Earlier this week, I provided a post that highlighted the position statements from the national organizations in opposition to laws that mandating the spaying/neutering of pets. While most of these organizations generally support spaying and neutering, they have all become aware of the problems the mandatory laws create -- particularly with spay/neuter because these laws most directly negatively impact low-income families, and lead to MORE animals in shelters, not less.
Today, I want to take a look at the expert opinions of the professional orgainzations with expertise in the health, training, and behavior of animals aroundnd the nation and their views on laws targeting specific breeds of dogs. Here are some clips from their statements about breed-specific laws, with more at the links provided. These organizations represent the largest and most influential animal welfare, sheltering, veterinary, animal control, dog training and legal organizations in the country. While many of these organizations spend a lot of their time arguing about other policies, on this, they are in complete agreement. Some items are bolded for emphasis by me.
National Animal Welfare Organizations
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
“HSUS opposes laws and ordinances aimed at forbidding or regulating dog ownership based solely on breed or type of dog. Breed-specific legislation (BSL) does not enhance public safety or reduce dog bite incidents. Rather, such laws, regulations and ordinances are costly to enforce, and harm families, dogs and communities.
The HSUS supports finding real and effective strategies for safe, humane community dog management and believes BSL is a distraction from that goal – it wastes valuable resources and charges a moral cost in the process.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
(The full report at the link below provides a wealth of research supporting their opinion).
“The ASPCA is not aware of credible evidence that breed-specific laws make communities safer either for people or other companion animals. There is, however, evidence that such laws unfairly target responsible pet guardians and their well-socialized dogs, are inhumane and impede community safety and humane sheltering efforts.”
“The ASPCA supports reasonable “leash” laws and laws that regulate dogs who have caused unjustifiable injury or who present substantial danger to the public. However, the ASPCA opposes laws that ban specific breeds of dogs or that discriminate against particular breeds.”
Best Friends Animal Society
“We draft and lobby for laws that protect communities from reckless owners and dangerous dogs. Best Friends opposes breed-discriminatory legislation, which arbitrarily targets particular dogs because of their appearance or breed. Canine profiling is not only ineffective at improving community safety, it is extremely expensive to enforce and a waste of tax dollars and lives.”
American Humane Association
(More support and alternatives with supporting research at the link)
“While supporters of Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) argue that the only way to be safe from dog bites is to eradicate “dangerous breeds” from the community, there is little evidence that supports BSL as an effective means of reducing dog bites and dog attacks. On the contrary, studies have shown that it is not the breeds themselves that are dangerous, but unfavorable situations that are creating dangerous dogs. Often, the very research that some cite as “support” for BSL actual argues for alternative, more effective means.”
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
“By generalizing the behaviors of dogs that look a certain way, innocent dogs suffer and may even be euthanized without evidence that they pose a threat. Responsible dog owners are forced to give up their dogs, or move, cities and state spend money enforcing restrictions and bans instead of putting that money to better use by establishing and enforcing licensing and leash laws, and responding proactively to target owners of any dog that poses a risk to the community”
See also the AVMA’s: A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention
Animal Control Officers
National Animal Control Association (NACA)
Dangerous and/or vicious animals should be labeled as such as a result of their actions or behavior and not because of their breed.
Basis for Guideline
Any animal may exhibit aggressive behavior regardless of breed. Accurately identifying a specific animal’s lineage for prosecution purposes may be extremely difficult. Additionally, breed specific legislation may create an undue burden to owners who otherwise have demonstrated proper pet management and responsibility.”
National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
“The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructor, Inc. (NADOI) strongly opposes breed specific legislation which targets or discriminates against certain dogs based only on their breed or appearance. Such laws are unfair because they assume that a dog may be dangerous simply because of breed. In fact, it is almost always the behavior of the owners of these dogs which makes them a danger to others.
Since 1965, the NADOI has worked to help people train their dogs to be well behaved. Also, NADOI educates dog owners about the responsibility not only to their dogs, but to their communities. Ordinances against dangerous dogs, unattended and loose dogs, nuisance barking and other objectionable dog behaviors should be enacted and aggressively enforced. These laws, unlike breed-specific laws, force all dog owners to be responsible for the behavior of their dogs.
International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) is an organization representing professional animal trainers and animal behavior specialists. The IAABC strongly opposes any legislation specifically designed to target or discriminate against dogs based solely on their breed or appearance. The IAABC does not believe that a dog poses a danger to society solely because of its breed. Dogs can become dangerous as a result of faulty socialization, inappropriate training, poor living conditions and other factors having nothing to do with breed. The IAABC believes that the objectives behind breed specific legislation can be met more effectively through rigorous enforcement and, when necessary, the strengthening of existing laws. We fully understand and support the need for laws to protect society, human and animal alike; however, our organization feels that any new legislation should be based on specific behaviors and actions and should not discriminate based on breed alone.
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
“The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) supports the adoption or enforcement of a program for the control of dangerous or vicious dogs that is fair, non-discriminatory and addresses dogs that are shown to be dangerous by their actions.
The APDT opposes any law that deems a dog as dangerous or vicious based on appearance, breed or phenotype. Canine temperaments are widely varied and behavior cannot be predicted by physical features such as head shape, coat length, muscle to bone ratio, etc. The only predictor of behavior is behavior.
As an organization comprised of dog trainers, behaviorists and other animal professionals, the APDT is fully aware that any dog can bite, any dog can maim and any dog can kill. A dangerous or vicious dog is the product of a combination of individual genetics, upbringing, socialization and lack of proper training. The solution to preventing dog bites is education of owners, breeder and the general public about aggressive prevention, not legislation directed at certain breeds.
Singling out and publicly demonizing certain breeds as dangerous is unfair, discriminatory, and does an immense disservice to those breeds and the people who care about them. Even more chilling, breed specific legislation encourages the faulty public perception of other breeds as being inherently safe. This can lead misguided individuals to engage in unsafe conduct with other breeds that can result in injury or death by individual representatives of those breeds mistakenly perceived as safe. Also, designating certain breeds as inherently dangerous implies to the public that behavior is not effectively influences, positively or negatively, by training. This misconception will likely produce a growing number of dangerous dogs as misinformed, complacent dog owners fail to practice responsible aggression-prevention measures.”
International Association of Canine Professionals
“The International Association of Canine Professionals strongly opposes legislation which discriminates against dogs and their owners by labeling certain dogs as “dangerous” or “vicious” based on breed or phenotype. Breed-specific legislation does not protect communities nor create a more responsible dog owner. Instead it negatively affects many law abiding dog owners and dogs within the targeted breeds.
Breed or breed type is only one factor which determines an individual dog’s temperament. Many other factors also influence behavior. In the case of aggressive acts by dogs, factors may include, but are not limited to: genetic predisposition; irresponsible handling; lack of animal management; general care; improper socialization and training; poor housing conditions; physical ailment, and lack of education and supervision.
A common and serious error in the ‘assumption of risk by breed’ is the inability to identify individual dogs by breed, according to an established breed standard or breed type. Purebred dogs which are registered with national clubs may or may not fit the ideal standard for their breed. As dogs are further distanced from the “ideal” standard by phenotype, especially in mixed breeds, it may become all but impossible for accurate identification.
The vast majority of dogs typically affected by breed-specific legislation are not “dangerous” by any standard. Their physical appearance alone cannot be used as an indicator of an aggressive nature. Breed-specific legislation creates an undue burden on responsible owners of targeted breeds – dogs which are most often not dangerous to their communities….”
American Kennel Club (AKC)
“The American Kennel Club supports reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern the ownership of dogs. The AKC believes that dog owners should be responsible for their dogs. We support laws that: establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as “dangerous” based on stated, measurable actions; impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proven to be dangerous. We believe that, if necessary, dogs proven to be “dangerous” may need to be humanely destroyed. The American Kennel Club strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be “dangerous” based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs.”
National Animal Interest Alliance
“NAIA supports reasonable laws to protect the public from dangerous dogs and opposes breed-specific legislation in any form. Breed-specific laws target good dogs and responsible animal owners along with the bad.”
Center for Disease Control (CDC)
A CDC study on fatal dog bites lists breeds involved in fatal attacks over 20 years. It does not identify specific breeds that are more likely to bite or kill, and thus, is not appropriate for policy-making decisions related to the topic. These bites result in approximately 16 fatalities; about .0002 percent of the total number of people bitten. These relatively few fatalities offer the only available information about breeds involved in dog bites. There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.
Many practical alternatives to breed-specific policies exist and hold promise for preventing dog bites. For prevention ideas and model policies for control of dangerous dogs, please see the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Task Force Guide on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions: A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention.” (I’ve provided the link to that study above)
American Bar Association
“Resolved, that the American Bar Association urges all state, territorial and local legislative bodies and government agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific provisions.