Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What is BSL?

What is BSL?

BSL stands for breed-specific legislation. It need not apply to banning dangerous dogs but is also a useful tool applied in managing humane breeding standards in physiologically problematic breeds, the care and management of sporting breeds, etc.. 

As is most relevant here, breed specific legislation is legislation and ordinances passed to regulate or 'ban' dangerous dog breeds, such as pit bulls and other blood-sport dogs from the mollossar group.

Some common misconceptions or even outright deceptions propagated by the anti-BSL camp are;

Myth: dogs are identified arbitrarily by sight, and by 'random' professionals that could have little or even no experience with identifying dog breeds./Only a DNA test can verify breed.
While it is true that more sophisticated methods--such as DNA tests--cannot distinguish 'pit bull' as an individual breed... (in fact, many fanciers laugh about the fact that their purebreds/prize winner DNA tests come back with absurdly wrong results, KNOWING their dogs are full well not just pit bull, but take pride in them being the epitome thereof), pit bulls are as readily identifiable as any long-standing, distinguishable breed by the cluster of lists identifying specific traits and body ratios according to UKC standards (or in the AKC under the guise 'American Staffordshire Terrier').

In reality, in areas with pit bull bans, a dog in question must be identified by a cluster of attributes by animal experts like veterinarians, animal control, and shelter workers. For example; in Miami Dade County, there is a 47 point identification for establishing a dog as 'pit bull'.

Myth; BSL punishes 'good owners'. Many people don't realize this, but BSL doesn't equate an outright ban. In many BSL areas, breed-specific ordinances may be a combination of any of the following;

  • (dogs must be) licensed
  • spayed/neutered
  • micro-chipped
  • muzzled in public
  • housed according to specific containment standards
  • insured with a certain minimum of liability insurance
All of these are reasonable parameters for responsible dangerous dog ownership. Truly responsible owners would be following such measures already and only those deviant and seeking to avoid responsibility for the management of their dogs would feel 'punished'. Many owners of other breeds, including toy breeds, already take such precautions because they understand that, much like driving a car, you must assume responsibility for ALL aspects of a privilege to maintain such privilege.  "Insurance/licensing/etc. punishes good drivers" is not an excuse or logical reason to throw automotive regulations out the window.

Dangerous dog ownership is a privilege, not a right. Car ownership is a privilege, not a right. A car must be inspected, insured, and up to safety protocols; and these are inanimate objects with no free will of movement. That free will of movement is what makes it all the more important to appropriately maintain a high-risk animal. 

There is also the animal itself to consider; the benefits of neutering and spaying are myriad, and a dog that gets loose is subject itself to dangers; toxic substances in the environment it may consume, harsh elements, abduction, being hit by cars, etc.. Ergo, proper containment and micro-chipping are preventative and crucial tools in safe-guarding a pet, respectively.

Myth; BSL hurts/kills innocent dogs. Hysterical anti-BSL lobbyists rail and compare BSL to the holocaust, invoking images of dogs being rounded up and euthanized en masse. The reality is; in the history of BSL, there has never been a mass round-up and euthanasia of banned breeds. When a ban is enacting, existing dogs are grandfathered into the area, and can be kept till the end of their natural lives according to the city's protocol--meaning adhering to micro-chipping, insurance, etc within a reasonable period. Owners that refuse to comply with such measures are issued a generous grace period in which to re-home their pet elsewhere. That same grace period is generally given to those who relocate into the area with banned breeds, as well.

In reality, BSL can save innocent dogs; "[from] ANIMALS 24-7 does not believe that animal rights, animal welfare, or even just being kind to animals is advanced by protecting backyard breeders of fighting dogs from the passage of effective breed-specific legislation to prevent the births of a million pit bulls per year who will repeatedly flunk out of homes and be killed at the average age of 18 months."  In areas with BSL, the rate of euthanized dogs and shelter overcrowding drops dramatically, easing the burden on taxpayer shelters and Animal Control.  For example, in Aurora, Colorado;
"...the dogs placed a tremendous burden on city staff. According to city documents, before the ordinance was enacted in 2005, up to 70 percent of kennels in the Aurora Animal Shelter were occupied by pit bulls with pending court disposition dates or with no known owner.  That number is now only 10 to 20 percent of kennels."

Myth; BSL doesn't work.  Mountains of evidence in areas with long-standing BSL beg to differ; here's a list of cities with successful BSL and the relevant data accompanying each.  A few snippets;

Police records show Sioux City police officers responded to 37 percent fewer dog bites in 2013 than they did in 2007, the year before the breed ban was passed. During that time, the number of reported bites declined each year but one.
In 2004, the last full year before the ban, there were 984 licensed pit bulls in the city and 168 reported bites. Last year there were 501 pit bulls registered in Toronto, and just 13 bites. That’s right — the number of reported bites went from 168 to 13.
The ordinance the city adopted prohibits pit bulls and mixes of the breed, as well as any other vicious or dangerous animals, from being in the city. In the almost 20 years since it was adopted, Antigo has had no attacks, no maulings, and no dogs killed by pit bulls or other dogs.
the city of Greenwood both have similar bans on pit bulls and dangerous animals... the city has had no attacks and issued no citations.
According to statistics taken from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, as reported in the News-Leader March 12, for the three-year period beginning in 2004, there were 42 "vicious" animal attacks recorded in the jurisdiction covered. After passing the local ordinance banning or strictly controlling the ownership of pit bull or pit bull types, the number of attacks has dropped dramatically. For the five-year period from 2007-2011, there was a total of 14.
in March, Aurora released statistical data showing a significant reduction in the volume of pit bull attacks and pit bulls euthanized after adopting a pit bull ban in 2005.
For the four years leading up to the ban, from 2000 to 2003, officers responded to 71 incidents of biting or scratching involving pit bulls in Pawtucket, a majority of those, 51, involving attacks on people.
In the 10 years since the ban was put in place, police responded to 23 total attacks involving pit bulls, with only 13 of those involving attacks on people. 
[Since the city adopted mandatory spay/neuter BSL for pit bulls] San Francisco has impounded 14 percent fewer pit bulls and euthanized 29 percent fewer - which is a "significant decrease," said Rebecca Katz, director of the city's Animal Care and Control department. 
In January 2013, the Nebraska Humane Society reported that pit bull bites dropped to 31 in 2012, down from 121 in 2008 (a 74% reduction), the year that Omaha enacted a progressive pit bull ordinance.
The number of dog bites reported in Toronto has fallen since a ban on pit bulls took effect in 2005, public health statistics show.
A total of 486 bites were recorded in 2005. That number fell generally in the six years following, to 379 in 2010.
Provincial laws that banned 'pit bulls,' defined as pit bulls, Staffordshire terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers and dogs resembling them took effect in August 2005. Existing dogs were required to be sterilized, and leashed and muzzled in public.
Bites in Toronto blamed on the four affected breeds fell sharply, from 71 in 2005 to only six in 2010. This accounts for most of the reduction in total bites. 
The county saw a 9.6 percent decrease in dog bites in the year since the spay/neuter program was instituted. (San Bernardino, CA)
And on and on it goes...

Myth; BSL is too costly to enforce.  Again, the existing data disproves this.  Pit bull lobbyist Karen Delise's 'BSL cost calculator' is skewed against BSL by exaggerating enforcement costs and failing to account for the broader scope of the issue.  BSL has existed for decades in many jurisdictions with no catastrophic fiscal ramifications.  Additionally, dramatic reductions in euthanasia rates and shelter overcrowding reduce the strain on city coffers.  

The community is more productive in the absence of debilitating, brutal pit bull attacks.  Unlike most other breeds, a pit bull attack often entails life-long disfigurement and disability, both physically and mentally.  This creates people dependent upon the system for life, which would otherwise have become or continued to be productive citizens contributing to their communities.