It is Well Past Time to Take a New Approach Toward “Dangerous” Dogs and Look to Their Owners Instead
Furor over the U.K.’s 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act (which banned many breeds of dog) has reached fever pitch. A veterinarian writing an opinion column in today’s London Daily Telegraph wrote that,
Existing legislation has failed to reduce the number of dog bite incidents in the UK, which have risen in the past five years by 79% in London and 43% nationally. Meanwhile costs have continued to rise; ten million pounds has been spent by the Metropolitan Police alone in the past 3 years simply to implement Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act, relating to the seizure, kennelling and euthanasia of banned breeds.
No surprise here. Breed-specific legislation (BSL) has consistently been proven to be an expensive, dismal failure worldwide, and the U.K.’s BSL is no exception.
Last week, Turkey avoided a similar BSL scare when it was announced that the country’s “pit bulls” would be “collected” under new breed-specific legislation. (What they were going to do with them once they were collected is unknown.) However, activists appear to have thwarted the government’s plans thanks to their ability to mobilize quickly and offer proper, accurate information like the following:
Experts have pointed out many problems with this kind of legislation, but the fact that it simply does not work is probably the greatest defect. In addition to this, such bans infringe on personal freedoms. According to Professor Tamer Dodurka, head of the İstanbul University veterinary faculty of internal medicine, breed-specific legislation is also a violation of human rights. “What you should do is not ban a particular breed. This is not scientific. The entire world rejects this,” he said. He also noted that past examples in other countries showed that wherever pit bulls were banned, the number of pit bulls in that country rose rapidly.
Indeed, numbers of “pit bulls” often do rise rapidly in places where they are banned. For example, and here we go back to the U.K., the BBC reported that since the passing of the U.K.’s Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991, there has been a huge rise in banned breeds in the UK.
So in other words, banning or severely restricting a breed or breeds simply makes them that much more appealing to those — dog fighters, thugs, gangbangers, drug dealers — who you don’t want having them. Unfortunately, BSL proponents often allege that dog fighters, thugs, gangbangers, and drug dealers are the predominant owners of these breeds, and at least here in the U.S. where they are not nationally banned, that simply is not true. In the U.S., there are many kind-hearted souls who understand the plight of bully breeds; who know how misunderstood and wrongly vilified they are. But since responsible owners of bully breeds are doing just what they should do — training, socializing, and containing their dogs — you seldom hear from them. We all know, however, that the media loves a good if-it-bleeds-it-leads “pit bull” story, so naturally there will be more negative “pit bull” press than positive.
So, while it is understood by progressives worldwide that BSL is ineffective, unenforceable, and in some countries unconstitutional or a violation of human rights, the move toward dangerous dog laws is understandable. Our hope, however, is that dangerous dog laws be more appropriately named dangerous dog owner laws, and that the focus be on the human owner, not the dog which has no comprehension of human law and only knows what it is trained to do, whether good or bad.
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