Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is a law that bans or restricts certain dog breeds or types that are perceived as “dangerous.” A dog does not have to be a purebred of the breed to be included in BSL; it just has to show certain physical characteristics of the breed or type. While the pit bull is a current focus of BSL, other breeds such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds and Chows are also often identified in BSL.
Why BSL is Being Implemented
The people who work at the municipalities that are bringing in BSL have good intentions, but are misinformed about the most effective ways to decrease dog bites and attacks. Unfortunately, journalists often make factual errors when reporting on this issue and regularly get the type or breed of the dog involved wrong or, if they don’t know, they speculate. This leads to specific breeds gaining an unfair and untrue reputation as being vicious or dangerous dogs.
BSL Doesn’t Work
When properly measured, statistics show that BSL is ineffective. It does not substantially decrease the incidence of dog bites or attacks. The upholding of BSL bylaws demands additional resources, and the actions required to manage the process of ridding a community of a certain breed of dog are financially and emotionally costly.
One of the additional challenges of BSL is that it is often put in place in response to one or more serious dog bites in a town, city or region. It is an emotional, fear-based response that puts the blame on the breed. When this legislation is enacted, it is individual dogs (that have done nothing wrong other than having the wrong “look”) and their human families that become victims.
The individuals who choose to train a dog to be vicious (for protection, for dog fighting, etc.) or who do not properly train or monitor their dogs’ behaviour are not typically going to obey bylaws such as this. They tend to go underground and continue their practices.
The Financial and Emotional Cost of BSL
While there is no national (in Canada or the U.S.) measurement in place regarding the effectiveness of BSL and the number of incidents of dog bites or attacks after BSL is put in place, there are smaller studies that show that enforcing BSL does not reflect a decrease in dog bites. Putting BSL in place and upholding those bylaws takes already limited resources away from other matters that are important to the community. It means that pets – happy, good-natured dogs that have never bitten anyone or shown any aggression and who are beloved members of the family – are ripped from their homes and their loved ones. This takes a toll on both human and emotional resources.
Most families can’t afford to move out of an area that has brought in BSL, which means they either have to surrender their four-legged family member for euthanasia (another cost to the municipality) or find a new home for their pet outside of the banned area.
Additionally, there is a growing trend for animal lovers to avoid visiting or moving to towns, cities and regions that have BSL. This will have a growing impact on the economy of these places.