Six More States May Outlaw Breed-Specific Legislation, Making Everything Better For Pit Bulls

Main Entry ImageHuffington Post – Arin Greenwood 

Nanny dogs, meet the nanny state. Now keep apart, you two.

Six states are considering bills that would put an end to laws restricting dog ownership by breed. Called “breed-specific legislation” — or BSL — these laws most often target pit bull type dogs (which are said to have been called “nanny dogs”), often forcing people to choose between their pets and their homes. And most Americans think they’re bad laws. Bad laws!  

Opposition to BSL comes from sources as diverse as the American Bar Association, animal rescue groups, the Center for Disease Control and even President Barack Obama, who said in August that the laws are largely ineffective while doing nothing to improve public safety, and are often a “waste of public resources.”

In addition, a recent poll conducted on behalf of the rescue group Best Friends Animal Society found that a big majority in the United States don’t want the government deciding which breeds of dogs we may and may not keep as pets:

A new national survey commissioned by 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.This survey, conducted by Luntz Global, is consistent with a growing trend by many state and local governments that have repealed breed discriminatory provisions and enacted behavior-based, breed-neutral dangerous dog laws.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.

Seventeen states have already passed laws that stop localities from discriminating against dogs by breed. The six now considering similar prohibitions are Maryland,VermontSouth DakotaMissouriUtah and Washington state.

“Today was a good day for dogs,” Ledy VanKavage, an attorney with Best Friends, told HuffPost just after the South Dakota Senate’s Local Government Committee met to consider its bill about a week ago. “We have 17 states that outlaw it now. We think every state should have it.”

VanKavage said that states are becoming more amenable to passing these prohibitions for a combination of reasons. “People view dogs as members of their family. And more and more cities are getting sued. If a city tried to take my dog simply because of its breed, I’d lawyer up in a minute,” she said. “In America, responsible dog owners should be able to have whatever breed of dog they choose.”

Plus, VanKavage added, “The scientific studies show it doesn’t work.”

Indeed. In December, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published a study looking at the factors at play in fatal dog attacks. Studying 256 dog bite fatalities from 2000-2009, the contributing factors were found to include the failure of an able-bodied person to intervene in the attack and the dog being abused by its owner. Breed was not deemed to be a significant contributing factor; the researchers found, moreover, that breed could not even be reliably determined in most of the cases.

Best Friends also emphasizes the cost of enforcing anti-pit bull bans; the group commissioned an economist to put together a tool that calculates the costs by city. And here’s a sample calculation: In Baltimore, there’s an estimated 151,105 dogs, of which 10,918 are assumed pit bull type dogs. The costs associated with enforcing laws against pit bull ownership would be $992,606 per year.

Kristen Auerbach, spokesperson for the Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Northern Virginia, says that lifting restrictions against pit bull ownership would have significantly waggy other benefits, as well.

Even though her jurisdiction doesn’t 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.”

Getting rid of these laws would not just let people adopt without fear of their animals being taken away, she said, but would also help counter negative stereotypes.

“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.

Auerbach cautions that even if these anti-BSL laws are passed, that isn’t the end of these problems, since many landlords won’t rent to people with pit bulls. One of several anti-BSL bills now under consideration in Maryland would actually address this point: HB 422 is aimed not only at stopping localities from classifying dogs as “dangerous” by breed, but would also apply to landlords and condo associations.

But even if these bills weren’t a panacea, their passages would mark a significant step forward, said VanKavage. “If we could get just one or two this year I’d be happy,” she said.

There’s reason for optimism: Tami Santelli, Maryland state director for the Humane Society of the United States, tells HuffPost she thinks her state is likely to pass pro-pit bull legislation this session.

And on Tuesday, the South Dakota Senate passed its bill, which now moves over to the House.

8 thoughts on “Six More States May Outlaw Breed-Specific Legislation, Making Everything Better For Pit Bulls

  1. TPTB don’t want people to own dogs that could actually do real harm to their flunkies (any so-called ‘govt’ alphabet agencies), hence the reason we saw all those commercials with the foo-foo dogs (Taco Bell and the like) for so many years, to convince the sheeple that useless anklebiters were the desirable type to own.

  2. Animals are to be loved. Some animals are not always loveable back. That in itself proves nothing. I have one dog, two cats….and have for decades and first rode to a one room school house in mcCone Co. mt for five years, horse back to school grades 1-5…as did all other school kids….and animals were not a problem…..
    if an animal and most often for good reason, doesn’t like you, then they are likely to attack…..just as it should be….
    let’s hope it always remains so….
    They have a right on this earth same as you and I

      1. you have a kind and truely big heart
        not because you put a smiley
        but because I know that…
        as a result of many heartfelt communications you leave for us here on fromthetrenches……..
        my best to you……..rbeason

  3. @ rbeason 4:47 , yea I forgot that reply button lol . Well geeze rbeason it is a honor to be with you guys, thankyou bro. I grew up alot different than most have
    and I have found that for me I get along with the animals better than with most people. I like most of the people here on site though and I do not say that much at all about many people at all. Guess that I have seen and experienced too much of the bad/ evil side of people which is why I get along with my animal freinds like I do. I`m pretty protective of the animals and yes, very much protective of the people here at FTTWR for sure. I got that good guy Henry to thank for that because if it wasn`t for Henry I would be probobly be listening to something else wasting my time – I am always learning here and never think that I waste my time here . Anyways thanks again rbeason and of course Henry and family 🙂 Us guys here are a really great bunch of good people aren`t we – I wasn`t used to being around this many decent people – which is why I get real quiet sometimes. Yea I like those smily faces to a fault sometimes I guess 🙂

    1. you may send all the smiley faces you want…..I appreciate them…and think them genuine
      Generally of myself…I think of people as positive…..That though in itself with regard to some people, may just turn them in the positive direction….if for no longer than being in one’s presence….then they are right back to the negative…I like you, digger, value animals at least as high as people…those people who care to show otherwise than can be upped on the scale above animals….
      Bless you for surviving what happened to you regarding the law a long time ago and bless Henry for thinking the same………and we will all let that pass and still……… best to you rbeason

  4. best kind of dogs ever. I’ve had two and neither would ever hurt anyone. unless if course you happen to be messing with someone they know. very protective of their people.

    1. Agreed. I’m not even a dog person, and I’ve met some pits that I actually liked.

      It’s all about how they’re raised.

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