One community enacts a breed ban, and one by one other communities follow, that’s what happened back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Sometimes expert testimony, and public pressure helped public officials to understand that breed bans weren’t the answer to enhance public safety, and sometimes that effort would fail and breed bans were enacted.
Typically, a dog attack prompts public officials to support the notion of a breed ban, and that’s exactly what happened recently in Montreal. However, this is not the 1980’s or 1990’s. Today, we know more, and then there’s the additional element of social media which plays a role. When Montreal announced the breed ban, ban supporter Mayor Denis Coderre was attacked online, locally and around the world. What’s more, by looking at the effectiveness of breed bans – we can now look back in time, and we know breed specific legislation (BSL) doesn’t do a darn thing to enhance public safety. (A peer reviewed study I did with Sagi DenenbergDVM, DACVB, Dip. ECAWBM, MACVSc (Behaviour) for the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior)
Though, a Montreal judge has put the BSL on hold there Now, according to the Chicago Tribune, Oak Brook, IL resident Maria Flynn read information to the Village Board Tuesday (October 11) from the website www.dogsbite.org about attacks by pit bulls and Rottweilers. She presented four pages of information to board members and requested a ban on the breed in the suburb west of Chicago.
The good news is that in Oak Brook, apparently they – by their own rules – consider anything that they are asked to. But there is no apparent reason to enact BSL there, except one person’s view based on one website.
Flynn, who refused to answer questions after her remarks to the board, read statistics from the website about the percentage of attacks by pit bulls and Rottweilers that induce bodily harm. At dogsbite.org serious bites are not limited to Rottweilers and pit bulls, added into the mix are Boxers, Mastiffs and Shar-peis. The statistics were compiled from United States and Canadian press accounts between 1982 and 2014, according to the site.
The Oak Brook Village Board will likely discuss banning pit bulls and Rottweilers, and perhaps even other breeds, as a result of her request – though there doesn’t seem to be any problem of dog attacks in the suburb.
Here is a fact: For many years the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says they have no interest in identifying the breed involved in a dog attack. That’s because the breed or mix is often misidentified. Also, it’s because we today know dogs called pit bulls are mostly mixed breeds in the first place. Also, and perhaps most important, what matters isn’t the (alleged) breed but instead the individual dog, and the reason for the attack.
It’s true, hospitals and other agencies do consider breed – but their data is not considered authoritative. The only authoritative source, the CDC isn’t interested in breed.
Today we know why there are serious dog attacks. They are (in no particular order):
- Dogs involved in crime or used as accessories to crime.
- Dogs involved in the particular crime of dog fighting.
- Dogs purchased for the sole purpose of ‘protection.’
- Dogs that are tethered or kept in yards and break out – and wander without adult supervision. Or dogs left in yards without supervision.
- Unaltered male dogs – not because they are more aggressive – but because they want to meet, well, a “hot looking babe” – and they find ways over or under fences and roam neighborhoods, sometimes threatening people in the process.
- Dogs that are not properly socialized.
- Public complaints about individual dogs not being acted upon by officials. These dogs typically have a previous history of dog bites and/or aggression. (According to printed reports, this is what occurred in Montreal)
Serious dog bites do happen, and so do fatalities. However, they are rare events when considering there are 70 million plus dogs in the U.S. You are more likely to die in an accident with a fork lift truck than die as a result of a dog attack.
I do agree, prevention is key. So what can communities do to enhance public safety?
- Public education and children learning about dog bite prevention. Fact is, most bites happen to kids, and mostly by dogs they know in their own homes.
- Enforcing appropriate dangerous dog laws on the books.