Six States Consider Rejecting Breed-Specific Legislation
There may be good news ahead for the pit bull, and those who resemble a pit bull breed of dog, as six more states in the USA, are considering rejecting breed-specific legislation.
Breed-specific legislation, commonly known as “BSL,” is a law passed by a legislative body that bans breeding, possession, or ownership of specific breeds of domestic dogs. Some jurisdictions have enacted breed-specific legislation in response to well-publicized incidents where certain breeds – predominately pit bull-type dogs – have viciously attacked, maimed, and killed humans, or their animal companions. Some of these dogs, are also known to be used in dog fighting, The United States Army, and the Marine Corps. In response, some state-level governments in the United States have prohibited, or restricted the ability of municipal governments within those states to enact breed-specific legislation.
The American Bar Association, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many animal rescue groups, and even American President Barack Obama, are opposed to BSL legislation. In a response to an anti-BSL online petition, signed by more than 30,000 people, the White House delivered an official response saying “Breed-Specific Legislation Is a Bad Idea.” The White House “does not support breed-specific legislation — research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources…As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think that’s a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners.”
Lisa Lafontaine, who is president of the Washington Humane Society, and a longtime opponent of breed-specific legislation told The Huffington Post, that she thinks this statement will provide a big boost. “The White House is such a bully pulpit for important issues,” she says. “[C]ertainly for them to come down against this type of discrimination I think will give pause to any communities that are thinking about putting something like this in place, and certainly will fuel the work that’s already being done by advocates to overturn legislation that already exists.”
Kristen Auerbach, spokesperson for the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, in Northern Virginia, says that even though her jurisdiction does not have breed restrictions, “people have heard the stories about beloved family dogs being taken from their owners in places where there are full bans on pit bulls. That is every dog owner’s worst nightmare,” she said. “People don’t want to risk it.” By banning BSL laws, people can adopt a pit-bull, without fear of their family member being taken away. “BSL not only impacts people in Maryland, but contributes to the overall perception of pit bulls as different, which inevitably works its way into the public conscience and effects adoptions, shelter policies, and even other public policy,” she said.
A recent national survey commissioned by Luntz Global, of the Best Friends Animal Society reveals that “84 percent of those polled believe that local, state or federal governments should not infringe on a person’s right to own whatever breed of dog they choose.” Global says, that the result of the survey “is consistent with a growing trend by many state and local governments that have repealed breed discriminatory provisions and enacted behavior-based, breed-neutral dangerous dog laws. Of the 850 polled, 59 percent were dog owners. Only four percent of those polled believed the federal government should dictate what breed of dog a person could own, while six percent supported state government restrictions and 11 percent local government limits.”
Supporting the survey is the fact that 17 states have passed laws that prohibit cities and counties from banning or restricting dogs because of breed. Global says that “Even the American Bar Association passed a Resolution 100 in August, 2012 calling for all political subdivisions to repeal breed discriminatory provisions.
At the moment it is predominately the pit bull, and pit bull types of dogs that are at risk of being banned as a result of breed-specific legislation, but where will it end? If this kind of legislation can be enacted against one breed, what is preventing it being enforced on other breeds as well. It is time the courts judged the caretaker’s lack of responsibility towards these dogs, rather than blame the dogs, and sentence them to death row.
Seventeen states have already passed laws that prevent municipalities from discriminating against dog specific breeds. The six states now considering similar prohibitions on breed-specific legislation, are Maryland, Vermont, South Dakota, Missouri, Utah, and Washington state.
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