This is one of those stories that gives me some room to almost celebrate while I beat my head against the proverbial wall.
In this morning's Omaha World News, there is a story about the city's 5 year old dangerous dog law. The law has some good points -- particularly in that it can create a reckless owner if someone has a dog in violation of ordinances twice within a three year period, and that it does have some restrictions on the amount of time a dog can be tied up alone. However, the law also classifies all 'pit bull type" dogs (which, includes 9 breeds in their eyes) as "potentially danerous" and requires them to either be muzzled or go through Canine Good Citizen Training.
In the story, city leaders who pushed fro the law say they're "pleased" with the results.
The law was largely pushed through by one woman, who pushed the law through after her child was tragically attacked by a 'pit bull' in 2008 (fortunately, the child is now doing well). She said her goal was to protect other kids from having to deal with the trauma of being bitten or attacked by dogs.
According to the newspaper report, the number of bite cases involving pit bulls (as they've defined them) has dropped from 123 in 2008, to 38 in 2012.
That sounds like an incredible success. Except when it's not.
The story goes on to note: "Reports of dog bites by all breeds, however, have increased since the adoption of the ordinance." Uh oh.
Those who favored the Omaha ordinance quickly bursh that aside as just increased public awareness but really, they don't know that for sure. What they do know is that they passed the ordinance, and they want it to be successful (and it's very lucrative for the Nebraska Humane Society who handles animal control for the city because they are largest provider of the required Canine Good Citizen Training for pit bulls) and so let's ignore the ugly statistic that doesn't agree with us.
For the past 5 years, I've been tracking the "success" of the Omaha Ordinance (there is a lot of data at the link). In 2008 (which, they're using as the base year, so I will too) there were 808 total dog bites: 123 by 'pit bulls', and 685 by everything else.
In 2012, there were 981 total dog bites: 38 by "pit bulls" and 943 by everything else.
So while the city has spent countless resources getting responsible owners of pit bull types to jump through hoops and get Canine Good Citizen Certification to avoid having to muzzle their dogs, dog bites in total have gone up 21% and bites by all non-targeted dogs have gone up 38%.
It's also important to note that the dogs responsible for doing the most biting are not small dogs. In 2012, the top 4 "breeds" in bite listings were: Labrador Retrievers (92 bites), Stray/unidentified dogs (56), German Shepherds (46) and Boxers (41).
Pardon me while I throw up a little while the city officials and the Nebraska Humane Society pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
If the goal is to lower the number of people who are being bitten, and suffering severe injuries by dogs (particularly children), then by every total statistical measure the law has been a complete and utter failure.
If the goal was merely to restrict pit bulls, regardless of how much we mislead the public about true causal factors of dog bites and we don't care how many people really get bitten, just as long is not by a pit bull, then, well, I guess that'd be a success. Justify it however you need to I suppose.
So while this type of thing makes my head hurt, I do want to note that I don't want to lose sight of the fact that somehow this story is progress. While not perfect, I would like to give the Omaha World Herald a round of applause, or at least a resounding golf clap, for being the first media outlet in FIVE YEARS to actually mention that dog bites are going up, not down. Maybe that little nugget of information will help spark people to start asking what's really going on in Omaha....and keeping people from getting bitten by dogs isn't it.