Dog Breed Legislation – The Breed Ban Laws

The issue of breed-banning has stirred quite the controversy over the last few years, with concerned citizens and dog owners fighting it out over which direction to take such litigation. Seattle has informally considered banning some dangerous breeds such as pitbulls, but has yet to address the issue formally due to lack of consensus among city councilmen. The question is whether breed-ban laws have any appreciable effect on the reduction of attacks against humans. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the answer is no. This organization relies on a 2003 study that addressed the effectiveness of a pit bull ban passed by Prince Georges County, Maryland. The ban forced the county to spend more than $ 250,000 each year to enforce the law. But the study concluded that “public safety is not improved as a result of [the ban]” and that “there is no transgression committed by owner or animal that is not covered another non-breed specific portion of the [County’s code] (e.g., vicious animal, nuisance animal, leash laws).” The study recommended that the breed-ban law be repealed.

ASPCA also points to a study by the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) which did not support breed specific legislation because of several problems associated with this type of law, including the inaccuracy of dog bite data and the difficulty of identifying dog breeds (especially mixed breeds). The CDC also was concerned that the breed ban laws would merely encourage irresponsible dog owners to turn to other breeds in an attempt to make the non-regulated breeds more aggressive and dangerous to human beings.

ASPCA also argues that breed-ban laws actually help to compromise rather than enhance public safety. ASPCA states that when scarce animal control resources are used to regulate specific breeds without regard to behavior the focus is shifted away from routine, effective enforcement of laws that have the best chance of making communities safer: license laws, leash laws, animal fighting laws, and laws that require all pet owners to control their dogs regardless of breeds.

On the other side of the debate is the newspaper publication Animal People, which writes that certain breeds are statistically much more responsible for attacks upon people (e.g., pit bulls and their mixes can account for nearly three-fourths of all attacks). It further asserts that the harm inflicted upon a human being by a dog may be irreparable and no amount of punishment can undo the damage. Thus, breed specific legislation can prevent the most gruesome and extreme injuries and attacks by prohibiting possession of those high-risk dogs that are more likely to cause them. The essence of breed specific laws, Animal People argues, is that they better protect public safety from dangerous dogs then by relying on the uncertain deterrent effect of punishment after-the-fact.

Central to the argument that certain breeds should be banned, according to Animal People, is that those uniquely dangerous breeds like pit bull mixes and Rottweilers often tend to attack without the series of warnings that most other dogs provide first, and then often inflict immediate and severe injuries, whereas most other breed-types will inflict disabling, disfiguring, or fatal injuries only in sustained attacks or pack attacks. Thus, the breed-specific law will help to prevent if not eliminate those types of severe attacks that often come without any advance warning. Essentially, with certain breeds Animal People argues that it is much better to be safe than sorry after a gruesome attack has occurred.