What's wrong with breed specific legislation? Many things.
There's not a sane person in America whose heart does not break over news such as yesterday's, when a child was reportedly mauled to death by his babysitter's pit bull. That certain breeds are responsible for a large number of reported dog bites and attacks is not in dispute. Neither is the fact among those attacked, young children and elderly persons are present in disproportionately large numbers. Neither is it disputed that starving and/or chained dogs are far more likely to attack than well fed, fenced dogs.
While it is perfectly understandable that communities across America wish to do something, anything, to lower the number of such tragedies, the question arises: "Is breed specific legislation the answer?"
There are a number of problems inherent in breed specific legislation. Some of the more obvious issues are as follows:
- Breed specific laws compromise the rights of the law-abiding. Such laws unfairly discriminate against law-abiding owners and non-offending dogs (which represent the VAST majority of all breeds).
- Breed specific laws require lay people to make subjective breed identifications, a skill for which they may (or may not) be qualified.
- Such laws are expensive to enforce. Some counties, after realizing the staggering expense of maintaining accused dogs until time of trial, law enforcement and administrative costs, have chosen to repeal their breed specific laws. Prince George County in Maryland county spends more than a quarter-million dollars each year to enforce its pit bull ban.
- There is no real evidence that breed bans lower the incidence of dog bites.
- Breed specific legislation fails to address the real problem: pet owner responsibility.
- Breed specific laws cause those who own targeted breeds to hide their dogs, which if anything, worsens the living conditions of the dogs and makes them all the more likely to bite. (Picture dogs who are crated all day long during daylight hours and only allowed to potty or exercise at night.)
No one disputes the tragic consequences of dog attacks. However it is economically irresponsible to enact new legislation when adequate laws are already on the books. If existing leash, licensing and confinement laws are not enforced, what reason is there to think breed ban laws will be?