What is Breed-Specific Legislation?
Breed specific legislation (BSL) is an attempt by legislators to reduce dog bites by targeting specific types of dogs.
BSL can range from something as mild as a higher licence fee for specific breeds to an all-out ban, including mandatory destruction of any prohibited dog found within the boundaries of the legislating jurisdiction.
BSL has been proven to be ineffective, unenforceable, and expensive.
Help! My city has BSL
You can help introduce fairer, evidence-based, breed-neutral laws in your community. It can be a long process, but you will find there is a lot of support out there, and it’s a wonderful legacy to create.
Co-occurring factors in dog bite related fatalities
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association analyzed dog bite-related fatalities from 2000 to 2009, and identified a co-occurrence of seven controllable factors (spoiler alert - breed was not one of them!). Four or more of these factors were present in over 80% of cases.
Factor #1 – lack of supervision.
Factor #2 – lack of familiar relationship between the victim and the dog.
Factor #3 – failure to spay/neuter.
Factor #4 – victim had a compromised ability to manage interaction with the dog(s).
Factor #5 - dog was kept as a resident, not family dog.
Factor #6 – owner mismanagement.
Factor #7 – neglect or abuse.
EFFECTIVE BREED NEUTRAL ALTERNATIVES
Opposing breed specific legislation doesn't mean opposing any dog legislation!
Progressive communities are moving towards what we call Responsible Owner Legislation. An effective animal control strategy would integrate the following:
Bite free education
ASK US ABOUT OUR FREE DOG BITE PREVENTION PROGRAM
When 50% of our children are being bitten by a dog by the time they are 12 years old and 77% of bites come from their family or a friend’s dog – that’s an opportunity for education that anyone who loves kids or dogs simply cannot ignore.
They’re staggering statistics and ones Justice for Bullies want to help change – that’s why we are offering our free dog bite prevention program in the following areas:
Anahim Lake, BC and area
Elkford, BC and area
Winnipeg, Manitoba and area
Denver, Colorado and area
Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites, but studies show that educating kids on how to act around dogs significantly increases appropriate behaviour. We are committed to helping kids learn how to act around ALL of the dogs they see in their lives whether their families own one or not, and that’s why we are offering the program FREE.
The I Speak Doggie program is designed especially for preschool-aged kids, and the Dog Star program is geared towards elementary-aged kids. Both are only 40 minutes long, and is specifically designed for early learners.
The message is simple, fun and based on a music video that will have the kids singing about dog safety long after I leave. It’s a message that really sticks and we are thrilled to be able to offer it.
Should you wish to obtain information on our program please send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mistakes in Advocacy- Owner/Victim blaming
Five ways dog advocates sabotage themselves
Last week there was a tragic dog fatality in Canada. It received a fair amount of media coverage and a “pit bull” type dog was said to be the culprit.
Unsurprisingly, we saw the usual discussion about banning the breed. And then a flood of posts from advocates in response. While their intentions are good, some of their comments are unhelpful – even dangerous – in the big picture.
Over the next five days we are going to talk about the five most common mistakes we see in Facebook threads.
Owner or victim blaming
Inflammatory and defensive responses
"It's all how you raise them"
"But MY dog is the best/ wouldn’t hurt a fly/ is a therapy dog"
Owner and victim blaming take the top spot on this list. In many dog attack cases, we commonly see advocates appointing themselves as keyboard detective warriors, and their “investigation” ends up pointing fingers at the owner or victim.
Here are actual comments we read online about the most recent case:
"A dog does not raise itself..so therefore owners are responsible! I don't care about the situation."
"Do not blame the dog, blame the very poor owner."
"The breed of the dog is not the issue here but the owners that either abused the dog so it is vicious or they trained the dog to attack. Either way the majority of the time it is the owners fault but the dog suffers. If this dog caused a fatality the owners should be charged with a crime".
"Pathetic owner is all this is, not the dogs fault. But the dog will be the one put down and blamed for being mistreated sad sad sad ….".
"I am upset that the other humans trained/neglected/abused a dog so much that this situation happened."
Now, from what we do know from the victim’s mother's statements, the dog was a family pet and the owner was known in the community for her commitment to animals. She had worked with trainers and was, by all accounts, an extremely loving and responsible owner.
There was no indication of abuse or inhumane training methods. While abuse, neglect, and poor early experiences can contribute to aggressive behaviour, they are not the only factors, and it is certainly not our place to make accusations behind our computer screens when we have no information about the case.
This woman appears to have been a wonderful owner, and at the time of the attack she was taking the dog for a walk and was using a muzzle, two indications of responsible ownership. Tragically, something went wrong and she ultimately lost her life. She is the victim here.
Do you see how the above comments can be incredibly harmful to advocacy? Can you imagine being the victim’s family members and friends and reading this over and over again?
It is cruel. It also makes us look like we lack empathy and value the life of an aggressive dog over a human. This is an argument frequently used by pro-BSL advocates, who paint us as empathy-lacking, victim-blaming monsters who oppose any restrictions or consequences for dangerous dogs.
By making assumptions about the story, and posting something along the lines of “the dog only attacked because it was abused” you put your credibility on the line. If it turns out this dog was not abused, you have given the pro-BSL advocates more fuel that breed must be a factor.
Next time you read about a dog attack, take a moment to recognize everything you DON’T know about the situation. Acknowledge that even if something is reported in the media or online, it may not be true – these days, news articles are posted immediately and may be based on a panicked bystander’s report or incomplete information.
Be constructive in your comments, and be respectful of the human beings whose lives have been changed forever.
Edited to remove references to this dog being a rescue. It has been confirmed that this dog is from a breeder.