Too yappy? Too vicious?

I try not to get political in this blog, but when you live in Arizona, it’s hard not to think about how one might determine whether or not members of a particular group might be illegal. Which in turn makes me think about how everyone in my family in Austria was declared illegal in the 1930s. As a result, I had a tougher time with this  topic than I anticipated.

What is Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) anyway?

Laws that single out a particular breed of dog to regulate rather than dogs in general. Although BSL in the United States has been associated primarily with pit bulls and, to a lesser extent, Rottweilers, any breed can be targeted by any municipality, county, or state. A town could put restrictions on Chihuahuas, say, because its citizens think the dogs are yappy disturbers of the peace.

And these restrictions could take any form. All Chihuahuas could be required to wear special noise mufflers when they go out in public. After three yapping incidents, vocal cord severing might be mandated.

An over-the-top example, you say? After all, noise is not dangerous.

Neither are the vast majority of dogs targeted by BSL. And they’re often put to death — silenced permanently — as a result of these laws.

What’s the justification for these laws?

A comprehensive discussion of this issue is on the Dog Bite Law site, which explains:

Certain breeds of dog have been associated statistically, judicially and politically with an unacceptable level of risk of harm to human beings.

What are the problems with these laws?

  • They’re too vague. For example, it’s impossible to define what a pit bull is.
  • They don’t work.

Sorry… I’ve been spending way too much time, trying to be dispassionate. So I’m going to turn you over to Oh My Dog! blog which is pretty much devoted to this topic.

And to Dawg Business, who was inspired by my promise of a post to blog on the topic.

Now I’m going off to have a meltdown in private.

Chihuahua image from MikeHipp via Creative Commons

14 thoughts on “Friday Focus: BSL Bites”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Friday Focus: BSL Bites --
  2. You touched a whole new dimension here. You are so right. BSL compares in so many ways to the most recent dark ages. Horrible. I have been discussing this on different fora but how could I have been so blind? If you substitute “breed” with “race” on the law pages on BSL you get a very sick feeling. I rest my (your) case. Everybody, lets wake up!

    1. I’m not the first one to make that comparison — and at first I avoided it because it seemed overdramatic. After all, they’re “only dogs.” But that’s what it felt like to me on a gut level. And I couldn’t shake the feeling, as much as I tried.

    1. You’re right – that’s an excellent piece, especially since it starts out with an incident so dramatic you anticipate that it’s going to support BSL.

  3. Yes this goes right to the core of things, and yet you’ll hear the other side if this argument telling us we are extremists for making such comparisons. As if it is somehow offensive to compare this heinous dog legislation against a particular breed(s) to our own dark history of reactive behaviors against other human beings throughout history. I don’t know of any more *valid* comparison, and I can see you don’t either, and in a much more personal sense than most of us.

    I think this should be a topic of discussion at Blogpaws West – especially given that we will be in the home of BSL, Denver. Because this is a political hot potato, we probably won’t be going any where near that yet I think if we are not to be charged as hypocrites, supporting Denver with our dollars when they have systematically killed thousands of pit bull “type” dogs for no other reason than their “looks”, actually confiscating the dogs out of people’s homes…well, how better to Be The Change than to confront this head on?

    1. Good point about Blogpaws, Mary. In fact a recent Blogpaws post directs people to the OhMyDog blog — cited in this post — which discusses BSL in Denver, where the blogger is based:

      As it happens, I had a similar discussion on where I argued that, rather than boycott writing about Arizona, writers should engage the topic. Mind you, I’m not opposed to boycotts in general. I just argued that, when you’re a writer, silence is not the best option. See:

  4. Nobody can blame you for being passionate. I would protect my Rottweilers with whatever force it would take. No argument that something should be done, but is BSL the solution to all problems? I seriously doubt it, as I explained on my blog.

    I do like the California Dangerous Dogs law much better, where they trying to address aggressiveness regardless of the breed. I’m sure this is vulnerable to misuse as well, but I think the idea is sounder.

    1. I gather from the Dog Bite Law site that California has banned all BSL, which is good. The site has a very good discussion of the pluses and negatives of the Dangerous Dogs law. All legislation can be problematic, especially when it comes to enforcement, but that seems like a big step in the right direction.

  5. As soon as we outlaw something that the public has enjoyed we create a demand for it among the more irresponsible public. (Think prohibition.)

    The fact that dogs are rounded up based on a certain look will and can make them more desirable to those that think a bad aggressive dog is really cool to own. There are breeders that will certainly oblige by breeding more aggressive dogs. There will be owners that will encourage their dogs to be aggressive.

    This law will only continue to harm the dogs rather than promote public safety. We should be spending this money on campaigns that try to heighten the publics senses on what aggression does, where it comes from, how is created and how undesirable it really is.
    The problem is people not the dog. Aggressivness is a people problem that is given to dogs. A culture based on cruelty is based on fear. We as a culture are so much smarter than this. We have come so far on human intellectual achievement that I am stunned that our society uses such an obvious knee jerk response.

    Remember the old Doctor joke? Doc it hurts when I do this? Doc says: Don’t do that.
    This is about the same fix.
    This is like putting a band aid on arterial spurting.

    The great Eric Goebelbecker would say ” we need enlightenment not force”

    1. You’re very right that public awareness, not prohibition, is required.

      And I hope that Eric follows the comments section. I’m sure he would be pleased to be described as “the great” (sounds a little Viking-ish, doesn’t it… 😉

  6. Earlier this week I, too, commented at OhMyDog! that BSL was akin to race discrimination. Since I am pretty slow to catch onto things, I am surprised this argument has not been raised before by owners of the dogs being profiled. And for our own travel purposes, we compiled a list of US/Canadian municipalities with restricted breeds. Would it surprise you to learn that there are more than 50 breeds that appear, collectively, in various jurisdictions that have a BSL? We are way past a slippery slope.

  7. I think your parallel is right on. And it’s a really unfortunate situation because by discriminating against specific breeds, the legislation ignores irresponsible dog owners. BSL is panic legislation: A city experiences a rash of dog bites, and the knee-jerk reaction is to ban breeds rather than put the efforts into encouraging and enforcing responsible dog ownership. Thank you for your insightful post and for linking to Oh My Dog!

    1. Well, it wasn’t much of a post, Maggie, more of a post about why I couldn’t post, so I was glad I had your site to link to. Not that anyone “owns” an issue, but you’ve explored it more thoroughly — and more personally, as it relates to your dog and the city where you live– than I ever could, so I urge everyone to read Oh My Dog! for your continuing illumination. And I’ll be there with you on #endBSL Tuesdays.

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