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Breed-Specific Laws

I’m sure that most of you have heard about “breed-specific laws”, the laws that some municipalities (and, I understand, a state or two) pass to prohibit the ownership or possession of specific breeds. The current list of favorite targets for such laws are “pit bulls” (including Staffordshire Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and who knows what else), Rottweilers, and Doberman Pinchers. In the past, they’ve included German Shepherd Dogs, Australian Cattle Dogs, Great Danes, and even Collies! (Full disclosure: When I was a kid, I was attackedby a Great Dane who was intent on eating me or at least doing great damage. I resolved the problem by grabbing him by the tonsils and not letting go until he calmed down. No, I don’t mean “by the throat”, I mean “the tonsils on the inside of his throat”!)

I probably don’t have to tell you what I think of such laws, but here’s an outstanding way to view the whole question.


1. If you were the sheriff in your town and you learned that Toyotas were disproportionally involved in more accidents than any other model, would you:

(a) ban Toyotas and confiscate the Toyota of anyone caught driving one, or
(b) arrest the drivers responsible for those accidents?

2. Which course of action in Question 1 do you think would:
(a) inconvenience the fewest number of people,
(b) be the more efficient use of taxpayer dollars, and
(c) be more effective in preventing future accidents involving Toyotas?

3. If your answer to Question 1 was (a) — ban Toyotas — and the sheriff’s department learned that, by a statistical quirk, drivers of confiscated Toyotas were perpetrating further accidents by driving, say, Hondas, would you then ban Hondas? If not, why not?

4. If your answer to Question 3 was, “Ban Hondas, too, dammit, something HAS to be done,” then would you propose a ban on ALL car models with names ending in “a,” such as Kias and Mazdas, reasoning that all these brands are pretty much bred for the same purpose? If not, why not? If so, how would you deal with car brands that end in the SOUND of “a,” such as Chevrolet?

5. Are you beginning to understand
(a) that because most of the tens of millions of pet dogs are NOT registered, “breed” cannot be defined in a meaningful way;
(b) that miscreants employ pit bulls, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas, Great Danes — that is, whichever dog is handy –as personal tools of terrorism;
(c) that law enforcement authorities could waste inordinate amounts of time (and, therefore, taxpayer dollars) policing a breed ban, adding to their jobs a task perhaps even more meaningless than enforcing jaywalking laws;
(d) that the people most likely affected by a breed ban — that is, those inconvenienced, harrassed and likely to suffer damage — are the 99.9% majority of utterly innocent dogs and people; and (e), most important, that breed bans do ESSENTIALLY NOTHING to address the real problem: Human scumbags who abuse animals?

Key: If your answer to any part of Question 5 is “no,” I’m afraid you have flunked. Please go back and reconsider your responses. Hint: The answer to the question, “What shall we do about the bank robber who got away on a bicycle?” is not: Ban bicycles.

Real answer: If your dog hurts someone, you — not the dog — should be responsible. Anti-cruelty and anti-dog-fighting laws already exist. Tell your mayor, and city or county or provincial council to up the current penalties, and insist that judges enforce those penalties against lawbreakers.

Test created by Paul Glassner, San Francisco SPCA

Permission to reprint is granted by North Carolina Responsible Animal Owners Alliance
This article was created by Paul Glassner of the San Francisco SPCA.
Please keep his name attached to any reprints.

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3 comments to Breed-Specific Laws

  • As the proud owner of a 2 yr old “Pit Bull” I have a hatred for the breed law in my town of mandatory muzzles for the breed. My dog has never harmed anything on purpose (barreling into something in excitement doesn’t count) and has retreated from any dog that has gotten aggressive with him.

    My dog was playing with another dog at a park and I was chatting with her owner when the woman gave me a great piece of advice for avoiding “breed specific fears” in people…

    She told me to simply answer the “what breed is he?” question with “American Bull Terrier”

    She said, “Anyone stupid enough to think that sweet dog is going to hurt anything, is stupid enough to not know that an American Bull Terrier is a ‘pitbull.”

    It’s worked wonders.

  • This makes me sad, when I was a little kid we used to have an German Shepherd dog called Siggy, she was such a great and loving dogs and also great with us kids even though at times we would hassle her.

    But like you say it’s the owners responsibility, Siggy was a great dog because she was trained and looked after well by my mum.

  • I don’t think that it is right to ban any breed. After all, any dog has the potential to be aggressive and inflict bodily harm. It is every dog owner’s responsibility to see that this doesn’t happen.

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