Some think that because we oppose breed-specific legislation, we oppose any legislation for dangerous dogs. Not true! We want to see high standards for ownership and we want to see legislation that targets known factors for aggressive incidences.
It’s worth noting that as a public safety issue, serious dog attacks are relatively rare. Most dogs live harmoniously in the community and among bites that occur, an overwhelming percentage are minor bites. While serious bites often make the news or grab our attention, they are not common and statistically we are more likely to be injured in any number of ways.
But serious dog attacks do happen, and our policy makers should be taking steps to minimize these events. Dogs are part of our community and need to be regulated.=
What does the science say?
Certain risk factors that come up again and again when looking at incidences of dog attacks. A 2013 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that four or more of the following factors were present in fatal dog attacks:
- Dog was not familiar to victim
- Dog was not spayed or neutered (84% of cases)
- Victim was vulnerable or had diminished capacity (e.g., was a child, elderly or ill)
- Victim was alone
- Dog was not a family dog – lived outside or was tethered (76% of cases)
- Dog was mismanaged (not trained, roaming loose)
- History of abuse or neglect
Other studies have identified the following risk factors:
- Gender of dog (more likely to be male)
- Dogs roaming in packs
- A bite or aggressive incident in the past
By targeting these known risk factors, we can make our communities safer. This is a multi-pronged approach of legislation, education, and support. A Community Model for Dog Bite Prevention includes:
- Strong and specific municipal bylaws
- Enforcement of bylaws
- Increased liability for dog owners with dangerous dogs
- Increased liability for shelters, rescues, or breeders who place dangerous dogs in the community
- Support for low-income or at-risk dog owners
- Bite-free education
- Community engagement