Lotsa Dogs Lotsa Fun

Lotsa Dogs Lotsa Fun
The Big Dogs Wait at The Door

Friday, January 07, 2005

Dog Bites: Breed-specific Ordinances

Preventing dog bites is an important goal for everyone. Unfortunately, in a world addicted to whatever looks like an easy fix, outraged citizens are asking cities and towns to outlaw certain breeds, thinking that will eliminate, or at least cut down on dog bites.

But this legislative solution is not a solution, because (1)no city or town can effectively enforce such a law and (2)even if the law could be effective, eliminating all the Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans in the world would not address the basic problem: DOG OWNER IRRESPONSIBILITY. Boston recently enacted an ordinance aimed at Pit Bulls and the law has done nothing to reduce the number of dog bites seen in local hospitals and doctors' offices.

What would work, then?

1: Enforcing existing animal control laws, for example. Police can effectively fine people whose dogs run loose, or who walk dogs without a leash. A program of rewards for reporting dogs running loose would help. The key here is to increase funding for animal control!

2: So would mandatory spaying and neutering for all but AKC champions. Only bitches and dogs who have earned their championship should be bred anyway, because the goal should be to improve the temperament, health, and appearance of the breeds. It's highly unlikely that the owner of a champion Staffordshire Terrier (aka "Pit Bull")would breed her or him for killer temperament. If the law obliged veterinarians to report any non-spayed or non-neutered dog to the police, and if owners were fined, there would be fewer intact dogs to cause trouble. Intact male dogs represent 80% of dogs presented to veterinary behaviorists for dominance aggression, and are involved in 70%-76% of reported dog bites in Massachusetts.

But dog bites are only preventable in situations where owners act responsibly. All dogs need appropriate restraint, socialization, obedience training, and safe public areas in which to exercise (dog parks). Dogs and children (especially babies) need very close supervision. A child's attempt to cuddle the family dog can easily result in frightening the animal, and thus put the child at risk of a bite.

As for those who WANT dangerous dogs, they will find them - or create them through deliberate cruelty. Such people should be shot and fed to their dangerous animals.

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