Breed discrimination and the freedom of choice

Just a couple of days ago, I told you about Orange County’s senseless proposal to deem every dog rescued from a dogfighting ring as “vicious” — basically a death sentence. There’s no point rehashing the whole thing (if you’d like to read it, you can find it here), but basically that proposal makes no sense. There’s absolutely nothing to support such a sweeping decree — in fact, quite the opposite. Every dog — pit bull terrier, Yorkshire terrier, even victims of cruelty seized in fight busts — should be treated as an individual.

We also firmly believe that another blanket policy, one that bans or restricts American pit bull terriers or any breed of dog, makes zero sense. Responsible dog owners should be able to own whatever dog they choose. A new national survey completed by Best Friends shows that the American public agrees with that sentiment. The survey, completed by Luntz Global, found that a vast majority of people (84%) believe that governments should not infringe on the rights of citizens to own whatever breed of dog they choose. Eighty four percent! It’s not often that the country is in such complete agreement on anything.

Seventeen states have now passed laws that prohibit local governments from passing breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL). The American Bar Association passed a resolution in 2012 calling for the enactment of comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog and reckless owner laws and the repeal of every breed-discriminatory or breed-specific provision in the country. In reality, there is nothing specific about breed-specific legislation.

Best Friends continues to work on repealing BDL where it exists and passing preemptive measures where it doesn’t, and we’ll be involved in many legislative battles this year as well. To date, we are working on bills that have been introduced in Missouri, South Dakota and Washington, and similar bills that are poised to be introduced in Utah and Maryland.

Breed-discriminatory ordinances do not advance public safety because they focus on the wrong thing: appearance, not behavior. Bad behavior can arise in any dog, regardless of breed or mix. BDL also neglects the problem of reckless owners who encourage aggressive behavior in their dogs or abuse them.

Effective laws are breed-neutral and target problem animals and problem owners. These laws allow for the early identification of aggression and allow for proactive enforcement and control of problems before they pose a risk to the public.

Best Friends supports effective laws to to ensure safe and humane communities. Reckless owners should be punished — no exceptions, no excuses. Innocent dogs and their families should not be targeted by ineffective laws that tell citizens what breed or mix of dog that they can and can’t keep as a family pet.

If you want to help us fight all forms of BDL, make sure you’re a signed-up member of our Action Center. When we need your voice where you live, we’ll send you an email so you can easily let your representatives know how you feel. Politics is not a spectator sport. Together, we can Save Them All.