Earlier this week, a four year old girl in Australia was tragically killed when she was attacked by her neighbor's dog -- which is being described as a "pit bull/mastiff cross".
In spite of the story being picked up by more than 300 news sources around the world, there are few details about the evens that led up to the attack -- although it seems as if somehow the dog wandered into the home where the victim was staying (the victim was staying there because her own home burned down).
The media, and the politicians in the area have, of course, greeted the news not in a rational way, but by encouraging knee-jerk reactions and hysteria -- exactly the type of Panic Policy Making that leads to most breed specific legislation.
First, it should be noted that the state of Victoria, where the attack took place, already has very heavy restrictions on American Pit Bull Terriers -- where dogs have to be licensed, muzzled and altered in an attempt to allow these types of dogs to die out. The legislation has not helped curb dog attacks in Victoria in any way (and also note, because the attacking dog was a cross, the dog was not impacted by the current breed restrictions).
However, following the attack, councils are being given more authority to go out and capture (and kill) any dangerous dogs they find. The Baillieu Government has now been given the power to enter properties and destroy "dangerous" dogs.
In spite of the current restrictions, the Herald Sun has scarily reported that you can easily "buy a deadly dog for $1500 online". They are noting that in spite of the restrictions, the dogs are readily available -- and of course, "deadly". They then ratchet it up a notch by noting that there are as many as 5000 of these "deadly" dogs in Victoria. Whoa, that's SCARY. But wait. If they're all so deadly, how is it that only 1 of these 'deadly' dogs has been involved in an incident? That's just .02% of these dogs that are supposedly predisposed to attacking?
Other areas are also jumping on the panic-policy-making bandwagon. The city of Orange (in NSW) has now already proposed a ban on several different breeds of dogs.
The whole situation is exactly what happens when politicians and the media fall prey to the "hysteria of the moment" and start engaging in panic policy making. Fear is the most irrational of motivators and in the process, the government is ignorning the rational views expressed locally by experts in their veterinary and rescue communities who all agree that breed specific legislation is not a viable solution.
This is now knee-jerk policies happen -- when politicians cave to the hysteria of the moment and ignore the experts in their community. It happens here in the US of course. Our governments must do better -- and listen, observe, and seek out what other successful communities are doing to avoid these types of attacks. Because panic-policy-making is not a solution.
For more: Hysteria doesn't help solve our dog problems -- Saving Pets (AU)