Banning Breeds is Bad Policy
Imagine someone coming to your door and insisting that you get rid of your dog, just because of the way it looks. That’s the heartbreaking and anxiety-filled situation facing Nancy Butler, who lives in Seaside Farms in Mt. Pleasant. And the scary thing is – this could happen to any one of us.
In Butler’s case, her Homeowner’s Association is insisting she get rid of her dog Bee, because he resembles a Pit bull. Bee has never hurt anyone and according to Butler he and the three other dogs owned by Butler stay in her home or their fenced-in yard.
Across the nation, an estimated half million dogs and cats each year lose their homes because of arbitrary housing rules like breed and size restrictions, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The impacts of these restrictions are devastating and far reaching. People, and particularly the elderly and the disabled, rely on their pets for their physical and mental well being. Animals removed from their homes not only lose their families, they face the possibility of euthanasia in an already overburdened shelter system, and even the public at large pays for such restrictions, in terms of the public and private resources spent to care for and attempt to find new families for animals that already have loving homes
The consequences are especially troubling, however, because they are entirely unnecessary; breed and size restrictions simply do not make communities safer. There is no scientific basis supporting the notion that any breed of dog is more “dangerous” or “aggressive” than others.
In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Canine Research Council, the American Bar Association, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Animal Hospital Association, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the American Kennel Club, the National Animal Care and Control Association, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and, most recently, the White House oppose these types of breed-specific policies.
The CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. The AVMA wrote an excellent article on the topic: “Want to Reduce Dog Bites? Don’t Focus on the Breed.” The AVMA writes that if one breed is banned, another will soon take its place as the “bite” leader, continuing a never-ending cycle. The AVMA’s conclusion was the same as the CDC: develop a community-based approach.
But what exactly does a “community-based” approach look like? Dr. Patterson-Kane with AVMA said that instead of focusing on the breed, effective dog bite prevention measures fall into three areas:
• How people raise and care for their dogs
• How people manage situations when their dogs are in contact with other people
• How communities respond to people who are raising or keeping their dogs in a dangerous or harmful manner
The determination as to Bee’s suitability for community living should be based on his actions and his behavioral history, not a classification based on an antiquated and ill-informed notion that there are “good” and “bad” breeds of dog. Communities around the country are recognizing this fact, and are eliminating their arbitrary restrictions in favor of policies that welcome all behaviorally sound cats and dogs, regardless of their breed or size. Furthermore, insurance coverage should not be an obstacle since major carriers like State Farm, Farmer’s Insurance Group, USAA, Chubb Group, Amica and others routinely ensure properties that welcome all breeds and sizes of dogs.
Like Butler’s Homeowner’s Association, we all want a safe and healthy environment for our families. But the utilization of breed profiling and discrimination does not successfully support this goal. These types of policies are outdated. Let’s all move forward together by continuing to develop community-based approaches that will continue to decrease the number of dog bites through the proper education of all dog owners.