Here’s some good news in dog-related law: Washington state is considering banning breed-specific legislation.
Under HB 2117, introduced by Rep. Sherry Appleton, cities would no longer be allowed to use the breed of a dog to determine whether the animals should be declared “dangerous.” Only the dog’s behavior could be considered. Right now, about two to three dozen cities in Washington have ordinances that target specific breeds.
A lot of breeds have been targets by breed-specific legislation, or BSL, but Pit Bull owners probably feel the brunt of it most often. Thanks to the news media image of Pits as being violent, and their association with dog fighting, they’re easy targets. In Dec., I even wrote about a city attorney in North Chicago who rationalized a policeman’s fatal shooting of a dog because “Many drug dealers have a Pit Bull and this was a Pit Bull.” That kind of fear makes it easy to target an entire breed based on the actions of a few.
Appleton made a pointed and evocative argument against this image of “dangerous” dogs: “I had a friend that was attacked and disfigured by a Beagle. That’s Snoopy,” she said. “It just depends on how a dog is treated.”
That’s a great point, although it does leave me with the image of Snoopy, my beloved childhood icon, as Cujo rattling around in my head.
Sometimes, breed-specific legislation can seem like an easy sell for politicians. It has the benefit of offering a simple, clear solution to a public problem, and it can make a politician seem unafraid to stand up and take clear and decisive action. But as H.L. Mencken once said, “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”
More states are coming to recognize this, with regard to breed-specific legislation. Last June, Nevada became the 14th state to outlaw BSL. Late last year, President Obama publicly opposed BSL in response to a petition submitted via the White House’s website.
It would be great to see Washington join that list, and congratulations to Rep. Appleton for bringing the issue to the table.
But please — can I have cute Snoopy back in my head now?
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