Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Dilemma Between Breed Specific Laws and Dog Shows

File from the Wikimedia Commons
The FCI breed disposition characteristics for animals such as Dobermans and Mastiffs require the dogs to be friendly and calm; very devoted to the family it loves children.  Yet despite this, there is a trend in cities, counties, states, provinces and countries towards what is known as Breed-Specific Laws (BSL) in which a municipality bans or restricts the freedoms of dog owners with specific breeds of dogs considered dangerous. There are at least 50 breeds of dogs as well as mixed breeds that include targeted breeds named in the various laws in North America. Dogs that fall under these categories are not allowed into the locality or may need special entry authorization.

A recent example of how this plays out was experienced by a participant in Colombia's 2012 International Dog show unable to enter the country with his "dangerous" mastiff show dogs. The dogs remained in their crates at the airport until he was able to get officials of the Colombian Kennel Club to give special notification to the customs agents allowing the breeder a special entry for a limited time in the country.

According to the American Kennel Club, breed-specific laws are not the best way to protect communities. An owner intent on using his or her dogs for malicious purposes will simply be able to switch to another type of dog and continue to jeopardize public safety. The list of regulated breeds or types could grow every year without ever addressing responsible dog ownership. Deeds, not breeds, should be addressed. Breed-specific legislation is opposed by the AKC, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Animal Interest Alliance, National Animal Control Association, the ASPCA, and a host of national animal welfare organizations that have studied the issue and recognize that targeting breeds simply does not work.

  • Breed-specific laws are hard to enforce. Breed identification requires expert knowledge of the individual breeds, placing great burden on local officials.
  • Breed-specific laws are unfair to responsible owners.
  • Breed-specific laws increase costs for the community. Shelter costs for the community could rise as citizens abandon targeted breeds, and adoptable dogs of the targeted breeds would be euthanized at the shelter.
  • In some instances, breed-specific laws have been overturned on constitutional grounds. Because proper identification of what dogs would be included is difficult or impossible, the law may be deemed unconstitutionally vague. It may also be found to involve the taking of property without due process.
  • Strongly enforced animal control laws (such as leash laws), generic guidelines on dealing with dangerous dogs and increased public education efforts to promote responsible dog ownership are all better ways to protect communities from dangerous animals.
  • Since dogs must be unaltered to participate in conformation dog show and other performance events, many responsible dog owners will be forced to give up a sport that both they and their canine companions enjoy.
The International Association of Canine Professionals statement (2006) reads in part:

The International Association of Canine Professionals strongly opposes legislation which discriminates against dogs and their owners by labeling certain dogs as "dangerous" or "vicious" based on breed or phenotype. Breed-specific legislation does not protect communities nor create a more responsible dog
owner. Instead it negatively affects many law abiding dog owners and dogs within the targeted breeds.  
Breed or breed type is only one factor which determines an individual dog’s temperament. Many other factors also influence behavior. In the case of aggressive acts by dogs, factors may include, but are not limited to: genetic predisposition; irresponsible handling; lack of animal management; general care;
improper socialization and training; poor housing conditions; physical ailment, and lack of education and supervision.  
A common and serious error in the ‘assumption of risk by breed’ is the inability to identify individual dogs by breed, according to an established breed standard or breed type. Purebred dogs which are registered with national clubs may or may not fit the ideal standard for their breed. As dogs are further distanced from the "ideal" standard by phenotype, especially in mixed breeds, it may become all but impossible for accurate identification.  

Both the IAC and AKC recommend the creation and enforcement of  laws which protect
responsible dog owners, penalize irresponsible dog owners on an individual basis while at the same time promote the safety of all. The FCI includes specific requirements for temperament of various dogs

Learn more and view cities, states, countries with BSLs. Make sure you have the required permissions to travel with your dog if it should fall under restriction.,  A  pro BSL public education website about dangerous dogs -- specifically pit bull type dogs.  View lists of U.S. States and their cities with Breed Specific Laws

ASPCA- Breed Specific Legislation

History of BSL:  Breed-Specific Legislation in the United States. by Linda S. Weiss, Michigan State University College of Law (2001) 

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