The purported purpose of breed-specific laws is to increase public safety by reducing dog bites. This is the whole reason behind BSL.
As a community considers BSL, public officials and the news media have no difficulty finding shocking and appalling dog bite statistics that seemingly reinforce the need for BSL.
As such, we would likewise expect municipalities that have passed BSL to have no difficulty finding and publishing amazing statistics showing a sharp decline in dog bites after the passage of BSL. They should be able to easily prove the success of their discriminatory law by demonstrating a reduction in dog bites.
On the contrary, we get news articles like the following, which clearly demonstrate only the abject failure of BSL. Not only does BSL fail to reduce dog bites, it creates new problems.
Since Jan. 2009, Omaha, NE has had BSL for “pit bulls,” defined as American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, Dogo Argentinos, Presa Canarios, Cane Corsos, American bulldogs, and any dog that resembles one of these breeds. Currently, dogs of these breeds of any age must be muzzled, leashed, and harnessed when in public, unless the dog has passed a Canine Good Citizen test.
In late 2009, the city cracked down on “pit bull” owners who were violating the new law, resulting in 90 citations in a six-month period. Because of the high volume of citations written, officials stated the law was “working better than expected.”
Officials claimed success again in 2010, after data showed that “pit bull” bites had decreased. But 2010 dog bite statistics from the city, obtained and analyzed by KC Dog Blog, showed that dog bites overall had increased, with Labrador Retrievers leading the pack. Non-”pit bulls” were now doing more biting, suggesting that the problem of irresponsible owners hadn’t gone away, it had just shifted from “pit bulls” to other types of dogs.
Humane Society officials at the time claimed that severe bites had decreased—but refused to provide any evidence of this. The city had only recorded an average 5 severe bites per year prior to the passage of BSL, so even if severe bites did decrease, it wouldn’t have been by much. And given that officials conveniently “failed to mention” that total dog bites had increased, it suggests that they’re being less than honest about the data.
This month, Omaha news media once again makes much ado about the number of citations written for violations of the city’s BSL. This, according to the city, means the discriminatory ordinance is working.
Just don’t look at their dog bite numbers. Public safety is apparently not what the ordinance is for.
Yakima has had a ban on “pit bulls” since 1987. Back in 2009, news media reported that “pit bulls” had filled the animal shelter to bursting. The single animal control officer spent a lot of his time responding to “pit bull” calls, usually to find that the “pit bull” was not really a “pit bull” after all. Nevertheless, the ACO said the law was “effective.” There was no mention of number of dog bites.
A recent news report from Yakima tells an interesting story. After a rash of dog bites, the city announced that it intends to start enforcing… the leash law.
That city officials pinpointed leash law enforcement over breed ban enforcement suggests several things: their breed ban is insufficient for promoting public safety; their dog bite problem isn’t a “pit bull” problem, it’s an irresponsible owner problem; and their animal control department is so understaffed that their animal laws aren’t being enforced.
Terrell County commissioners passed restrictions on “pit bull” ownership at the beginning of the year, in response to a single incident in which sheep were killed by loose dogs.
A news article in March lamented that the animal shelter had since filled up with “pit bulls” and that the number of loose “pit bulls” had increased. In April, as the new ordinance goes into effect, the news media confirms that this trend has continued.
We find it extremely ironic that the BSL put in place because of loose dogs has only served to create more loose dogs and a much bigger problem. And even more ironic that the sheep owner who requested this law now claims to feel safer.
The breed-specific Dangerous Dogs Act seems to be eternally under fire. A recent news article (“Time to tame our four-legged fiends,” The Independent, Tuesday, April 17, 2012) noted these problems…
- A rise in status dogs, linked to the breed-specific nature of the DDA. “The Kennel Club says the rise in attacks has been caused by the increased attractiveness of banned breeds, which it said are looked upon as ‘status dogs.’ Bill Lambert, a senior official with the Kennel Club, said the maligned Dangerous Dogs Act has ‘highlighted certain breeds as being particularly dangerous, which has attracted some people towards these dogs.’”
- A high cost of enforcement of the DDA. “The Metropolitan Police alone spends about £2m a year on kennelling dogs that have been seized under the Act.” The Metropolitan Police is the London police force. £2m is about $3.1 million US.
- Dog bites are sharply increasing. “The numbers have risen by 30 per cent over the past four years, according to NHS statistics. More than 6,000 people were treated in hospital in 2010-11 because of a dog attack.”
- Non-targeted breeds are doing most of the biting. “Recent research by the injury lawyers First4lawyers suggested that nearly 30 per cent of people in Britain have been bitten by a dog, with attacks by Alsatians the most common.” Alsatians are German Shepherd-type dogs.
The government has been working on DDA revisions for years, but seems reluctant to acknowledge that the breed-specific portion is causing a lot of their problems (there’s a general feeling that it would be “political suicide” to repeal the breed-specific law). It remains to be seen whether the government will actually fix the DDA.
Lord Redesdale’s Dog Control Bill 2010-12, which would have replaced the DDA with breed-neutral dog control measures, appears to have died quietly in the House of Commons. It failed to clear the second reading stage in March and is not scheduled for further discussion.