Opinion: Breed-specific legislation is a band-aid solution to dog attacks and violence


Breed-specific legislation refers to laws that limit or ban dog breeds in particular areas in an effort to decrease dog attacks. As panic regarding dog attacks increases, BSL is advertised by the media as an effective method to stop dog attacks. It is portrayed as a quick and easy solution to dog attacks when, in actuality, it is not an effective long-term method. 

 Breed-specific legislation targets large dogs in many American states. (Wikimedia Commons)

In nearly half of all U.S. states, “there is currently BSL being enforced and there is no state/province/territory level legislation that prohibits BSL,” according to the BSL census. 

 “Over 10 years with BSL enacted in Toronto, dog bite incidents increased 57% based on hospital records for serious dog bite-related injuries,” as written by pitbull info.org. This ill-advised legislation not only does not work but has even worsened the problem of dog bites.

 This is because the banning of dog breeds will only cause breeders to change their methods and will thus not decrease dog attacks. American citizens have been convinced that these laws have been effective but they are being manipulated by social media panic. 

Social media has allowed fear and lies to spread across the country about “dangerous” dog breeds at a much quicker rate. People fail to see that the real danger is not the animal, but instead the dangers of social media and hysterics. 

According to the Integrity Institute, “as content gets closer and closer to becoming harmful, on average, it gets more engagement.” Misinformation will get more attention and thus spread faster the further away it is from the actual truth. Therefore, what used to be able to be referred to as “common knowledge” now has a much higher chance of being factually incorrect. 

In many ways, people think it is common knowledge that certain breeds are more dangerous than others. However, as said by foundanimals.org, “experts report no relation between breed and aggression.” There is no relation between breed and aggression, yet it is still a common stereotype that larger species are aggressive. This is because when someone is attacked by a small dog it is not reported but larger dogs will be reported. The disproven stereotype that larger dogs are violent and dangerous utterly fails to address what creates a violent dog. 

According to a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine, “When compared with a convenience sample of 5,239 companion dogs, abused dogs were reported as displaying significantly higher rates of aggression and fear directed toward unfamiliar humans and dogs.” Similar to humans, animals that have experienced abuse or been raised around aggression have a significantly higher chance of being aggressive themselves. So this begs the question, is it the dog at fault? Or rather negligent owners?

Dogs can also suffer from mental and behavioral disorders that affect their behavior. As written in an article by Debra Horwitz of vcahospitals.com, “Infectious agents such as rabies, hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism, psychomotor epilepsy, hyperkinesis, neoplasia, and a variety of genetic and metabolic disorders can cause or predispose a dog to aggression.”  Dogs suffering from mental illness also have a higher chance of behaving aggressively toward people and other dogs. People will misdiagnose a dog that is suffering as aggressive or bad-natured instead of helping the animal. 

There are plenty of alternatives to BSL that don’t involve the complete ban of a specific breed of dog. There are laws regarding the containment of dogs that are often overlooked, such as leash laws. If an individual has an aggressive dog, they should follow leash laws and/or put a muzzle on their dog when outside their home. Veterinarian offices can also offer low-cost training or neutering to dogs suffering from mental illness or who have experienced abuse. There is also the option of preventing people with a violent criminal record from owning animals. 

BSL should no longer be used because it puts the responsibility on abused and neglected animals instead of owners. BSL was created out of mass hysteria and is not a long-term solution compared to holding owners responsible when following leash and abuse preventive laws. America needs to end this witch hunt period that targets these innocent and undeserving animals. 

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