Is Breed-Specific Legislation on Its Way Out?

State laws as well as national and international studies suggest people are seeing that this "common sense" idea just doesn't work.


Could breed-specific legislation become a thing of the past? Is it on its way there now? A trend suggests that it could be.

It used to be that supporting a bill outlawing the vicious breed-of-the-day — most often Pit Bulls — was a great way for politicians to gain street cred as being no-nonsense, take-action kinds of people without actually risking anything. But more and more, people and their representatives are starting to see breed-specific legislation as the cheap scapegoating tactic that it is. In August, President Obama took a public stand against BSL, calling it “largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.”

A lot more people are coming to that conclusion, and it’s showing in the laws. Right now, 17 states have banned breed-specific legislation, and six more — Maryland, Vermont, South Dakota, Missouri, Utah, and Washington — have laws in the works.

The Huffington Post published a pretty good article by Arin Greenwood last Friday about the growing trend, and why breed-specific legislation is no longer popular. The best argument is just that the facts are against it: More studies are showing that, whatever you think about the fairness of BSL, or whether it’s right, it just does not make people any safer.

Greenwood points to a study that came out just last December, in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, that looked at common factors in fatal dog attacks. The factors identified included the victim being a stranger to the dog; the dog having a history of abusive owners; and poor management of the dog by the owner.

“Breed was not one of those factors,” the study’s authors say, forthrightly.

Another study from 2010 reported that breed-specific laws had no effect on incidence of dog attacks in the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain.

The strength of BSL has always been that it appeals to “common sense.” But the history of science is that for hundreds of years, it has shown that “common sense” is often incompatible with the facts. But prejudice can still have a grip over the facts. In Maryland, an appeals court ruled last year that landlords could be held responsible for violent Pit Bulls who are in the custody of their tenants. After that decision, a lot of Pit Bull owners in Maryland were faced with a stark choice: lose their dog or lose their home. Legislation now under consideration in Maryland would prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants because of the breeds of their dogs.

The time of breed-specific legislation may not be over, but it is dwindling, slowly.

Via Huffington Post

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