Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is an extremely troubling type of law, pervasive in this country and around the world. These laws ban ownership of a certain type of dog, or could place certain requirements on breeds of dogs and their owners. As a product of such laws, a person’s right to care for a dog is restricted, due to the ignorance of others. Moreover, many innocent dogs are blamed for behavior they never exhibited, and punished severely.
By and large, pit bulls are the animals targeted by such legislation. The public has developed a serious fear of these dogs, due to extensive media coverage of pit bull attacks. However, evidence shows that banning all pit bulls or supposedly dangerous dogs and treating them all as criminals is not effective in increasing public safety.
In addition to the inherent unfairness in punishing all members of a class for the behavior of some, BSL is also problematic for owners of all dogs, not just pit bulls, as a result of the laws’ vagueness and/or overbreadth. Many of these regulations have affected dogs that look like pit bulls. There have been attempts to ban Rottweilers and even German shepherds. Mixed breed dogs that exhibit the ‘pit bull look’ have been taken away from their families for no reason but their look. Consequently, all dog owners are threatened when such laws are made; the serious effects are not breed specific.
Some state officials have learned enough to know that BSL is not only morally troubling, but is ineffective. Several states, including both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have state-wide laws against banning breeds. However, municipalities in such states, unaware of the state law, will often make their own breed-specific bans. In fact, New Jersey’s model laws, which municipalities can use at will, include a BSL law. An advocacy group in New Jersey has called attention to the contradiction on the books, but despite growing support for the group’s cause, the model law has not yet been removed, and remains for municipalities to use.
The growing support for the cause against BSL is essential in fighting these ineffective and nonsensical laws. Laws are supposed to concern the behavior of humans. Dog laws should concern the actions of the owners, including requirements to respect leash laws, keep dogs from running at large, and have all dogs spayed and neutered. In fact, spaying and neutering pit bulls has proved to be the most effective solution to dangerous behavior.
There is no such thing as a dangerous breed of dog. Within a certain breed, there are dangerous dogs and there are harmless dogs, just as it is with humans. By banning breeds in the entirety, lumping all individuals together and blaming them for an immutable characteristic, you accomplish nothing, except the punishment of innocents. As a result, all dog owners should be against breed-specific legislation, and for the proper treatment and care of all dogs.
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