breed specific dog laws

Do you think it’s important for your local authorities to protect its citizens from dog attacks? What if that meant you had to hand over your own family pet to be euthanized?

In the past, there has been an increase in dog attacks from Pit Bull type dogs. In answer to this, some local and state legislators have passed Breed-Specific Legislation, or BSL, to ban and/or impose strict regulations on Pit Bull type dogs. Legislators can see from the statistics that Pit Bulls do have more bites than other breeds and this bill was enacted for public safety. But more importantly, they want to avoid that first attack since some of the bites can be severe.

For example, there were 295 deaths caused by Pit Bulls as opposed to 85 from Rottweilers and 15 from German Shepards between 1982 and 2014 in US and Canada. But is this type of ban the most effective way to approach the issue? Many cities are now reversing this legislation. Cities in Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Louisiana have repealed BSL laws in 2014.

What Dogs Are Included in This Ban?

Pit Bull is a blanket term including the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and sometimes even the American Bulldog. In cities offering restrictions, if someone already owns a Pit Bull when a ban goes into effect, some of some city requirements are; that you have a six foot privacy fence, the dog must be registered as an aggressive dog with the city (an extra fee applies of course), the dog must be muzzled and leashed at all times when outside of your property, and the owner must carry an aggressive dog policy on their homeowner’s insurance. Other cities force owners to turn over the dog for euthanasia or they have to move to another city to keep their pet. While this mainly is to target areas where there is a large Pit Bull population that are not responsibly taken care of and controlled, this law also affects law-abiding citizens who take good care of their companion animals.

How Reliable Is The Data?

A considerable amount of the dog bite data is inaccurate. Data is received about which dog breeds have bites out of a certain population and how many dogs are in that base population. There has been much controversy about the accuracy of base population statistics. Dog owners are required to have county dog licenses in Ohio, but there are many dog owners who do not purchase the licenses and this law is rarely enforced. Another reason is if the bite isn’t serious enough for the injured person to go to the hospital, it might not be reported at all.

The biggest factor of inaccuracy is misidentifying the breed. Most people, including police and dog wardens, do not always accurately identify the breed in question. There are also many mixed breeds now. How are they to be identified? And there is no way to discern which part of a mixed breed caused the dog to bite.

In Lakewood, Ohio on July 2009 the police were called out for a loose dog in the neighborhood. The police decided the dog was Pit Bull and acting aggressively. The police tasered the dog twice and took it to the pound. After reviewing the video, the volunteers from Lighthouse Boxer Rescue stepped in. They thought the dog was exhibiting fearful behavior instead of aggressive and was in fact, a Boxer. The city would not release the dog even after it was proven to be a Boxer and the dog had not bit or attacked anyone. The city said they only way they would release the dog was if it did not stay in the city. Lighthouse Boxer Rescue provided care of the dog until the owner could move to a different city to save his dog.

In addition, when documenting bites, owner related factors are not taken into consideration. It isn’t just a large number of Pit Bulls randomly attacking people just because they are aggressive. Some research even shows that, “The negligence of human guardians was a higher risk factor than the breed of dog.”

Pit Bull Temperament

Pit Bulls of the past may have shown some aggression towards other animals but they did not commonly show aggression towards humans. Pit Bulls are very powerful dogs that are very loyal but they need one to two hours a day of exercise or they can become very frustrated with pent up energy. They do well with having a job to preform and have been used often as police and military dogs, seeing-eye dogs and even therapy dogs. After Pit bulls became popular for fighting dogs, there were some who over bred the dogs they had. They did not follow breed lineage and good health as a respectable and dedicated breeder would. The result is an overabundance of Pit Bull mixes with no way to precisely determine proper breed lines without a DNA test.

One person in Lakewood, Ohio was accused of owning a Pit Bull and after DNA testing the dog was confirmed to be Boxer and Glenn of Imaal Terrier. The dog did not look like either of the breeds.

It is agreed that some dogs may be genetically more aggressive, and owners can contribute to make this more pronounced “…but it is ultimately the owner who controls whether a dog is put in a situation where it might pose a threat to a human. Owners manage their dogs responsibly so they are not capable of hurting people.” (PitBullNakedTruth) It cannot be solely contributed to genetics or there would be no dog competitions. “Certainly these dogs could be safe to be owned if properly trained and taken care of responsibly, when they are not is when the potential for injury and bites increase.”

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Factors Contributing to Dog Bites

There are numerous contributing factors to why dogs show aggression and bite; heredity, early experience, socialization, lack of training, lack of proper exercise, breeding for elevated aggression, and reproductive status. For instance, “intact males constitute 80 percent of all dogs presented to veterinary behaviorists for what formerly has been described as dominance aggression, are involved in 70 to 76 percent of reported dog bite incidents, and are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs.”

Off leash – there are leash laws in Ohio. While occasionally there is a dog that escapes accidently, there are many people who let their dogs roam. Roaming dogs can join with other roaming dogs forming a pack. Roaming dogs in a pack can create a very dangerous situation.

Parents that leave kids with dogs unattended or unsupervised constitutes another contributor. A surprising amount of parents let small children crawl over and pull at their dogs. It is never a good idea to let your child do this to your family dog. Teaching children respect for animals while they are young can protect them in the future.
Chaining and tethering are common causes for bites. A chained dog becomes highly territorial and isolated. Children who wander over to a chained dog are increasing the potential for an attack. Dogs Deserve Better is a national group that advocates getting dogs off chains and educated the public on how harmful this practice really is to dogs. Recently Akron, Ohio limits the amount of time dogs can be tethered in their yards. The ASPCA notes, “And programs that target tethering have proven effective in reducing bite rates”

Cities are spending so much money and resources on BSL that could be used to enforce and enhance existing laws. A different approach could be more beneficial. The ASPCA advocates a breed-neutral approach that has already proven to have positive effects. Some of their recommendations are:

• Enhanced enforcement of dog license laws
• Increased availability to low-cost sterilization (spay/neuter) services
Dangerous dog laws that are breed-neutral and focus on the behavior of the individual guardian and dog
• Graduated penalties and options for dogs deemed dangerous
• Laws that hold dog guardians financially accountable for failure to adhere to animal control laws
• Laws that hold dog guardians civilly and criminally liable for unjustified injuries or damage caused by their dogs
• Laws that prohibit chaining, tethering and unreasonable confinement, coupled with enhanced enforcement of animal cruelty and animal fighting laws
• Community-based approaches to resolving reckless guardian/dangerous dog questions that encompass all stakeholders, available dog bite data and recommended realistic and enforceable policies and harsher penalties for dog fighting would no doubt make a big impact.

In Multnomah County, Oregon, a breed-neutral ordinance imposing graduated penalties on dogs and guardians according to the seriousness of the dog’s behavior has reduced repeat injurious bites from 25 percent to seven percent (ASPCA 2) In Winnipeg, Canada, they are touting a decrease in Pit Bull bites after their all out ban, but then the Rottweiler bites skyrocketed. Irresponsible owners aren’t the ones following the rules of the ban. As suspected, the people not properly taking care of their dog just get a different breed. Finally after all the statistics were in, Winnipeg eliminated breed specific and focused on just dangerous and vicious and then all dog bites declined.

Hundreds of Pit bulls are euthanized every day in the US. Although some of them are aggressive, many are really good dogs that get lumped in with the bad and killed. It’s not fair to discriminate solely based on breed. From the notorious Michael Vick dog-fighting bust, all but one of the rescued dogs were able to be rehabilitated and rehomed. Focusing just on Pit Bulls can also take away from finding homes for the other great dogs. In 2015 a Political Action Committee has been formed to repeal BSL in Ohio and even the CDC has taken a stance against BSL. There is a need for laws to protect citizens. However, laws can change and evolve to best benefit both public safety and our pets.

The Help That’s Needed When a Dog Bites

If you, a friend or family member has been attacked and bitten by a dog, please call us for a free consultation with one of our experienced Ohio dog bite lawyers. A free consultation with us is just that – free. There are no costs whatsoever and you will be under no obligation to hire our law firm. Our free consultation also come with no time limits. You can ask as many questions as you like.

To schedule a free consultation, contact us at any time by calling 1-888-998-9101, chatting with one of our 24-hour live chat representatives or sending us a website message.

Works Cited:
“Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) – Pit Bull Truth.” Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) – Pit Bull Truth. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2016.
“Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) Should Be Banned.” Debate Argument:. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2016.
“Breed-Specific Legislation.” ASPCA. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2016.
“Dog Attack Deaths and Maimings, U.S. & Canada – By Merritt Clifton.” N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2016.
“Position Statement on Breed-Specific Legislation.” ASPCA. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2016.
“Stop BSL.” Stop BSL. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2016.
“The CDC Report.” The CDC Report. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2016.

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