October brings a very important issue to mind each year because for the past six years it has been the month in which a 1.8 mile march has taken place in downtown Brea. From Lambert Road to Brea City Hall, the Luv-a-Bully march has been a protest march against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) to help promote awareness and change the negative stereotype of the bully breeds. Bully breeds such as Pit bulls, Bull terriers, and Rottweiler’s for example, have been discriminated against in states such as Colorado and Kansas.
Laws have been passed banning these breeds (specifically, Pit bulls) which has led to thousands or dogs being taken (without owner consent even) from their homes to be euthanized (despite temperament). Could you imagine having your friendly, loving, family pet taken out of your back yard while you are at work? You were not informed or forewarned that this would be happening so you come home to find that she has disappeared. Once you start looking for her you find out that she was taken from your property and euthanized for no reason and without your consent. This actually happened in Denver, Colorado.
While Boston, Massachusetts, has not taken any dogs from their homes to be destroyed, they have placed restrictions on any dog that even resembles a pit bull in any way. Such dogs must be muzzled in public, spayed/neutered, and owner must display a warning sign on their property that a pit bull is present. In an effort to prevent such catastrophe in California, different organizations, such as ROVERlution, organize BSL protest marches in hopes that awareness will put a stop to breed discrimination and such extreme legislation.
“Laws are being proposed every day that are intended to take away our rights to own particular dogs for no reason other than their breed and/or their resemblance to a certain breed,” says ROVERlution who believes that punishing every dog of a specific breed, innocent or guilty, is a crime in itself and feels that bad dog behavior is a product of irresponsible ownership. “Your role as an owner strongly influences your dog’s behavior. The manner in which you raise your dog ultimately determines what kind of dog you will have…good or bad, friendly or reclusive, gentle or aggressive. Genes alone do not make this determination, and as current scientific research confirms, it is nonsense to hold on to such a played out theory.”
What of all the non-Pit bull breeds that attack people? After instating a ban on Pit bulls in 2005, Denver, Colorado, euthanized 1,776 Pit bulls, many of which were pets. As a result, during the three year period (from 2005 to 2007) the total number Pit bull bites went down 77 percent (from 39 bites to 9). However, non-pit bull bites went down only 10 percent (from 465 bites to 420), and the decrease seems to simply be a reflection of local trends, not any changes in public safety actions. In addition, Denver still ends up with Pit bulls in their shelters because while this ban prevents responsible pet owners from adopting good Pit bulls it does not deter those people who show no regard for the law. Gangsters, unlawful, or ignorant people still buy Pit bulls and continue to raise them as guard dogs and even fighting dogs; continuing to give the breed a bad name.
Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian and animal behaviorist from Berkley, Ca, believes this entire issue is overblown. He admits that Pit bulls can be nasty but no more so than the number of individual dogs of any other breed who aren’t socialized. “Those who say Pit bulls are inherently dangerous are dead wrong. Any kind of dog not socialized is indeed a potential danger. Why don’t the politicians consider going after the owners of these dogs who attack people? Almost always, that’s where the source of the problem is.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study on dog bite-related fatalities from 1979-1998 with the American Veterinary Medical Association and Humane Society of the United States, and published their findings in 2000. The organizations came to the conclusion that “it does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill, and thus is not appropriate for policy-making decisions related to the topic. Each year, 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs. These bites result in approximately 16 fatalities; about 0.0002 percent of the total number of people bitten… There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.”
Is all of this time, money, and effort spent on BSL really paying off? What will happen if all Pit bulls are exterminated and society is still faced with the problem of dog bites? Will we choose to ignore the facts like Denver? Pit bulls seem to be the scapegoat for a bigger overall problem- irresponsible pet owners and parents. Education, not euthanization, is the answer to preventing dog bites, dog attacks, and to raising good canine citizens. Punish the deed not the breed.
For more information on BSL check out these links: