Last month, the Australian Veterinary Association put together a very detailed policy statement regarding dangerous dog legislation in Australia entitled "Dangerous Dogs - a sensible solution".
The paper, which is one of the more detailed reports I've read in awhile, relies very heavily on case studies and published scientific literature in order to support its case against laws targeting breeds of dogs, and in favor of behavior-based ordinances.
The report begins by offering a variety of factors that are inter-related and are important factors for dog bites, including:
- Heredity (genes, breed)
- Early experience (including even where the dog was bred in a home or in a commercial breeding operation)
- Socialization and training
- Heatlh (physical and psychological
- Victim Behavior
- Sex of animal
- Environmental factors such as chaining, median income level of the area, whether the dogs were in a pack or not).
The report also notes that most dog bites occur in the home -- by dogs known by the victim -- although most legislatin is very much targeted toward the smaller number of attacks that happen in public spaces.
The paper then goes on to describe why it is against laws targeting specific breeds of dogs (BSL):
"The Australian Veterinary Association does not believe that breed based approaches reduce public risk. The AVA is opposed to breed-based dog control measures becaue the vidence shows that they do not and cannot work. National veterinary assoications in Britain, the United States and Canada, and major animal welfare organizations internationall also hold this view." (Emphasis mine)
According to the AVA, breed-specific laws fail because:
- Breed on its own is not an effective indicator or predictor of aggression in dogs
- It's not possible to precisely determine the breed of the types of dogs targeted by BSL
- The number of animals that would have to be removed from a community to have a meaningful impact on hospital admissions is so high that removal of any one breed would have a negligible impact.
- BSL ignores the human element
The study then goes on to support each of these points - -highlight a variety of studies that indicate that breed is not an effective indicator of aggression in dogs. Many of the studies or reports in this section are ones I've covered on this blog before (including Duffy, Gladwell, and the ATTS) and -- although a few are new to me and will give me some more future reading material.
The section about the number of dogs needed to be removed to make an impact is a compelling section -- noting that if a single breed was known to cause 15% of all dog bites, then more than 5,000 dogs of that breed would need to be removed (ie killed) in order to save just one bite. For more serious injuries, if one breed was responsible for 35% of all serious injuries, then more than 30,000 dogs would need to be removed to prevent a single reconstructive surgery and more than 100,000 dogs would need to be removed (killed) to prevent a single hospitalization.
"This shows the impluasibility that breed-specific legislation will substantially reduce the number of dog bite related injuries in a community. 'If we want to prevent all bites, there is only one way and htat is to ban all dogs. That is of cours as unrealistic as trying to prevent bites by enacting breed-specific legislation'".
The study then covers the failures of breed-specific laws around the word -- including noting the failures in Denmark, Spain, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and the UK (as well as a few others I'm not as familiar with). The study then also notes the dramatic BSL failings in New South Wales where dog bites have increased dramatically since the enactment of a breed ban in that Australian state.
The report then goes on to suggest a reasonable solution to solving dog bites in communities that takes a behavior-based approach which includes registration of all dogs, standardizing bite reporting across the nation, focusing on temperament to identify potentially problem dogs/owners, guiding breeder to improve temperament of puppies, comprehensive owner education programs and adequate enforcement for all programs.
It's a really good report -- and very much worth the time to read in its entirety here. It's a total of 48 pages long, but really, only about the first 25 or so are required reading as the rest is all references and Appendix items.
But this is another great piece that joins the wide collection of professional research and literature opposed to breed-specific legislation.