Why Breed-Specific Legislation Doesn't Work
We have all heard the heartbreaking stories: A child brutally attacked by a dog. A beloved family pet or a farmer’s livestock killed or injured by a stray dog. Such stories are far too common, and we all agree that something must be done to protect our children, our property, and our communities at large from dangerous animals.
When faced with this dilemma, many state and local governments turn to breed-specific legislation (BSL) as a possible solution. Breed-specific legislation, however, creates extra burdens on the government and dog owners but doesn’t solve the underlying problem — irresponsible ownership and the threat to the community. The American Kennel Club agrees that communities must be protected. This is exactly why we oppose breed-specific legislation.
Breed-specific legislation is any bill that seeks to ban or place severe restrictions on a particular breed of dog or dogs with certain physical characteristics. Like racial profiling for dogs, this legislation unfairly penalizes good citizens without holding those responsible for the problem (the owners of dangerous dogs) accountable for it.
Banning a specific breed will not stop other dogs from attacking someone in the community. What happens if a dog of a different breed harms someone? If you follow the logic of BSL, that dog’s breed is then added to a list of banned breeds. Local governments are left continuing to add to a list of forbidden breeds, and animal control officers are forced to become dog experts in order to identify the breeds.
Breed-specific laws also often lead to increased costs to the community, as many owners abandon their household pets at local shelters because of their inability to comply with the strict regulations in these laws. Many of these dogs end up being euthanized at the shelters at the taxpayer’s expense.
BSL punishes responsible dog owners who choose to own a specific breed. Many owners of the targeted breeds are extremely responsible and their dogs are well-mannered, much-loved family pets. Additionally, many of the targeted breeds serve individuals and their communities as therapy dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, police/military working dogs, and service dogs for the disabled.
The AKC takes the position of deed not breed when dealing with the issue of dangerous dogs. The real problem is not the breed of dog, but its irresponsible owner. We support laws that address this issue. These laws should include provisions such as establishing a fair process by which specific dogs (regardless of breed) are identified as “dangerous” based on specific, measurable actions. Animal control laws should also impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs that are proven to be dangerous. The AKC also believes that, if necessary, some dogs proven to be “dangerous” may need to be humanely destroyed.
If a community truly wants to fix the problem of dangerous dogs, then it needs to abandon the idea of breed-specific legislation. Time and time again, communities that have enacted BSL get unenforceable and costly laws, but no solution to the problem. Addressing the issue of irresponsible ownership is a much more effective way of addressing animal control.
– Jennifer Clark,