Breed-specific laws, or breed-specific legislation (BSL), were initially created to protect animals and people from dog attacks. However, these laws tend to be discriminatory and can be detrimental to the wellbeing of many different types of dog breeds. BSLs refer to any type of law that bans or prohibits the ownership of certain dog breeds to decrease the incidence rates of dog attacks.
You can often see BSLs in residential leasing agreements or in homeowners’ associations’ bylaws. These documents often contain clauses for pets and can include a list of dog breeds that are prohibited from living on the property. Currently, 21 US states have banned BSLs, while the remaining 29 have not. States that have banned BSLs tend to favor laws that keep individually dangerous dogs within a community accountable instead of enforcing laws against an entire breed.
Most major animal welfare organizations and nonprofits are against the use of BSLs because they cause significant hardship for dogs and their owners. There is not any evidence that BSLs have been effective in protecting a community. One way that dogs suffer from BSL is the stigma that is placed on them. For example, the Pitbull is notoriously viewed as an aggressive dog. While Pitbulls do have a history of being used in dog fights, these dogs are often wonderful companion pets with loyal and loving personalities. More often than not, poor treatment and lack of training lead to aggressive behaviors in dogs, rather than the dog’s breed.
The challenges of breed-specific laws are not limited to stigma alone. Dogs affected by BSLs face several other challenges. Due to stigma, they are more likely to end up in animal shelters and are less likely to be adopted. These dogs are also less likely to receive consistently good veterinary care. This is because the stigma may cause owners to avoid taking their pets to the vet. So, dog breeds listed under BSLs are less likely to be microchipped, spayed or neutered, or up-to-date with their vaccinations. Since these dogs are seen as taboo, their owners often have more difficulty getting them socialized. People may be less likely to have their own dogs around them, which can ultimately contribute to the development of aggressive behaviors as these dogs have not had very many opportunities for socialization.
As many residential buildings and communities enforce BSLs, it can be difficult for owners of dogs listed in BSLs to find homes to live in. They have fewer options, and in some cases, they have to surrender their dogs if they are not able to find homes that are affordable, in a suitable location, and allow their dog’s breed on their premises.
BSLs have been a quick solution to the issue of aggressive dogs and dog attacks. Since they have not proven to be highly effective, animal rights and welfare activists continue to push for the ban of BSLs and call for investments in more carefully crafted breed-neutral laws. Breed-neutral laws can focus on other factors, like stronger enforcement of dog licensing, access to low-cost sterilization services, and laws that hold owners more responsible for their dog’s behaviors. These laws remove the judgment of dogs based on their breeds while working to protect public safety in a more effective way.
In conclusion, breed-specific laws have not been proven to be highly effective in preventing and protecting people and animals from dog attacks. Focusing on forming breed-neutral laws can be more effective and beneficial for public safety, and it can also help remove the stigma against certain dog breeds. Many animal welfare activists and organizations are working to ban BSLs. So, if this is a matter that resonates with you, you can participate by supporting these organizations and continuing to educate others on the harmful effects of BSLs.