Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)
Earlier last week, national news outlets reported of a dog named Diggy, who was just given a chance for a forever home thanks to his new pet parent, Dan Tillery. They became internet famous after Tillery posted a photo that showed him and Diggy smiling. Sadly, soon after the photo was posted, people complained to the police department, citing breed specific legislation (BSL) rules in the town.
BSL is exactly what it sounds like, a ban on dog breeds based solely on how they look. It has become increasingly clear in the past few years that BSL causes more problems than solutions. Behavior of a dog is generally the responsibility of the owner, a fact that is not often taken into consideration when BSL is in place. Irresponsible dog owners who don’t have control of their pets put both responsible pet owners and their pets at risk. These dog owners and criminals who do use breeds considered dangerous by BSL can simply switch to another breed of dog for their illegal operations.
By limiting the kinds of breeds pet parents are allowed, responsible pet owners will not keep the breeds that are not allowed, which does not help their communities become more accepting of the breeds that they need to encourage instead. Breeds and mixes are often hard to identify, with humane societies, local law enforcement and veterinarians all having differing opinions. This can lead to innocent animals being euthanized and responsible pet parents being punished. As is the case of Diggy, the Detroit Dog Rescue insists that Diggy is an American Bulldog, whereas the police believe that he is a Pit bull. Many breeds are used for everyday situations for handicapped owners, police dogs, drug sniffing dogs and search and rescue. What good is it having BSL if towns use banned breeds that are keeping their communities safe? Associations including The American Veterinary Medical Association argue against BSL for exactly these reasons.
Thanks to viral stories like Diggy’s and public pressure, many towns are fighting against BSL as attitudes towards Pit bulls and other breeds has shifted to be more accepting. There are also alternative ways to deal with BSL. Citizens can lobby for protection from untrained and unsupervised dogs of any breed or mix that they know of in their neighborhoods. Any dog can bite, and when they are owned by an irresponsible owner, those owners should be held accountable. Local animal shelters and welfare agencies can also help by providing responsible dog ownership seminars and canine safety education. The more people that are educated about BSL and encouraged to interact with different kinds of breeds, the more BSL will continue to be condemned nationwide. And that is great news for dogs of certain breeds everywhere who just want a loving home. Visit dogbites.org to learn more about BSL in certain states.