Allowing breed discrimination laws would be expensive for the Sunshine State

Profiling dogs could cost cash-strapped Florida $25.7 million

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Feb. 2, 2010) — For the third year in a row, Florida legislators are considering changes to state law that would allow dogs to be banned in communities, based on their perceived breed. And a national animal welfare organization warns that the costs associated with enforcing breed bans are high, and ultimately ineffective.

Best Friends Animal Society commissioned a study in 2009 that, according to an established formula, determines that enforcing breed bans in Florida would cost taxpayers $25.7 million. The figure was arrived at using the Fiscal Impact Calculator, a tool developed during the study that helps individual communities determine the true cost of implementing and enforcing breed discriminatory laws.

Florida State House Rep. Perry Thurston has proposed House Bill 543, and Senator Anthony Hill has proposed the companion bill ─ SB 1276 ─ to repeal the state’s current prohibition on breed discriminatory laws. Florida is one of 12 states that prohibit local governments from enacting laws that prohibit a specific breed. HB 543 has been referred to three separate legislative committees for consideration. Similar efforts in 2008 and 2009 to make breed-specific laws legal were unsuccessful. 

Amazingly, the Florida bill would allow communities to outlaw any breed of dog, no questions asked,” said Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative analyst for Best Friends Animal Society. “This is America. Responsible guardians should be allowed to care for any dogs they choose. The reckless owners who do not control their dogs are the ones who should be prevented from having a dog.”

Best Friends Animal Society has criticized breed discriminatory laws, which exist in approximately 300 different U.S. communities to outlaw certain dogs based solely on appearance, with no regard to the animal’s behavior or temperament. It is estimated there are approximately 73.9 million dogs in the United States, of which approximately five million (6.9 percent) can be described as pit bulls or pit bull mixes based solely on their appearance. 

Currently Miami-Dade is the only county in Florida that is allowed to “profile” dogs, after enacting a “pit bull” ban in 1989. In 2008, approximately 800 “pit bulls” were picked up and destroyed simply because of their looks.

“Best Friends opposes canine profiling and believes it is not only expensive but ineffective in protecting the public. All dogs can bite. Studies show that breed discriminatory laws don’t reduce dog attacks. Dogs are individuals and should be treated as such, not judged by appearance, but by temperament,” VanKavage said.

“Breed discriminatory laws are expensive and ineffective,” VanKavage said. “And if breed restrictive ordinances are passed, people who love their pets will fight the government’s arbitrary visual identification of their dog, making them even more difficult to enforce, and a true waste of tax dollars.”

In some cities, such as Denver, animal control authorities can take a family’s dog away because it has the characteristics of a pit bull. Pit bulls usually include the pure breeds such as the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, or the Staffordshire bull terrier. However, there are many mixed breed dogs that share lineage of the above-named pure breeds, along with many short-haired muscular dogs often confused for pit bulls.

“If you take someone’s property away,” VanKavage said, “the burden of proof is on the government to prove that the pet is subject to the law, which means the city must prove it is a pit bull. That becomes an expensive battle that may require DNA testing to see if the dog actually is subject to the ban.”

According to the Best Friends’ economic study, breed discriminatory legislation tends to exhaust limited resources in already under-funded animal control programs by flooding the system with potentially “unadoptable” dogs due to the ban. Costs to regulate or ban the pets can run into the millions and provide no help to prevent dog bites.

“For more information about the issues surrounding breed specific legislation/breed discrimination, please visit the pit bull terrier initiatives.

About Best Friends Animal Society®

Best Friends Animal Society is a nonprofit organization building no-kill programs and partnerships that will bring about a day when there are No More Homeless Pets®. The society's leading initiatives in animal care and community programs are coordinated from its Kanab, Utah, headquarters, the country's largest no-kill sanctuary. This work is made possible by the personal and financial support of a grassroots network of supporters and community partners across the nation. “A better world through kindness to animals” 

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