After 65-year old Vivienne Brookman and 13-year-old William McNealy were attacked by what was described as a “large pit bull” by police, Waterloo, Iowa Mayor Buck Clark publicly stated that the attacks were “something we need to react to.” That “reaction” will come in the form of a breed-specific law (BSL) proposal — which proposes to allow people to own “pit bulls” if they are microchipped, spayed/neutered, licensed via a special licensure, and limited as to number — that will be discussed at Waterloo’s city council meeting tonight.
Perhaps instead of a “reaction,” especially a knee-jerk reaction, however, Waterloo could just calmly look at the facts. First, if by “pit bull” the Waterloo police and council mean American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or Staffordshire Bull Terrier, these breeds cannot possibly be described as a “large pit bull.” These breeds do not get to be over 60-65 pounds unless they are obese, or are cross-bred with a larger breed. It sounds as if the dog in question may have been a mastiff, which are large-breed dogs commonly and erroneously referred to as “pit bulls.”
Second, in addition to the large male attacking dog described as a “large pit bull,” also possibly involved in the attacks were another female dog, likewise described as a “pit bull,” and a Boston Terrier. Boston Terriers are small-breed dogs weighing no more than 20-25 pounds, and yet one of these was present at that attack too. So why aren’t Boston Terriers also on Waterloo’s radar?
Waterloo is looking to restrict so-called “pit bulls” — though “pit bull” is not a breed, and as already demonstrated, is not even the “breed” responsible for the attacks on Brookman and McNealy — yet not Boston Terriers. Why not?
And no, I don’t mean to argue that Boston Terriers should likewise be restricted in Waterloo; I just mean to point out, through reductio ad absurdum, the absurdity of BSL itself. One “breed,” the “pit bull,” is viewed as inherently vicious and therefore in need of restriction, yet another breed, the Boston Terrier, which has likewise demonstrated aggression, is given a shrug off because it’s a small breed. So, instead of addressing the fact that an irresponsible owner allowed his aggressive dogs, most likely unaltered aggressive dogs, to free-roam and attack two people, Waterloo wants to focus on “pit bulls” instead? Do you see the absurdity of BSL and the absurdity of this logic, or lack thereof?
Third, Waterloo had a free-roaming dog problem which resulted in attacks on innocent Waterloo citizens. As the presence of the Boston Terrier during the attacks illustrates (and the Boston Terrier was reported as having attacked also), unchecked canine aggression is not a product of breed but resultant of an irresponsible owner. BSL has historically not curbed the bad behavior of irresponsible dog owners. Just ask the U.K., Ontario, and Winnipeg whose BSL has seen a huge rise in banned fighting dogs, no reduction in dog bites, and actually an increase in dog bites respectively.
Fourth, as even the White House and President Obama stated last week when they came out against BSL,
” . . . research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources . . . The CDC also noted that the types of people who look to exploit dogs arent deterred by breed regulations ” when their communities establish a ban, these people just seek out new, unregulated breeds. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when theyre intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive . . . As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think thats a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners.”
Would Waterloo really disagree with President Obama’s, the White House’s, and the CDC’s findings?
There is ample evidence that shows that BSL does not keep communities safer; in fact quite the opposite since Animal Control spends too much time policing restricted breeds to the exclusion of problem dogs of any breed and the problem owners who create them. A well-enforced leash law for all dogs, a non-breed-specific dangerous dog (owner) law which places the responsibility squarely on the owner with escalating fines and penalties, and adequate Animal Control personnel are more than enough to police irresponsible dog owners and free-roaming dogs.
Please contact the Waterloo Mayor here and the City Council here and politely inform them that breed-specific legislation is ineffective, archaic, and unconstitutional. (If you need a form letter, please click here.)