Breed specific legislation or BSL for short, is on the rise around the world. BSL targets specific breeds of canine and either (A) restricts them severely or (B) completely bans them from areas.
Countries like Germany, Australia, England, and France have bans on the American Pit Bull Terrier and the ones that were already living in the country are restricted.
Usually the law states the dogs must be muzzled and on a very short 12 inch leash when out in public.
BSL is very much alive in the United States and the APBT is the number one target for such laws.
Expensive insurance is also required in many of the cities were BSL as been accepted. Sometimes it can be as high as $200,000 per dog. Hundreds of cities, towns, and states are implementing BSL.
Proponents of these laws cite a number of reasons for supporting breed-specific regulations. For example, Peg Jordan, an Oakland, California resident, was mauled by a dog recently, and spent several days in the hospital with more surgery in the future.9 Although she owns two German Shepherd Dogs, which are members of a breed that has been tagged “dangerous” by some, she argues that dog owners rationalize their dogs’ conduct, and that she is fed up with dog owners who intend their dogs to be “fuzzy guns.”10
In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a legislative committee is considering a bill that would allow Broward County locales to ban specific breeds of dogs from public areas.11 The Fort Lauderdale community has become concerned about “intimidating pit bulls” on the beachfront which are “scaring ‘family’ tourists.” A state representative told committee members that in 1999, Broward County was the site of 115 pit bull dog bites. The bill’s proponents view the legislation as a means for reducing the pit bull threat, while the opponents state that the law would be unenforceable and unfair . . . [and that] the bill doesn’t limit the types of breeds that could be restricted.”12
As of July, 2000, thirty-eight states had enacted BSL on a statewide level or in certain municipalities, or were considering BSL on one of those levels.27 Some examples of currently active breed-specific municipal ordinances:
(1) Denver, Colorado has prohibited “any person to own, possess, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor, transport, or sell within the city any pit bull.”28 The ordinance defines “pit bull” as “any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one (1) or more of the above breeds, 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.”29
(2) Waterford Charter Township, Michigan has prohibited any prospective “possession, maintenance, and harboring” of any “pit bull terriers,” and justifies the prohibition by stating that “the township has further concluded that it is in the interest of public health, safety and welfare that the presence of pit bull terriers be limited in this community to only those existing licensed pit bull terrier dogs in order that the threat of this breed will eventually be removed from this community.”30
(3) Des Moines, Iowa defines “vicious dog” to include the American Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Pit Bull Terrier, and imposes stringent confinement, licensure, and control requirements (including provisions for animal seizure and disposal) upon any animals deemed “vicious” under the ordinance.31
(4) North Little Rock, Arkansas has restricted ownership of Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, or Bull Terriers or mixes thereof by implementing a breed-specific licensure fee of $500.00 – far more than license fees for other breeds.32
Argument in support of breed bans
There is a large group that says, “ban pit bulls and their closely related breeds.” This group of advocates is diverse and respected, and it even includes Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). They see the pit bull as overly dangerous and overly abused by mankind. The danger of pit bulls and Rottweilers is well established, in that they account for 75% of all reported canine-inflicted human deaths in the past two decades. It is undisputed that pit bulls in particular are the most abused dog in the USA; created for the specific purpose of violence, the dogs are treated cruelly to make them as dangerous as possible, and are routinely abandoned when they are not vicious enough for their evil masters.
There are two articles that present very well the argument in support of breed bans. The first is by an attorney who won the famous Denver breed ban case. The City of Denver passed a breed ban against pit bulls which the State of Colorado attempted to overturn. The State lost in court because the City produced the evidence that pit bulls are more dangerous than other dogs. The story of that case, and a review of that evidence, is contained in Nelson K. One City’s Experience – Why Pit Bulls Are More Dangerous and Breed-Specific Legislation is Justified. Muni Lawyer, July/August 2005, Vol. 46, No. 4.
The second is an article that considered the problem from a humane standpoint. The following rationale for banning pit bulls appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 8, 2005. It was written by Ingrid Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the author of “Making Kind Choices” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2005).
Controlling an animal as deadly as a weapon
— Ingrid Newkirk
Most people have no idea that at many animal shelters across the country, any pit bull that comes through the front door doesn’t go out the back door alive. From California to New York, many shelters have enacted policies requiring the automatic destruction of the huge and ever-growing number of “pits” they encounter. This news shocks and outrages the compassionate dog-lover.
Here’s another shocker: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the very organization that is trying to get you to denounce the killing of chickens for the table, foxes for fur or frogs for dissection, supports the shelters’ pit-bull policy, albeit with reluctance. We further encourage a ban on breeding pit bulls.
The pit bull’s ancestor, the Staffordshire terrier, is a human concoction, bred in my native England, I’m ashamed to say, as a weapon. These dogs were designed specifically to fight other animals and kill them, for sport. Hence the barrel chest, the thick hammer-like head, the strong jaws, the perseverance and the stamina. Pits can take down a bull weighing in at over a thousand pounds, so a human being a tenth of that weight can easily be seriously hurt or killed.
Pit bulls are perhaps the most abused dogs on the planet. These days, they are kept for protection by almost every drug dealer and pimp in every major city and beyond. You can drive into any depressed area and see them being used as cheap burglar alarms, wearing heavy logging chains around their necks (they easily break regular collars and harnesses), attached to a stake or metal drum or rundown doghouse without a floor and with holes in the roof. Bored juveniles sic them on cats, neighbors’ small dogs and even children.
In the PETA office, we have a file drawer chock-full of accounts of attacks in which these ill-treated dogs with names like “Murder” and “Homicide” have torn the faces and fingers off infants and even police officers trying to serve warrants. Before I co-founded PETA, I served as the chief of animal-disease control and director of the animal shelter in the District of Columbia for many years. Over and over again, I waded into ugly situations and pulled pit bulls from people who beat and starved them, or chained them to metal drums as “guard” dogs, or trained them to attack people and other animals. It is this abuse, and the tragedy that comes from it, that motivates me.
Those who argue against a breeding ban and the shelter euthanasia policy for pit bulls are naive, as shown by the horrifying death of Nicholas Faibish, the San Francisco 12-year-old who was mauled by his family’s pit bulls.
Tales like this abound. I have scars on my leg and arm from my own encounter with a pit. Many are loving and will kiss on sight, but many are unpredictable. An unpredictable Chihuahua is one thing, an unpredictable pit another.
People who genuinely care about dogs won’t be affected by a ban on pit- bull breeding. They can go to the shelter and save one of the countless other breeds and lovable mutts sitting on death row. We can only stop killing pits if we stop creating new ones. Legislators, please take note.