BSL is costly to implement and costly to enforce.
Prince George’s County: The Most Thorough Assessment of BSL To Date
In 2003, Prince George’s County, Maryland, authorized a task force to examine the results of a 1996 pit bull ban in the county. The task force findings were shocking. They estimated that
- The cost to the county to confiscate and euthanize a single pit bull was around $68,000.
- In the fiscal year 2001-2002, expenditures due to pit bull confiscations totalled $560,000. Income from pit bull registrations during that same period totalled only $35,000. Therefore, the county spent over half a million dollars enforcing their ban.
- The county had lost an unmeasurable amount of both direct and indirect revenue due to the “dramatic reduction” in number of dog shows and exhibitions held in the county.
Perhaps over half a million dollars a year is an acceptable expense to ensure public safety. But was Prince George’s County’s ban actually doing what it was supposed to? Was the community making a sound investment?
Apparently not. The task force found that
- The “public safety benefit is unmeasurable.”
- Across the board, dog bites had decreased among all breeds at about the same rate. The ban did not appear to have had any noticeable effect on public safety.
- What’s more, the task force expressed concern that the ban might actually be having a negative effect on public safety; animal control facilities and workers were stretched thin because they were constantly having to respond to “pit bull” complaints and house alleged pit bulls. The task force felt that this had a negative effect on animal control’s ability to respond to other types of violations.
Actual and Estimated Expenses in Other Locations
The Prince George’s County task force findings are typical of findings in many other locations.
- In 2001, a Baltimore, Maryland, auditor estimated it would cost $750,000 to enforce a breed-specific ban.
- In 2008, Omaha proposed BSL that would cost over half a million dollars to enforce.
- The U.K.’s Dangerous Dog Act, which includes a ban on certain breeds of dogs, is estimated to have cost well over $14 million to enforce between the years 1991 and 1996 (no more recent numbers are available). It has come under fire lately as dog bites (committed by non-targeted dogs) rise despite the ban.
- Even small cities and communities can spend tens of thousands of dollars annually to uphold their BSL.
All this money spent without any evidence, anywhere, that BSL actually increases public safety.
As if administrative costs are not enough of a burden, lawsuits are par for the course when BSL is passed. Lawsuits are filed because
- Owners of targeted breeds feel that BSL violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
- Dog owners dispute the breed designation that an animal control officer or shelter worker has placed on their dog
- A municipality’s breed-specific legislation contradicts state law
- Breed-specific legislation violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act
Lawsuits can cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and place a heavy burden on both the court system and animal control departments. Often, these lawsuits are brought about by responsible dog owners whose family dogs were confiscated simply because of their appearance, not their behavior. Such lawsuits further underline the high cost and senselessness of BSL.
Other Direct and Indirect Losses
Many people have pointed out that bans and other types of BSL also result in losses that are difficult to anticipate or quantify.
Population loss – People who own a targeted breed may decide to move out of an area that passes BSL. It is unclear whether BSL attracts people to an area because of a perception that the area is “safer.”
Tourism decrease – People who own a targeted breed may boycott or avoid areas with BSL. Kennel clubs and other canine organizations may similarly choose to avoid holding conventions or shows in areas with BSL. It is unlikely that individuals would intentionally travel to places with BSL because of a perception that the area is “safer” due to BSL; for people who do not own targeted breeds, BSL is a non-issue. (In fact, they may not even know what BSL is.) That is, when people decide where to vacation, they usually do not consider BSL a necessary criteria.
Loss of talent – Ironically, there are a number of cases of banned dogs being spirited to freedom only to become star performers in public safety fields. For instance, pit bull Neville was rescued from Ontario after the Canadian province passed a pit bull ban in 2005. Neville is now a K9 for the Washington State Police; he protects the public daily by sniffing for bombs on the ferry system. By banning pit bulls, Ontario lost at least one invaluable dog that now saves countless lives on a regular basis.
Sources and Resources
The High Costs of Breed Discriminatory Legislation from Best Friends, including an Online Expense Calculator that is tailored to your community
Prince George’s County Task Force Report (PDF) – Note: This file is very large and will take some time to download. The report can also be accessed in HTML format at http://www.understand-a-bull.com/BSL/Research/PGCMD/PGCMTOC1.htm
Financial and Social Implications of Breed Specific Legislation (PDF) from The Dog Legislation Council of Canada
K9 Neville’s story at Bark Magazine
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