I am a moderate in so many ways, but sometimes moderation needs to be practiced in moderation (thank you Julia Childs). On the topic of BSL I do have a very clear opinion.

Every once in awhile BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) rears it’s ugly head here in Montana. Lawmakers try to enforce BSL after attacks have occurred by a particular breed in a community. Most of the time it is a knee jerk reaction that enables lawmakers to create an illusion that they are addressing the problem. However, BSL is far from effective and it creates fear and bias towards certain dog breeds based on, well fill in the blank, because I am not sure anyone knows, but the majority of the time it is simply based on appearance. It has nothing to do with temperament or the quality of ownership. Hmmmmm does this sound familiar? just sayin’…

I was chatting with a client the other day about his neighbors dog, a Golden Retriever mix, that is turned loose in the neighborhood quite often, and oh by the way killed 47 chickens during a morning outing. How many of you read about this in the paper? Zero would be my guess. Golden Retrievers killing anything rarely make head lines.

Ever read about the Australian Shepherds (plural) that chase bikers and bite their calves? Hmmm curious isn’t it. I can name about 15 personally that have police records for doing this, but I haven’t seen it make the head lines. Or the border collie herding children into the corner of the yard and not letting them move? The cute Cocker who repeatedly bites children in the face, ever seen those headlines? Or the sight hounds that have eradicated all of the cats from the neighborhood? Why aren’t these making head lines? Pretty big acts in my opinion.

Now in Anaconda, a stellar dog owner let his two Pit Bulls out to roam the neighborhood, they killed 7 chickens. The dogs were euthanized. Another grand dog owner in Butte let his Pit out for the day, this dog bit a child, and the dog was euthanized.

Seriously, please hold up your hand if you see a problem with this bias. As I sit here and write this I hope you are all seeing that it truly isn’t the dog, it is the owner and personal responsibility and accountability, or the lack there of.

So this is the absolutely insane proposed ordinance that popped up in the Butte Silver Bow County –

Among other provisions, the requested ordinance would require “pit bulls” over the age of six months to be muzzled in public and would require owners to provide proof of public liability insurance of not less than $100,000.

“Pit bull” would be defined as “any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentina, Presa Canario, Cane Corso, American Bulldog or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more the above breeds (more so than any other breed), or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of the above breeds.”

Dogs that look a particular way would need to be muzzled. This is not based on temperament, not based on owners level of management or structure, but simply by the way a dog looks. It has been proven time and time again that BSL is not effective, because it does nothing to educate breeders, educate owners, step up enforcement with existing ordinances, it simply creates fear and bias. And the bottom line, it is irresponsible dog owners that are causing this problem, not the dogs.

There are a wide variety of statistics that you can find on line, these are from 2009, just to give you an idea of why fear based hysteria and bias towards a breed does not hold water, in any conversation.
•    23 million dog bites in the US and Canada
•    71% were children
•    more than half of the bites were in the facial area (giving hugs, crawling up to a sleeping dog)
•    more than 85% were family owned dogs or known dogs to the family
•    Management could have made most of these bite cases avoidable
•    32 deaths by dogs (extremely rare if you consider the amount of biting going on) 30 of these in the SE US in impoverished communities with high rates of illiteracy. Most of the dogs were ‘resident dogs’ (tied in yard and not pets), children left unattended, parents sleeping … Breeds involved were varied: pit bulls, huskies, GSD, mixes, groups of feral mixes, hound crosses
Management by owners, knowledge of the breed, and accountability for actions are so important I cannot mention it enough. Regardless of the breed of the dog, it is known that the risk of dangerous dog attacks is increased by human actions and/or inaction’s.

Are all breeds for every dog owner? I don’t think so. Are all dogs nice? No way, I have met a few in my professional career that were just stinkers, it’s rare, but I have crossed that path. Not all dogs come with a stable temperament, not all dogs can handle all situations. It’s up to the owner to learn this through building a relationship and knowing where a dog can be successful, and where they are not and to have good management skills.

Some disagree – ” I agree with the proposed legislation.  There are many places that prohibit Pit Bulls from rental units and even towns, and it’s for a good reason.  They are bred to fight, and fight to the death.  Even though they may be wonderful pets for their owners, they can’t be trusted with other people, other dogs, and children.  I think it’s dangerous to think they can – too many injuries and deaths from them. Sorry, I’m a dog lover, but I’ve read and heard too much to trust Pit Bulls.”

I don’t feel BSL is effective on an even deeper level. The responsibility of enforcing BSL falls to animal control and shelters, systems that are already understaffed, under-funded and overwhelmed. In Bozeman we have two Animal Control Officers. Stereotypes are enforced and legislatively encouraged (so wrong).  Fear and lack of awareness/education is promoted as breeds are blamed for actions that result from human decisions.

There are several measures that can be carried out to prevent BSL, but again it all stems from the human end, not the dog end.

  1. Leash laws – I know Bozeman seems like off leash anarchy, but the more that everyone uses their leashes in town, the more others will feel obligated to do so. And besides being a safety issue, it shows you are respectful of others space
  2. Have non-breed specific dangerous owner/dog ordinances (and enforce them) – All dog owners must be held accountable for their dogs’ actions, regardless of breed, including Cockers, Goldens, Border Collies, Labradors
  3.  We need better laws that are enforceable for breeders – registering breeders, temperament testing breeding stock, registering litters. Many countries in Europe have this system, and the fines are huge to those that feel they do not need to comply. Dangerous dogs can then be traced back to the breeding facility, and unstable lines are taken out of the breeding pool.
  4.  Animal education through community talks/lectures. The more you know the better you can do
  5. Stop dog fighting – this is a tough one. Again it’s the people involved in creating, nurturing, and continuing this culture. Fines and jail time should be so great as to deter people from participating

Cheers, Nancy

originally posted 6.3.2011

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Robin says:

    You know my opinion on BSL I think. I love your idea of ordinances on designating owners as dangerous owners. Ithink it should be so that no matter what dog they have that the humans are the ones branded. I think they should lose their animals for their lack of responsibility and the animals are given a second chance.

    Education of the little ones is key. If we can teach the next generation and re-educate the adults, even one at a time, the word gets spread.


    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Robin,
      yes I can guess your stand on this. Your heart is grand when it comes to dog and animal rights. I do believe that law makers need to be more in touch with the animal community before they make knee jerk reactions. BSL is like nothing different than what segregation was in the south. There needs to be understanding, but there also needs to be education to the owners, and consequences to owners who don’t get it, or choose to live irresponsibly!

  2. Jenn Michaelis says:

    my first dog was 15 and still hiking in the mountains with us when she was killed by, NOT a pit bull but a husky-gsd mix. the authority said there was nothing they could do as it was technically an off leash area. somehow I doubt that would of been their response if it was a you-know-what. punish the deed and not the breed!!!! owners need to be held more responsible for the things their dogs do, and authorities should be more concerned about enforcing penalties for transgressions rather than chasing down every pit bull. making breeders responsible would solve more than just pitbull issues!!!!

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