Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in the United States came about largely in the 1980’s, when fear of attacks ran rampant and media coverage feed that fire. Many states, cities, counties and municipalities across the country enacted breed discriminatory laws. The laws range from simple registration (something like a sex offender list), to an all-out ban. These laws usually target bully breeds (breeds that share a common heritage with pit bulls, the face put to dangerous dogs) which have become the poster children for people who think dogs will eat them and their children if given half a chance.
Dangerous Dog Myths
The reason people want BSL enacted is that they believe many of the myths surrounding the supposed dangerous dog breeds. They have been sold on fear and discrimination in order to save themselves and their families from being mauled by monsters. Pit Bulls are naturally aggressive is one myth that is often repeated, attacking other animals and humans is simply wired into their DNA.
This is patently false; much like no person is born racist, no dog is born a killer. If dogs are raised in a loving and nurturing environment they will return that love and affection. When pit bulls are socialized with other dogs and people they become used to their presence and don’t see them as a threat. Even dogs that have been rescued from fighting rings or trained as attack dogs can be rehabilitated and become loving family pets.
Have you ever heard the one about pit bulls having locking jaws? Also, a complete fabrication. The anatomy of a pit bull’s jaw is no different than that of other canines. I suppose if the dog were suffering from tetanus then their jaw could lock, but so can a humans and humans are far more likely to contract tetanus than dogs, they have a natural resistance to the toxin.
Pit Bulls are Mischaracterized or Misidentified
Pit Bulls are a breed that falls into a larger category called bully breeds. Many of these dogs share some of the physical traits of the pit bull, but range in size from Boston Terriers to Bullmastiffs. It is difficult to identify based solely on a visual inspection which dogs are pit bulls or not and therefore enforcing BSL becomes an issue for police and animal control. A study conducted by The University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine found that of 120 dogs identified as Pit Bull-type, across 4 shelters by staff including veterinarians, only 55 were found to have any pit bull DNA. If it is that easy for people trained to work with dogs to misidentify dogs how hard is it for Joe Q. Public to call in a dog that looks like a pit bull in an area with a ban in place?
Bans Have Consequences
In an area with a ban, pit bulls that are picked up and taken to a shelter are not likely to be adopted, aren’t necessarily allowed to socialize with people or other dogs due to the restrictions. Only people who live outside the ban are allowed to adopt them and if the shelter is inside the ban, they aren’t allowed to let the dogs run around and play in any public spaces. This can cause the dogs psychological harm and make them more apt to get in trouble. Essentially a ban can be a self-fulfilling prophecy; a ban is imposed to protect people from dangerous dogs, when it is actually raising the number of or creating more dangerous dogs in the area.
People need to educate themselves before enacting discriminatory legislation based on media reports that feed into fear in order to gain a boost in ratings. Read, experience and form opinions based on fact, not myth. Don’t punish all dogs of a type because of one attack 20 years ago that was probably more of an owner issue than a vicious dog out for blood.