATION IS THE WORST OFFNEDER!

  6. AGREE! AGREE!! AGREE!!! As a letter carrier I can tell you more people are bitten by small breed dogs than any of the bully breeds.

  7. 200% agreed. Ignorance is taking away our furbabies. Look at poor koda, bear, milo & Lilla. All waiting appeal on death row for the way they look because some person says they look or have pitty in them. (all based on sight no dna just looking at them) They have wonderful owners, have never been aggressive, and because they were born after a certain date. Breaks my heart. BSL is bulls&@$ law. If they want to stop attacks they need to stop puppy farming, dog fighting rings, irresponsible pet owners. Ban the deed not the breed! What’s next our cattle dogs? This is a case of burocracy gone mad! train the owners. If you can’t look after your furbabes u shouldn’t be allowed the privelage to have them

  8. Yes, it’s the people who are the problem, mostly. But we cannot change the people…..we cannot MAKE them have intelligence etc to own and look after these dogs properly. So what is the answer?? More legislation? But here in the UK the problem is now so enormous….all of the dogs homes are full of Staffies; Pit Bulls; crosses of these 2 and other dangerous breeds. It’s not fair on all these animals but these dogs a are specific breeding of a type that is very dangerous in the wrong hands, and over here most of the owners of this type of dog are stupid and unintelligent and totally unequipped in any way to own and possess them. All the dogs like this should porbably have their animals neutered and then muzzled when out, then at least the dogs would be given more of a chance.

  9. I work for a delivery company and I run into many different breeds and there is no specific breed that is overly aggressive this legislation is a poor answer to the problem it’s not the dog it’s usually the owner and our own fear

  10. This beautiful creature looks like my Fuego and I get so mad when I think of all these idiots making legislation that does not make any sense. Arrogant bastards! How about starting to ban some humans? That would make sense to me! GRRRRRR

  11. my yellow lab grew up with a pitbull who was one of the sweetest, smartest and most gentle dogs I’ve ever known. they used too both want the same tennis ball and quite often would fall asleep with the one ball in both their mouths. but pitbulls are an agressive dog by nature. My neighbor now, who is a super nice guy and very responsable dog owner, can’t walk his dog without a muzzle and its always on a leash just because it’s very agressive towards other dogs and people it doesn’t know. i think the answer lies somewhere in not letting PEOPLE, who aren’t experienced with dogs of this nature, to have them. sure it might seem cool to have one but a 21 year old in their first apt isn’t the type of person who should have one..

  12. cute article – says it not in the math but proceeds to quote reams of stats – says bite and death frequency has not diminished since bsl yet also admits that the pit bull population has not diminished either – derrrrr. my black lab has been atacked 6 times by these breeds!

  13. While walking my Golden Retriever down a city street he was savagely attacked by a pit bull that jumped a 6 foot fence. I ended up in court with the pit bull’s owner and the court ordered him to reimburse my vet bills. On top of that the local police department’s animal control officer persuaded the pit bull’s owner to have it euthanized. I would hate to see what might have happened had that pit bull attacked a small child in similar fashion. No matter how much you do-gooders try to spin this issue, its difficult to convince me that an attack of this type would have happened had the owner picked another dog breed.

  14. As much as I do love and appreciate dogs, some dogs are naturally vicious and are not capable of being domesticated. Those breeds should definitely NOT be permitted in the suburbs under any circumstances ….. one classic example is the American Pit Bull Terrier! Now there is a case of a breed of dog that is notorious for unprovoked attacks on children and people with horrendous injuries and deaths. Thank goodness in Australia they are closely monitored with owners having to desex their A.P.B.T’s and limiting one per household unless they have an exemption licence from their local councils. With some councils completely banning them from their durisdiction.

  15. Nature vs. Nuture. Factor in poor breeding (it’s rampant), owners expecting things without putting ANY effort into the dog/family relationship (dogs are NOT human, they are dogs, and will react as a dog will do), horrendous animal stewardship & ANY dog (or cat even) will bite, bite to warn, or bite to save itself (as they perceive things a wee bit differently than we do). If you leave a child unsupervised with a dog you are plain nuts! I don’t care if it’s a Yorki sized pocket dog, or as majestic as a Wolfhound. I don’t care if it spoke to you through the kennel bars and you “bonded”, or in your dreams, you are asking for a tragedy. Dogs do NOT wake up and decide to bite you. There are many warning signs and they don’t “snap”, that’s a myth. I feel sick inside for any family who has experienced an injury or fatality through an attack from a dog, but to blame the dog is mystifying. The laws need to catch up with these abusive/neglectful owers, they need to feel it in thier pocket books, or with real jail time. Maybe then, we’ll see real change in our society. Start making examples out of bad owners. Rich or poor, famous/celebrity or not, throw every statute/charge at them. Remember that disgusting NFL player?? he was involved with dog fighting for years… isn’t he playing again?? where’s the outrage there? Ohhh, yes, he’s changed his ways! yeah, I’m sure he has.

  16. I agree. I have two pitbulls. One is mine and one is a foster. They are dog aggressive but it is very possible and very easy to keep these dogs out of trouble! All you have to do is use your brain!

  17. I have had several pitts & have 3 kids that was was around them & we never had any problems even when my son was about 3 or 4 yrs old and he noticed that when “Jack” was asleep his private parts was exposed so before we realized it my son said “ooh b**ls” and grabbed them, we all went to protect my son but the only thing jack did was growl, yelp & hide under the porch. of course we explained to son that he was not to ever treat any animal that way. All of my kids were taught early how to treat animals and any time the kids was n any kind of danger the dogs would let us know. that may sound crazy but it’s true. I think any animal can & will bite if provoked, it’s their nature. (horses, deer, cats, chickens, rabits, etc.) care & respect given will be what u get n return. we love our dogs unfortunatly they are banned where we live.

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