Cities throughout the United States with dog ordinances or those that ban certain types of dogs, primarily pit bull breeds, have fewer overall dog bites recorded, according to the website, DogsBite.org which warns the public about breeds it has labeled dangerous.
About 700 municipalities have reacted to the pit bull’s reputation by enacting restrictions on the breed, DogsBite asserts in a September 2015 report. (Pit bull advocates point out that a pit bull is not an actual breed but a generic term for a short-haired, muscular, mixed breed dog.)
According to a 2000 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) who researched 238 dog-related fatalities from 1979 to 1998, pit bulls or pit bull mixes killed 76 people, almost one-third of the total number. A more recent review of the study, however, raised doubts that breeds were reliably identified in data about the fatal attacks.
Examples of The Effects of Dog Ordinances
DogsBite.org reported the following effects of dog restrictions in various cities. Their sources (mostly newspaper stories) are listed after each posting of data.
The city of Ottumwa, Iowa has had no recorded pit bull attacks for several years after totally banning the dogs in 2003. In 2001 and 2002, the city’s police chief said there were 18 dog attacks including the death of a 21-month-old girl in August 2002. Three other attacks against children were reported in the year and a half before the ban became law.
Pawtucket, Rhode Island released statistical data showing a dramatic decline in dog attacks after adopting a pit bull ban in 2004. In 2000, there were 18 incidents involving attacks on people. From 2009 to 2012, there were two or fewer attacks each year with no attacks recorded in 2008, 2010, or 2012. In Council Bluffs, Iowa, which banned pit bulls in 2004, personal injuries from pit bulls fell from a high of 19 in 2005 to two in 2007 with no incidents in 2008 and 2009 in this city of more than 50,000 people.
A mandatory spay-neuter law was adopted in San Francisco, CA in 2013 after a 12-year-old boy was fatally mauled by his family’s dogs. There had been a pit bull law in the city since 2005. Since the new rules were enacted, there were 28 pit bull bites reported in three years versus 45 bites for the previous three years. In Aurora, CO, pit bull bites were reported down 73% since a pit bull ban was adopted in 2005.
DogsBite reported that attacks dropped dramatically in Springfield, MO since the city’s pit bull ban went into effect in 2006. In 2004 there were 13 vicious attacks and 18 in 2005. After the ban went into effect, there were eight attacks in 2007, none in 2008 and one each in 2009 and 2010 in this city with a population of more than 160,000. Omaha, Nebraska saw a 74% reduction in incidents after enacting a pit bull ordinance in 2008. The city recorded 121 attacks in 2008 and 31 in 2012.
In Sioux City, Iowa where a pit bull ban and vicious dog ordinances were enacted in 2008, vicious dog designations dropped from 33 in 2008 to 5 in 2014. There were 37 percent fewer dog bites in 2007 compared to 2013 in the populace of 82,000.
Lancaster, CA reported in 2010 that the 2009 mandatory spay and neuter law for rottweilers and pit bulls had very positive results. The mayor of the city said the city was overrun with gang members who routinely used pit bulls and other potentially vicious dogs “as tools of intimidation and violence.” Advocates say it’s a vicious cycle. Pit bulls attract owners who are likely to mistreat or neglect them. That treatment makes them aggressive, confirming a negative image of them.
In Salina, KS, the severity of bites has been way down with 24 reported in 2003 and only five since, with none in 2009 or 2010. The ordinance banning pit bulls there went into effect in 2004. Eighteen months after Saginaw MI cited five dangerous dog breeds in an ordinance—pit bulls, presa canarios, bull mastiffs, rottweilers and German shepherds—city officials reported a reduction in dog attacks. Dog attacks fell from 24 in 2009 to nine in 2011 when the law was enacted.
The Saginaw law is not breed specific, the dogs considered “dangerous” can change. Any dog that consistently appears in the top five listings of “most dangerous dogs,” as verified by data and records from Saginaw County, must be registered and conform to the rules for dangerous dogs.
Two Wisconsin cities—Antigo and Greenwood—and one village, Stratford, WI have had longstanding pit bull bans and report never having any problems with the canines. Antigo was proactive and passed its ordinance 20 years ago before any attack occurred rather than waiting to react afterward as many other cities have.
In October 2014, The Toronto Star, reported that a 2005 pit bull ban in Toronto, resulted in reported bites declining from 168 to 13. Portland, OR does not have an ordinance banning any dogs, but the subject was the topic of failed legislative proposals in 2009—one proposed requiring pit bull owners to carry $1 million in liability insurance. Portland officials have been tracking dog bites. According to The Oregonian/OregonLive from 2010 to 2014, investigation of 3,940 bite incidents in the city indicated 510 were attributed to pit bulls.
More than 100 bites were also reported for the following breeds: Labrador Retrievers (425); German Shepherds (278); Chihuahuas (231); Australian Shepherds (138); Australian Cattle Dogs (122); Rottweilers (117); Dachshunds (109) and Border Collies (106). The study did not indicate the severity of the bites.
In addition to the cities mentioned, DogsBite reported it had received information from Arkansas, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington concerning a reduction in dog bites after ordinances were passed.
Some Claim Bans Do Not Increase Public Safety
Pit bulls and seven other breeds were banned in Aurora, CO more than 10 years ago, but the number of total dog bites, including severe bites, did not decrease, according to the website, stopbsl.org. (BSL is breed specific legislation.) The bites had been primarily inflicted by non-banned dogs, the statistics showed. The data indicates that citizens of Aurora are no safer from dog bites today than they were before the breed ban was instituted and cites an Aurora City Council meeting report from June 27, 2008. (Meanwhile, DogsBite.org says the city had a “significant” (73%) reduction in incidents since 2005. DogsBite quotes a March 4, 2014 article in the Aurora Sentinel.)
In Denver, CO, a ban has been in place since 1989 and has been touted as a success by city officials. However, stopbsl claims the results of the ban are unclear. Although there have been no fatal attacks by a pit bull and fewer pit bull bites, dog bites by all types of dogs have declined and bites by other types of dogs exceed the number of pit bull bites. More tragically, thousands of dogs who look like pit bulls have been killed by animal control facilities for no other reason than their appearance, the website claims.
Prince George’s County, MD instituted a pit bull ban in 1996. In 2003, a task force urged that the ban be rescinded and non-breed specific dangerous dog laws be instituted in their place. The task force indicated dog bites had decreased among all breeds at the same rate and the ban did not appear to have had any noticeable effect on public safety. The ban remains in effect today.
Reports from Other Countries
Several foreign jurisdictions have also come out against banning specific breeds of dogs to increase public safety, according to stopbsl. In The Netherlands, the government is looking into behavior-based legislation as dog bites have continued to rise despite a 15-year ban on pit bulls and no indication public safety has been ensured by the ban.
In Aragon, Spain, nine breeds of dogs and “dogs possessing the characteristics” of those breeds were named in a Dangerous Animals Act passed in 2000. A scientific study analyzing dog bites reported to the Aragon Health Department that there was no significant difference in the number of dog bites in Spain before or after the Dangerous Animals Act passed. The study also found that the most popular breeds, not named in the legislation, were responsible for the most bites while the targeted breeds accounted for a very small portion of bites. The scientists concluded there was no rational basis for singling out certain dogs.
In the United Kingdom, the Dangerous Dog Act band the American Pit Bull Terrier and three other breeds and their crossbreeds. Yet reports indicate that dog bites requiring hospital treatment have not decreased in the country. In 1999, there were 4,328 bites requiring treatment in hospitals compared to 6,118 bites in 2011—an increase of 41%.
An overall drop in the number of dog bites over more than three decades has been reported in Minneapolis, MN (an 86% reduction), New York City (90% reduction) and Baltimore, MD (91% reduction), according to the National Canine Research Council. Only a small number (5 to 10%) of all reported dog bites have been classified as serious (requiring suturing, surgery or hospitalization) in the past forty years, according to the Council.
Instead of breed bans, opponents of BSL laws claim dog owners need to be responsible for their animals by humanely controlling them. They say dog owners and parents need to be educated about dog safety and the importance of supervising their young children when interacting with dogs.
“There is no evidence cities or counties that have enacted breed bans or restrictions have had a greater reduction in the number of reported bites when compared to cities or counties without breed bans or restrictions,” the Council claims.
The Portland newspaper, The Oregonian, pointed out that a study which found aggressiveness in dogs was rooted at least partially in genetics also found that pit bulls were not the most aggressive dogs toward humans. Instead, much smaller dogs were found to be more aggressive including Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Jack Russell terriers.
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