Breed Discriminatory Legislation (BDL) targets the wrong end of the leash! Often BDL is quickly enacted in a response to a horrendous, high profile, dog attack. In a rush to to make communities feel safe from vicious, sometimes fatal, dog attacks, many animal ordinances have targeted specific breeds (pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers) as the problem. A designation of “dangerous” or “vicious” has serious, legal consequences on both the dog and his owners. Owners of these breeds have a long, costly checklist to follow if they want to keep their animals.
BDL does not make all dog owners responsible. It puts undue obligations and financial burdens only on dog owners of specific breeds. Yet, all dog owners must bear the responsibility of training, leashing, and confining their dogs.
BDL does not reduce dog bites. It has proven to be ineffective both in this country and in Europe. Spain, Italy, Great Britain, and the Netherlands all reported that after years of living with BSL, there were neither reduced dog bites nor improved community safety.
It is costly to enforce BDL. Shelter costs may rise as owners, unable to comply with the legal and the financial obligations of having a “dangerous dog”, abandon their pets at the shelter. Additionally, adoptable dogs of targeted breeds would not be able to be adopted out. They would be euthanized. Prince George, Maryland attests to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for fifteen years to enforce BDL. They report no increase to safety during that time.
In 2012 The Toledo Blade paid for DNA testing on six dogs, declared pit bulls by the county dog warden. Test results showed that three of the six dogs were not pit bulls at all. Two dogs contained a small percent of the breeds. The sixth dog had more than half of the pit bull breeds. How many dogs were needlessly euthanized because of their blocky heads, short fur, and stocky bodies?
The BDL may not stand up to legal challenges. The ASPCA says that, when asked to identify the breeds of stray, mixed breed dogs, professionals (dog wardens, shelter staff) are correct less than 25% of the time when compared with DNA testing on the same dogs. Knowing that, pet owners now can simply pay for a DNA test to challenge an incorrect identification of the breed of their dog. BDL may also involve taking of property without due process.
There are inconsistencies between federal and local law. The Department of Justice allows ALL BREEDS to be used as service dogs. How can a local jurisdiction, that supports BSL, be in conflict with a federal law, which is “breed neutral”? Many dogs listed on “the forbidden” list, including American Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds, are also used as therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, police / military working dogs, and service dogs for the disabled.
On the other hand, many well-respected, national organizations support “breed neutral” legislation: The White House, The American Bar Association (ABA),The Center for Disease Control (CDC), The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and a host more.
A study published by the Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances (2009) found that the owner’s behavior has a direct impact on the dog’s personality and behavior. The time that the owner spends caring for and training a dog is inversely related to the dog’s aggression.
Ohio is one of 20 states that have banned BDL. BDL is costly. Its restrictions are difficult to enforce. No one is any safer because he lives in a BDL jurisdiction. Good dogs can be taken away from loving homes simply because of the shape of their heads. Some families, deeply upset by BDL, move away from the BDL jurisdiction and into an area that allows blocky-headed dogs. Other families live in fear that, one day, there will be an unexpected knock on the door and their animals, that have done nothing wrong, will be seized.
Ohio, let’s support reasonable, research-based, “breed neutral” legislation that will put the responsibility for the dog’s behavior on the dog owners and safeguard our communities against vicious, dog attacks.