Experts from around the nation continue to speak out against laws that fail to increase public safety by targeting dogs based on their appearance vs the behavior of the dogs and their owners.
Experts, including Veterinarians, Dog Trainers, Animal Control Officers, Breeders and Humane Organizations, all universally agree that targeted public safety measures for dogs based on behavior, not breed, is most effective.
The latest official statement comes from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) which just unveiled a new, official statement last week.
You can read the entire 4-page report here (one full page is citations if you're looking for further reading). But here is a quick rundown:
"The AVSAB's position is that such legislation -- often called breed-specific legislation (BSL) - is ineffective, and can lead to a false sense of community safety as well as welfare concerns for dogs identified (often incorretly) as belonging to specific breeds.
The importance of reduction of dog bites is critical, however, the AVSAB's view is that matching pet dogs to appropriate households, adequate early socialization and appropriate training, and owner and community education are the most effective in preventing dog bites. Therefore, the AVSAB does support appropriate legislation regarding dangerous dogs, provideed that is education-based and not breed-specific."
The paper then goes into different sections, including facts about dog bite and laying out the scope of the problem with dog bites -- that while the problem is small, the AVSAB does support efforts to reduce this number.
The article then defines breed-specific legislation - -calling out everything from breed bans to restrictions based on breed (of local interest, Kansas City, MO gets mentioned for it's breed-specific spay/neuter law).
The article then discusses: which breeds bites and many of the studies on breed-misidentification.
Then, there is a great section discussing "Why do dogs bite?" Because this comes from a group of behavior-focused vets, this part is particularly interesting.
"Aggression is a context-dependent behavior as associated with many different motivations (ie defensive, learned, fearful or territorial). Most dogs that show aggression do so to eliminate a perceived threat, either to their safety or to the possession of a resource...
"An appropriate understanding of canine signaling, or body language, can help both owners and potential victims predict the immediate interaction of a dog and take action to prevent a bite. Responsible breeding and puppy-raising play an important role in preventing aggressive behaviors, irrespective of breed or mix. Appropriate socialization and managing early onset of fears in young puppies can minimize the risk for future undesired behaviors and fears...
"Family dogs develop positive associations with humans through daily interactions, socialization and training. Dogs restricted from such interactions may be termed 'resident dogs.' Resident dogs have an owner, but spend most of their lives isolated, even abused by modern American standards. These dogs may be fenced or chained away from peopel and normal interactions, or simply ignored and don't benefit from early training. As a result, resident dogs may be more likely to express aggressiong and also perhaps other anxietys since fear of people, fear of other animals and fear of novel situations are among the most common explanations for aggression in dogs...."
The article then goes on to explore successful models using ideas from Chicago, Nevada and Calgary.
Overall, it's a very well-researched report that again ads further depth to the group of experts that oppose laws targeting specific breeds of dogs and instead favor breed-neutral laws. The trend toward this is very evident throughout the US, and will no-doubt continue.
The final reco in the paper invites readers to share the paper. Which I'm doing. I hope you will do the same.