I had little idea when I started writing this series that we’d enter into a third week of discussing aggression myths. We will be wrapping the topic up this week and heading into other topics next week. For now, let’s examine myth #18 together.
AGGRESSION MYTH #18: BSL PROTECTS COMMUNITIES FROM DOG BITES
Luckily, the audience here at dogster tends to be a fairly dog savvy bunch. Many of you are probably aware of BSL, an acronym which stands for “Breed Specific Legislation.” BSL has been implemented by many state and local governments and, depending on the municipality, attempts to ban or severely limit the ownership of breeds which are commonly viewed as “dangerous.” Depending on the local laws, dogs on the BSL list are either a) euthanized or b) the owners must jump through incredible hoops to keep their dogs – restrictions may include requiring the dog to be muzzled at all time while in public, requiring all specimens of a certain breed or perceived breed mix to be neutered or spayed, requiring the owner to carry liability insurance policies, post the property with signs indicating a “dangerous dog” lives on the property, etc.
Aside from municipal bans, many insurance providers also will not cover or require substantial additional fees to cover households which include dogs on the “banned breed” lists.
Commonly, “Bully breeds” including various bulldogs, American Pit Bull Terriers, and Staffordshire Terriers find themselves on BSL lists. BSL lists also frequently include guardian breeds and dogs which are commonly used for protection work, including but not limited to: Chows, Doberman Shepherds, Rottweilers, German Shepherd Dogs, Belgian Malinois, etc. Often, giant breeds like Great Danes, Newfoundlands, various Mastiffs, Irish Wolfhounds, and my own beloved Saint Bernards are included.
You wipe your brow in relief. I don’t own one of those dogs, I must be safe! You may be surprised to realize that in some places, the following breeds also make appearances on the BSL list: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Australian Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, American Eskimo Dogs, and Pugs. Yes, I said it, pugs.
While the intent of BSL is to prevent dog bites, rarely do these laws serve such a function. There are a number of problematic and insidious elements of BSL which must be examined:
There is a fantastic website called stopbsl.com which lists a number of additional problems with BSL:
Why Is BSL Wrong?
* BSL does not improve public safety or prevent dog bites.
* BSL ignores the plight of victims and potential victims of non-targeted breeds.
* BSL is costly.
* BSL requires each and every dog to be identified as a breedsomething that has proven impossible to do accurately and objectively.
* BSL makes targeted breeds more desirable to irresponsible and criminal owners.
* BSL does nothing to make irresponsible dog owners accountable.
* BSL punishes responsible dog owners.
* Not a single canine welfare organization supports BSL.
I know I’ve referenced it a lot in this series, but Janis Bradley’s book Dogs Bite, But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous also does a fantastic job of dismantling the logical fallacy of BSL – the fact is, BSL has more holes in logic than a well-played game of Jenga. Dangerous dog laws, which are not breed-specific are a far better alternative.