Breed-specific legislation


Breed-specific legislation

Breed-specific legislation (BSL), is any law, ordinance or policy which pertains to a specific dog breed or breeds, but does not affect any others. The term is most commonly used to refer to legal restrictions or prohibitions on the breeding and ownership of certain breeds.

Some examples of BSL:

*Australia:
**Restrictions prohibiting the importation of the Pit Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, the Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and the Brazilian Mastiff. There is also a more stringent ban in Sydney, restricting the sale, acquisition, breeding or giving away of any of the aforementioned breeds. [ From Sydney Morning Herald - http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Dangerous-dog-ban-met-with-delight-and-disgust/2005/05/03/1115092487393.html]
**Proposed legislation in some Australian states that would prohibit the breeding of any breed of dog not recognized by the Australian National Kennel Council, or restrict or prohibit breeding certain breeds.
**The requirement that Greyhounds wear muzzles in public in some Australian states.

*Britain:
**Restrictions on or the prohibition of ownership of American Pit Bull Terriers.
**The Dangerous Dogs Act legislatively drafted prohibitions for certain types of dogs; most notably pit-bull type dogs.

*Canada: Restrictions on the ownership and a prohibition on the breeding of "pit bull type" dogs (i.e. Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers or any other dog with a substantially similar appearance) in Ontario. [ [http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2007/2007canlii9231/2007canlii9231.pdf Catherine Cochrane v. Ontario Superior Court of Justice] ] [http://www.doglegislationcouncilcanada.org/dolafact.pdf Dog Legislation Council of Canada: The Dog Owners' Liability Act of Ontario, Information Sheet]

*Germany: legislation [ [http://www.germany.info/relaunch/info/consular_services/customs/dogs.html German Restrictions on Dangerous Dogs] ] banning the import of Pitbull Terriers, Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

*Israel: legislation against the breeding of AmStaff, Bull Terrier, dogo argentino, Tosa, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier, fila brasileiro, and Rottweiler.

*USA:
**Restrictions on or the prohibition of ownership of American Pit Bull Terriers in some municipalities.
**Restrictions on the availability of homeowners insurance for owners of many breeds, including American Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, Dobermanns, Akitas, in some areas [ [http://www.iii.org/media/hottopics/insurance/dogbite/ III - Dog Bite Liability ] ] .

Pros and cons

Proponents of BSL usually say protecting the public from dog breeds viewed as having 'inherent' tendencies to aggressive behavior will eliminate dog-human altercations. In general, much of the public believes that dangerous dogs must be of a certain breed, such as larger guardian breeds, or smaller terrier breeds--and much of those ideas stem from the media, including TV, newspapers, blogs, and online videos.

Some proponents believe that dogs such as the American Pitbull Terrier's jaw strength, or 'different' muscular ability, and the like--make it more potentially adverse to the public. However, the idea that a generic pitbull type dog has superior jaw strength is actually a complete myth. [http://www.happypitbull.com/myths.htm#10] http://www.canismajor.com/orgs/ovdo/pdf/tellings.pdf] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Pit_Bull_Terrier] Interestingly this myth was also supposedly true for Doberman Pinschers, but now it is no longer considered true for the Doberman. The musculature assertion is also false. Consider that while the American Pit Bull Terrier does well in weight pull competitions, it is by no means superior in that other breeds in the same weight classes have beaten these dogs.

Proponents point to specific studies done, particularly the Center for Disease Control (CDC) study. However,the CDC itself and the authors of this study note that the study does not support Breed Specific Legislation-- nor should the article be used to determine which dogs are inherently more dangerous.http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/dogbreeds.pdf] The reasoning behind this is due to the study itself lacking all the data on the dog breeds for every incident calculated. Without this information, the study is not useful for determining genuine statistical data, hence the authors' notation that it should not be used to determine which dogs are more dangerous.

On the other hand, where BSL has been implemented, there is often little proof that it actually produced the intended effect. Because such studies are rather long term and depend upon the accuracy of a myriad of subjective factors (such as accurately determining breed of dog, history of dog, previous owners of dog, previous treatment of dog, witness reliability, witness candor, witness credibility, police report deviations, hospital report hearsay,etc) many people tend to doubt their accuracy. Perhaps for this reason, many jurisdictions are attempting to draft laws which focus on inherently negligent owners of bad dogs. Recently, laws are being pushed for implementing mandatory spay/neuter ONLY for those breeds thought to be subjectively 'dangerous', such as the law in California (Senate Bill 861), codified under the dangerous dog laws. This law in effect gave all California jurisdictions the right to implement mandated altering by specific breed, locally. Proponents claim that such ordinances are working, while others doubt the efficacy of such claims. The law has not been widely used in California, but mandated altering of all dog/cats has been gaining speed. Opponents believe that many of the policies created by BSL have been randomly or illogically developed, and are often capriciously or inconsistently enforced. For example, although "Pit Bulls" are primarily the focus of BSL, they are not a recognized breed; 'pit bull' is a term applied to several different kinds of terriers, and there is no consensus on what a "Pit Bull" actually is. The term "Pit-Bull-Type-Dog" has been used to describe over ten very different breeds, including Bulldogs, Boxers,Chow chows and Bullmastiffs. Even unrelated breeds such as the Labrador retriever and Jack Russel terrier can be mistaken for "pit bulls" by some individuals. Additionally, Rottweilers, though having shown a virtually equal propensity for dog attacks, are rarely included in dog bans or BSL. German Shepherd Dogs, Husky-type dogs, Alaskan Malamutes and Mastiff-Type Dogs also frequently injure people, but do not experience the same scrutiny as Bull Breeds. [http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/dogbreeds.pdf Breeds of Dogs Involved In Fatal Attacks - Center for Disease Control] There is also the problem of mixed breed and cross breed dogs since it is often impossible to determine conclusively their breed(s).When the breed cannot be determined beyond a reasonable doubt, the courts of the United States have the burden of proving the breed, otherwise the criminal complaint is not proven and would be dropped. In some other countries, the people who own the dog must prove its breed, such as in England and parts of Canada.

Some believe an alternative to Breed Specific Legislation might be the consistent enforcement of existing dog laws. Others believe that offending dogs and people should be judged on a case by case basis, as dog attacks happen infrequently enough to warrant careful attention to each instance. Still others believe that larger or believed-to-be-aggressive dogs should not reside in urban areas.

Additionally, there may be some constitutional issues with Breed Specific Legislation. According to Federal Judge W. Daniel, of Denver Federal Court, Colorado, there must be evidence put forth to support the rational basis used in passing a breed specific ordinance, Judge writing in regard to the breed ban ordinance of Aurora, Colorado (May 28, 2008) [See FN below, quoting Judge Daniel] Since determining a dog's breed is extremely difficult in the cases of mixed breeds (which usually do not come with a pedigree of any sort) any law targeting a certain breed may be considered vague from a constitutional stand point and violate the dog owner's right to due process. However in many cases, the courts have indicated that vagueness in identifying breed is overcome by using dog registry standards, such as those used in the American Kennel Club. Although the point is debatable, most court cases tend to rely on the experts used at trial, so this makes a difference in which cases demonstrate certain rationales, which are often very heavily weighted politically.

It is not disputed that any dog can be dangerous in the right situation. For example a 4 pound pomeranian killed an infant. [ [http://archives.cnn.com/2000/US/10/09/pomeranian.kills.ap/ CNN.com - Small dog kills 6-week-old girl in California - October 9, 2000 ] ] As such, any law that targets one breed over another may possibly violate the right to equal protection, depending on what evidence was used to generate the law in question.

Breed specific legislation usually appears after a media broadcast involving a canine-human altercation. Because humans and dogs often have a very close bond, the spectacle of any dog altercation, or particularly a dog mauling, creates a very heavy emotional situation for many people, especially those with small children. Fear can cause many people to do extreme things in reaction, so it is not surprising that many families of dog bite victims might support breed specific laws. Yet because breed specific laws in general have not proven their efficacy, and because dogfighting itself has not been reduced by any measurable amount, breed specific laws are often somewhat disappointing to some. In other cases such as Denver, many people believe the breed ban has simply reduced the possibility of harm. In other words, if a canine cannot live in Denver, then the canine cannot likely harm one living there. Whether the killing of dogs that had never harmed anyone vs the possibility that a dog 'might' possibly harm someone--serves a legitimate and rational state interest? According to the Denver court, the answer was in the affirmative.

However, as stated previously, the Colorado Legislature itself, in 2004, outlawed breed specific legislation. This has prompted many dog owners to seek out redress for both dogs and owners of affected breeds. It remains to be seen whether the breed specific laws will continue, and whether the actual efficacy of having eliminated dog-human altercations was met. A common belief as to certain dog breeds is that certain dogs are linked to criminals. But others point out that it is the criminals that might appear to choose certain dogs that are singled out for the media. In any event, whether or not criminals were linked with dogs is irrelevant unless the dog attacked unprovoked. In that regard, it would seem that the breed of the dog was not relevant; if it did attack, it did. If not, what difference would breed make? It would not change the crime unless the people asserted the dog was used as a weapon, which has been done in California, much like the assertion that a car was used as a weapon.

"It is believed that more progressive type dangerous dog laws will contain breed neutral provisions that call for strict criminal penalties against errant dog owners, and that new laws may be drafted which will provide for mandatory compensation in regard to victim medical bills. Where no crime or fraud is involved, an errant dog owner may usually avoid liability generally by filing bankruptcy which is covered by Federal law across the United States. So where the dog owner is judgment proof,or there is no insurance involved, many attorneys do not take those cases because winning would not allow the victim nor attorney any compensation."

Recent developments (in USA)

Some cities are removing breed specific ordinances to expand the dangerous dog laws, and focus on the behavior of dogs; Colorado did this several years ago by prohibiting breed specific laws in regard to dangerous dog laws [Colorado Legislature H.B. 04-1279] in response to lobbying by American Canine Foundation and House Representative Debra Stafford. Cities are able to get around this prohibition by using Home Rule Authority in some cases, such as Denver. [ [Order in City and County of Denver v. State of Colorado, No. 04CV3756] ]

Many jurisdictions are seeking ways to devise dangerous dog laws which might provide not only criminal action against dangerous dog owners, but also contain provisions for assisting victims of dangerous dog altercations with mandatory medical assistance. How exactly this could be done through legislation has not been finalized. However, that has not stopped other jurisdictions from implementing breed specific laws (see infra, re Ohio and Kentucky.)

In the Ohio Supreme Court in 2007, the ASPCA (American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) filed an amicus brief in support of the Tellings v. Toledo decision, infra, in which it states:

"The trial court and the Sixth District agreed that the most current research indicates that dogs deemed to be pit bulls "are not more dangerous" than dogs of other breeds, so temperament cannot provide the rationale for the Ohio pit bull law and the other challenged statute, Toledo’s ordinance prohibiting ownership of more than one adult dog deemed to be a pit bull (T.M.C. §505.14(a)).

Surely, then, these laws regulating pit bulls as vicious dogs must have a positive impact on public safety, their touted purpose. However, this, too, is questionable: while in 1996, 14.6% of animal control agencies reported local problems with dogfighting,by 2004, the number of agencies reporting local problems with dogfighting had skyrocketed to 29%.

Further, Lucas County’s own data indicates a similar spiking in dog bite numbers (approximately 640 bites) in 2001 – more than a decade "after" the enactment of Ohio’s pit bull law and the Toledo ordinance.Given the absence of evidence to support the notion that dogs deemed to be pit bulls are more dangerous than other dogs and should be regulated on this basis, as well as the failure of the Ohio and Toledo pit bull laws to address canine aggression in any meaningful way, these laws appear to have only two outcomes:

(1) the unavoidably "arbitrary enforcement" of irrational policy, including the unreasonably disparate treatment of different classes of persons, and(2) the consequent grievous "harm to property and" liberty that flows from such wholesale compromise of procedural and substantive due process rights."

"(Amicus brief submitted on behalf of the Tellings case by ASPCA attorney Debora M. Bresch, "Pro Hac Vice", in the appeal of the Tellings case in the Ohio Supreme Court, November 28, 2006.) " The result in the Tellings case of Ohio shows the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision, see same site as above, [ [http://www.sco.net www.sco.net ] ] which can be viewed by searching for case no. 2006-0690 at Ohio Supreme Court's Public Case Inquiry. Proponents did submit an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, which is purely discretionary in review, and where few cases are chosen for hearing.

In May 2008, statewide breed specific legislation was proposed for Ohio by Tyrone K. Yates,House Representative, District 33, Cincinnati; however shortly thereafter, Mr. Yates withdrew the proposal and another Rep., Clyde Evans, representing District 87, said that the bill would definitely not pass. Cincinnati is specifically designating a task force to determine how responsible dog owners' dogs can be clearly noted so that police will notwaste time chasing after dogs that are not creating problems.

On the other hand, a small town in Kentucky (Worthington, KY) with a population of under 2,000, recently passed a breed specific ordinance naming American Straffordshire (sic) [meaning American Staffordshire Terrier] and Straffordshire Bull Terrier (sic) [meaning Staffordshire bull terrier] as "potentially vicious", along with Chow Chow and Rottweiler dogs. [ [X http://www.dailyindependent.com/local/local_story_162191243.html] It is believed that only one Rottweiler resides in the entire city, admittedly owned by a 78 year old gentleman Mr. James Rice, but council members wanted to "prevent" problems--just in case. Of note, the dog ordinance of Worthington, KY specifies:

"..in addition, no such animal may be kept in a house or structure when the windows or screen doors are the only obstacle preventing the dog from exiting the structure."
The same source has also opined on 06-04-08, that enforcing the existing animal control laws and holding dog owners responsible for actions of their pets is what should be done. [ [http://www.dailyindependent.com/editorials/local_story_155140250.html Daily Independent (Ashland, KY) - It's not the breed — 06/04/08 ] ] As for discussion regarding any anti-BSL groups, there are many of them. The Coalition of Human Advocates for K9's and Owners (CHAKO) filed a lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco to challenge its Pit Bull ordinance (Case cv-01887); in June 2008, CHAKO stipulated to dropping the suit after reaching an agreement with the city. The American Dog Owners Association (ADOA) has also been involved with dog-related cases. The American Canine Foundation (ACF)filed a federal case in 2006 re the breed ban in Aurora, Colorado (Case No.cv-1510)which is set for trial August 2008; according to the written statement by Judge Daniel of the Colorado Federal Court in Denver, Aurora did not submit any evidence which shows why the breed ban was needed, whereas in other cases, the cities outlined the evidence [ [Statments noted in Judge Daniels' ruling on motion for Summary Judgment filed by Aurora;Partial Summary Judgment denied, and issues of substantive due process, equal protection and the takings claim are trial issues; Judge's order,dated 05-28-08, pp 18-21, PACER] ] however you must be able to view the Federal PACER system to read the cases. See http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/(There is a per page fee to view documents.) For specific information regarding the political climate and breed specific legislation specifically, see http://www.dogpolitics.typepad.com, which gives information on breed specific topics, groups,debates,proposed laws.

See also

* Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
* Dog attack
* List of dog fighting breeds
* Wolfdog

References


*The Age, September 4, 2005, "Crackdown on dangerous dogs" [http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/crackdown-on-dangerous-dogs/2005/09/04/1125772395600.html]
*Adam Morton in The Age, September 5, 2005, "War on terrier given teeth as the law gets tough" [http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/war-on-terrier-given-teeth-as-the-law-gets-tough/2005/09/04/1125772409369.html]

External links

* [http://www.animallaw.info/articles/aruslweiss2001.htm Breed Specific Legislation in the United States. From the Animal Legal & Historical Center]
* [http://www.understand-a-bull.com www.understand-a-bull.com]
* [http://www.chako.org Chako]
* [http://www.napbta.com/bsl.html BSL Updates from National American Pit Bull Terrier Association]
* [http://www.bull911.com/ Bull 911]
* [http://www.pitbull-chat.com/forumdisplay.php?f=3 Breed Specific Legislation Updates]

* [http://www.doglegislationcouncilcanada.org/ Dog Legislation Council of Canada]
* [http://www.bannedaid.com/ Banned Aid]
* [http://www.staffordmall.com/bsl.htm TABS - Source for current local and national BSL laws]
* [http://www.iheartpaws.com/articles/50/1/BSL-Breed-Specific-Legislation-by-Kandy-F.html/ Breed Specific Legislation Information]
* [http://www.deednotbreed.org.uk Deed Not Breed UK Campaign against breed specific legislation]
* [http://www.defendingdog.com/ Defending Dog]
* [http://www.endangereddogs.com Endangered Dogs Defence & Rescue. Information, Education, Advice & Support for UK dog owners. Opposed to BSL.]
* [http://www.roverslaw.com/ Rover's Law - Megan's Law for Bad Dogs]


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