Late last month, the Omaha World News ran an article about the city's 5 year old breed specific law.
In the article, city leaders who pushed for the law were "pleased" with the results of the ordinance. Councilman Garry Gernandt noted, "It seems to me we did the right thing, and I think the stats show that."
Except they don't.
Gernandt makes that claim in spite of the reality that the ordinance had been costing the city more money and that dog bites as a whole had been increasing.
At the time, I provided the actual numbers to support this, noting that dog bites as a whole had gone up 21% from 2008 (when the ordinance was passed) to 2012, and bites by non-targeted breeds have gone up 38%.
I called this reality out in the comments section of the article that, finally, people are acknowledging that bites are going up even though city but still claiming it to be successful.
So the usual response came back "define bites vs attacks, they're different."
Indeed they are.
But as it turns out, major bites havent gone down either.
The following are the total bite numbers from 2006 to 2012. The first number is total bites. The second is the number of level 4 and level 5 bites. Level 4 bites are defined as "single bites, holds on and shakes, or single bite, leaves and bites again, more than once, or multiple bites, unable to count how many bites." Level 5 is a level 4 bite with mutilated or missing parts. Keep in mind, the new law was adopted in 2008.
2006 - 916 (53)
2007 - 821 (34)
2008 - 808 (34)
2009 - 875 (42)
2010 - 913 (36)
2011 - 834 (36)
2012 - 981 (36)
So, two takeaways on this. Firstly, it's important to note that most bites are not sever bites. In this case, only about 3-4% of bites would be classified as severe bites. Most bites are, and continue to be, quite minor.
Secondly, in spite of the insistence by authorities and others that major bites have gone down, they haven't. In spite of all of their efforts, money, and back patting, major dog bites have remained very consistent and total dog bites have increased dramatically.
The law is not working. And the idea that city officials are looking at the data and then LYING to the media and public about it being "successful" is appalling.
There is a group of people in Omaha called the Pit Bull Partnership that are working to highlight the failings of the law and working on driving awareness of the need to repeal it. The bite severity numbers were provided to me by them. Please click on their name and go to their facebook page and like their page to show your support for what they're doing. They were kind enough to provide me with the level 4 and level 5 bite data.
Also, they've sent out a press release highlighting the failure of the law. You can click to enlarge and read it at the left, or read it here.
We must insist that politicians make fact based decisions and rely on expert opinions when it comes to making dangerous dog laws. Expert opinion overwhelmingly opposes breed specific laws in favor of laws that target dogs, and owners, based on their behavior.
However, when politicians cave to the hysteria of the moment, they end up with laws that are costly, and ineffective, that they then end up defending in spite of the evidence that the law is failing.
We can, and must, do better.