BSL Speaking Points

If you are interested in speaking about breed-specific legislation (BSL), it may be helpful to review the following speaking points to help you clearly and concisely discuss the subject.

Background

BSL is often discussed after a highly publicized dog bite incident or a perceived increase in dog attacks in a community has occurred. There is usually a swift rush to judgement about the specific incident or the cause of the irresponsible ownership trend, and BSL is seen by politicians as a quick fix that will appease the angry, upset and fearful stakeholder group. Usually, the individuals who support or push for BSL do so in a misguided attempt to keep their community safe.

Unfortunately, BSL does not address or correct the underlying issue of irresponsible owners. A more effective approach is to develop legislation that details the responsibilities of dog owners in ensuring that their dogs don’t threaten the safety of the community and to identify how to deal with specific dog(s) and risk factors.

Key Speaking Points 

  • Breed-specific legislation is ineffective in protecting communities from aggressive dogs. 

No jurisdiction with BSL has seen a decrease in dog bites or dog-related injuries. That’s because BSL targets a specific breed of dog, and ignores the many other factors that underlie any aggression incident, including the individual dog’s history and circumstances, and the owner’s management of that dog.

BSL does not change the behaviour of criminals, dog fighters or those who are poor owners. If you seize their dog, they will simply move on to another breed – and there are plenty of large, strong breeds to choose from.

Dangerous dog legislation, targeting owner behaviour, is the only way to keep communities safe. It is based on clear laws that target known risk factors and hold owners accountable for the behaviour of their dog. It focuses on specific owners, specific actions and specific dogs who have shown signs of being dangerous – and not on a poorly-defined category of dog.

  • Breed-specific legislation is impossible to enforce

Breed-specific legislation is based on the premise that we can identify what a “pit bull” is and that by restricting or removing “pit bulls” from the population, we can reduce serious dog bites and attacks.

Only a tiny percentage of the canine population is comprised of purebred “pit bull” breeds. The rest are mixed breeds, rescues or backyard-bred dogs whose parentage cannot be verified. DNA technology is not at the point where it can clarify matters. That means we are forced to rely on visual identification to determine what is and is not a “pit bull.” When studies show that even animal professionals and shelter staff are wrong about breed identification about half of the time, it is clear that it is not reasonable to devastate families, create financial hardship for the dog owners, and even make life or death decisions for the dog based on visual appearance.

Many jurisdictions have removed or stopped enforcing breed restrictions because it is so difficult – and when it goes to court, costly – to conclusively identify a “pit bull” breed.

  • Dangerous dog legislation is the only proven way to keep communities safe

We all agree that we want to reduce the number of dog bites and keep all members of the community as safe as possible. There is only one way that has been proven to do this: dangerous dog legislation.

Dangerous dog legislation has clear, specific guidelines for the care and management of your pet. Rather than targeting something that is hard to define, like a breed, it targets specific owner behaviour and demands a high standard of responsible ownership for all dogs.

Dangerous dog legislation considers the known risk factors for aggression, including spaying/neutering, training, containment and health status. It allows animal control officers to intervene early, when signs of nuisance behaviour, aggression, or abuse/neglect arise – meaning that they can be addressed early, before they escalate and cause a serious injury.

This is a reasonable approach that has been shown to be cost-effective, useful and as fair as possible to everyone involved (including the dog).