Should Pit Bulls Be Banned? AVSAB Gives Statement
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior releases their position statement on breed specific legislation.
Cari Jorgensen |
Posted: September 10, 2014, 11:00 a.m. PST
Neighborhoods always want to feel safer. Neighborhood watches are in place in a lot of communities and apartment complexes often have security. What’s become more prevalent is the communities’ desire to protect themselves against attacks and bites from what some believe are extremely dangerous culprits: dogs.
Many communities have placed bans on certain dog breeds by way of a solution. And I’m sure you’ve guessed what breed is usually banned before I even say it. Yes, the Pit Bull.
I have a pure bred Pit Bull named Roscoe. I know that Roscoe looks intimidating. He’s a big dog with a big head – it’s the first thing people comment on when they see him, even if they’ve seen him before. Strangers walk on the other side of the street when Roscoe is taken for walks, even though he’s on a leash. My first thought is always, "These people are crazy. He’s such a gentle dog.” And he is. He enjoys playing fetch with my nephews, and oftentimes I find him sneaking in the playroom to steal one of their balls. During one visit to the groomers, he laid himself down and waited patiently, even though other dogs were all around and a little girl petted his head. The only concern I’ve ever had with him is that he can easily knock one of the kids down (I don’t think he realizes how big he is and has tried to squeeze into small spaces as well as rush past without seeing how close he is to anything he passes).
That being said, if I didn’t know Roscoe, I too might be a little afraid of him, based on how he looks. But I don’t think that justifies banning an entire breed. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with the breed and more to do with how the dog is raised.
However, a dog is still a dog, and there is always a chance that he – no matter what breed he is, big or small – could bite someone. So is banning an entire breed an effective strategy to stop dog bites?
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) released a position statement that begins, "AVSAB is concerned about the propensity of various communities’ reliance on BSL [breed specific legislation] as a tool to decrease the risk of dog bites to humans…AVSAB’s position is that such legislation is ineffective.”
It’s a tragedy when someone is bitten by a dog, especially if that bite results in death. When determining their position, the AVSAB first asked if there were really a dog bite epidemic in America. A recent survey calculated America has 83.3 million dogs. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that there are roughly 4.5 million dog bites every year. Of those dog bites, most happen to children within families. The overall expert consensus is that the majority of those bites could have been prevented had the dogs been socialized with the children properly (my brother brought my nephews over to meet Roscoe when they were still infants) and there had been adult supervision (playtime with Roscoe is always carefully watched, just in case). Two percent of the 4.5 million dog bites resulted in a hospital stay. An average of 27 people in the U.S. died per year from a dog attack.
That number may seem like a lot, and of course we all want it to be lower. Two friends of mine, one who is afraid of Roscoe and one who is not, work in social services in two different states and primarily deal with children. What they have seen is far worse than that number. In 2010 alone, 1,500 children died from neglect and/or child abuse. The CDC reports that in that same year the U.S. saw more than 16,000 homicides. That’s an average of 125 child deaths and 1,333 homicides per month in that one year. Far more than the 27 deaths from dog attacks.
When there is a dog attack, it is almost a guarantee you’ll hear someone say "It must have been a Pit Bull.”
The CDC no longer tracks breeds when an attack is reported. Instead, they look at the individual dog and what led to the attack. So why is the Pit Bull still being blamed?
Because a lot of dogs resemble Pit Bulls, even if they have no trace of that breed in them. Recent genetic testing showed that dogs that looked like Pit Bulls were just Mixed Breed dogs. When pit bulls are banned from a community through BSL, there is the chance that any dog that looks like one can be taken away and maybe even euthanized, even if he hasn’t done anything wrong.
I can’t imagine Roscoe being taken away and euthanized just because he’s a Pit Bull.
Neither can the AVSAB. They report that Italy and the Dutch government repealed their bans on Pit Bulls, reporting that the ban was ineffective and that it was better to focus on responsible ownership. In Denver, Colo., pit bulls have been banned since 1989; instead of seeing fewer dog bites, the rate has increased. In Canada the ban was proven ineffective and focus was placed on public education and owner responsibility. This resulted in a 50% decrease in reported dog aggression cases in Calgary.
Getting rid of the dog does not get rid of the problem. Whatever the issues are that lead to dog aggression should be the focus. Maybe solving those issues will result in fewer attacks and bites.
The ASVAB’s BSL position statement is available for download if you wish to read it in its entirety.
What is your opinion on dog attacks and breed bans? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook and Twitter pages, using the hashtags #dogbreedbans and #dogfancy.
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