Maggie is one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met. She wiggles her hips like a diva when she walks and wants constant attention. Yet Maggie, and many other dogs like her, are discriminated against because of one thing: She is a pit bull.
Breed-Specific Legislation, or BSL, is a set of laws adopted to act as a sort of cure-all for dog attacks. BSL affects many dog breeds: Rottweilers, bulldogs and German shepherds. More often than not though, pit bulls find themselves the most targeted with their ownership either heavily regulated or banned altogether.
This is due to old myths that still circulate, such as the rumor that pits have specialized locking jaws, or that they are naturally more aggressive due to their history. But these myths are just that—myths.
Unfortunately, as people know all too well, humans have a bad habit of hanging on to stereotypes. Thus, pit bulls find themselves victimized by BSL.
The main goal of BSL is to lessen or stop altogether, the frequency of dog bite cases. Instead of enacting laws to handle dogs on a case-by-case basis BSL tries to find a blanket solution by regulating and banning entire breeds.
This type of “solution” does not work. According to a position statement from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, “any dog may bite, regardless of the dog’s size or sex, or reported breed or a mix of breeds.”
Bites from larger dogs, like pits, are seen as more of a threat because they can do more damage thanks to their size. But smaller dogs have just as much tendency to bite and can even do a large amount of damage, especially if people consider that children are most likely to be bitten.
It is becoming common knowledge BSL policies, even if enacted for the good of the people, do not work.
The Netherlands repealed their pit bull ban in 2009 after it found it had little to no effect on the number of dog bites reported. It only took six years after Italy enacted its breed-specific policies for the Italian government to come to the same conclusion and repeal it.
Like humans, each dog is different, no matter its breed. Fido may lunge if someone so much as looks at him the wrong way, while his brother, Spot, would rather spend all day curled up in someone’s lap. Each dog must be treated on a case-by-case basis.
The best way to avoid dog attacks is to be a responsible dog owner. Train them well and work with them throughout their life, not just when they’re puppies. Always make sure to socialize them so they’re used to other dogs and animals.
Don’t forget to train family members too. Teach children from a young age that Lassie has boundaries just like they do, to treat her with respect and supervise puppy/baby playtime.
If we quit demonizing these wonderful dogs and take on the responsibility to fix the problem in an effective way, maybe someday soon BSL will be a thing of the past.