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Breed Specific Legislation

By March 2, 2016 June 16th, 2016 No Comments

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U.S. Communities Increasingly Ditch Pit Bull Bans

Taken from an article by Aamer Madhani in USA TODAY

Three decades after officials in more than 700 cities throughout the country began passing bans and other restrictions to keep pit bulls out of their communities… state, and local governments are increasingly reconsidering their approach to what, not so long ago, was America’s most vilified pet.

pit-bull-hugging-ownerSince June of 2014 at least nine communities in the Midwest have overturned pit bull bans that were on the books. Over the past two years more than 100 municipalities across the USA have overturned bans and other restrictions that target dogs in the pit bull family, a generic term commonly used to describe the American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier and many mixed-breed dogs with square shaped heads and bulky builds. More communities could soon follow suit.

The unified government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas is about to lift a ban that has been on the books for nearly a quarter-century, as part of a comprehensive overhaul of its animal control policies.  The nearby community of Bonner Springs announced it too was lifting the ban.

Advocates argue the bans have been ineffective in reducing dog bites and led to millions of dogs being euthanized. They say too often animal control officials, law enforcement and the media misidentify offending dogs as pit bulls.

166f1650f5624c5abbf34e7a847ec621There has been action on the statewide level, as well. South Dakota and Utah joined 17 other states in passing laws to prevent local government passing “breed-specific legislation” or BSL, making it illegal for cities to pass bans targeting pit bulls or any other breed. Breed-specific legislation began spreading in communities throughout the country in the mid-1980’s after a surge in fatal dog bites, including a disproportionate number of incidents initially attributed to pit bull-type dogs.

Screen shot 2013-08-21 at 11.38.09 AMSome groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the US and the American Bar Association have suggested governments would be better off focusing attention on problem animals in a community, rather than banning any particular breed. The push to end pit bull bans got a boost from the Obama administration – in response to opponents of such laws petitioning the White House – said it was opposed to breed-specific legislation.

The National Canine Research Council points to a recent study that suggests a dog’s environment has more to do than its breed with the likelihood of a dog making a deadly attack. The Council states that it is becoming more and more obvious that such legislation does not improve safety. Its purpose was to reduce injuries from dog bites, but there is no municipality or state where such a ban has been able to show that it has accomplished this. Even the Center for Disease Control notes that fatal attacks represent a tiny fraction of about 4.7 million dog bites Americans suffer annually and that it is difficult to accurately calculate bite rates for specific breeds. They too are opposed to BSL.

In Miami-Dade County, Florida, the ban still exists.

Sharon Thomas
Executive Director
Animal Welfare League