A Clarification about BSL on Military Bases and that Pesky CDC “Study” Again

Due to recent dog attacks in Piney Green, N.C., Onslow County, N.C. Sheriff Ed Brown is calling for a ban of what he calls “aggressive dog breeds.”   Putting aside for the moment that no one dog breed has been scientifically proven to be inherently aggressive (and certainly not that non-existent “breed” “pit bull”), Sheriff Brown uses as his “proof” that Onslow County should pass breed-specific legislation (BSL) the fact that Marine base Camp Lejeune put a ban of so-called “vicious” breeds in place last April.   We’ll assume that Sheriff Brown is in part using the same erroneously-named 10 Most Dangerous Dog Breeds List which was gleaned from the CDC’s long-debunked dog-bite-related fatality stats compiled from 1979-1998.   For some reason people never seem to actually read the original CDC report wherein the studys own authors advise against BSL because, as the CDC researchers themselves concluded, the study “does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill.” (Emphasis mine.)

Yes, and what did the CDC warn against based on their own study?: that it “is not appropriate for policy-making decisions [meaning passing BSL] related to the topic.”   In fact, based on their own “study” the CDC  concluded that,

“Breed-specific legislation does not address the fact that a dog of any breed can become dangerous¦   From a scientific point of view, we are unaware of any formal evaluation of the effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in preventing fatal or nonfatal dog bites.   An alternative to breed-specific legislation is to regulate individual dogs and owners on the basis of their behavior.”

Yet, municipalities, and the armed forces apparently, disregard this information as well as the full CDC report itself, and continue to pass BSL taking the top 10 breeds, and sometimes more, from the CDC report that appears to show those breeds (though, again, “pit bull” is not a breed) most likely to bite, attack, or kill.  

In fact the CDC stopped compiling dog bite stats because so many municipalities were and are using them to pass BSL, even though the CDC debunked their own stats by saying 1) that the stats were based on notoriously inaccurate media reports of dog attacks, 2) that the CDC “study” did not take into account mitigating factors in the attacks like owner abuse and neglect, and 3) that the “study” didn’t even use proper breed population data.   And how exactly do you calculate a breed’s statistical propensity to bite or attack when you don’t even know an approximate number of how many of that breed there are?!   The CDC also brought up the constitutional problems inherent in BSL — violations of substantive and procedural due process, equal protection laws, grandfather clauses, and privacy and property rights — but you get the idea.

But let’s get back to how a military base could prohibit so many breeds of dog and why their reasoning, or lack thereof, should not be applied to civilian municipalities who think they can carte blanche pass BSL.   First of all, when I argued against BSL for military bases, believe me, I repeatedly raised the issue of how low it was for the military to be negating the very rights that our soldiers were abroad fighting for.   Indeed, that twisted irony was not lost on the angry servicemen who contacted me and it was certainly not lost on me.   I also argued that it was particularly heinous for military personnel abroad, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, to have to find a way to license their dogs or re-home their dogs when they were in the middle of a war zone, but my arguments went ignored.

Second, Sheriff Brown said that,

I believe the operators of our military facilities make good decisions based on solid research, and the county would do well to follow the same policy.

But did the military really make the decision?   When I contacted the commanding officer (C.O.) of one base in particular to argue against BSL for the base, I was passed along to a civilian company that handles housing for the base.   In other words, the C.O. passed the buck to this civilian company and it was this company that was saying they had researched the issue and considered it a liability to have certain dog breeds on the base.   My guess is the housing company’s insurer threatened to significantly raise the company’s rates if they didn’t institute breed restrictions for the base.   The insurance company and the company handling the military housing probably knew they could get away with BSL because the military personnel wouldn’t have the ability to fight them what with so many of them being deployed.

So do you see?   BSL for military bases was most likely nothing more than a greedy insurance company forcing these housing companies to comply with their demands because of perceived, not actual, actuarial risk.   The insurer in question probably scanned over the list of what appeared from the CDC’s “study” to be the top 10 biting dogs and passed these incredibly faulty “statistics” off as actuarial risk.   But Sheriff Brown and the military call this “solid research”?   I think not!   I call that prejudice, and like most prejudices, those faulty beliefs are built on nothing more than stereotypes, hearsay, and other kinds of wildly inaccurate information.   A lie, or at the very least a misrepresentation, only takes seconds to impart; the truth takes a whole lot longer to disseminate.

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