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Pet Points: Why do cities ban pit bull breeds?

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DETROIT – “If pit-bulls make such great pets, why do so many cities ban them?”

Recently, breed-specific legislation in the Detroit area has been a hot topic after a local musician may have to give up his adopted dog Diggy due to a pit-bull ban in the township he lives in. This ban was originally created with the goal of making the community safer, but at the Michigan Humane Society, we believe that not only do pit-bulls make great pets, but breed-specific legislation in general fails to accomplish that goal.

Because every animal is an individual, we firmly stand against breed-specific legislation – which discriminates purely on the physical appearance, the breed, of a dog. These legislative efforts imply that a specific breed is born aggressive and that there is “nothing that can be done about it”.

This belief is antiquated, false and is highly ineffective in dealing with aggressive animals in our community.
Many people want to suggest banning a specific breed in response to these tragic attacks; however this would fail to provide the right solution for multiple reasons:
• Dangerous dogs are most often a result of irresponsible ownership practices, breeding and training rather than breed of dog.
• Some communities that have enacted breed specific legislation have re-evaluated their policies and found them to be ineffective in reducing the number of dog bites, and in many cases, also very costly to implement and enforce.
• Responsible ownership is the most important component in preventing dog attacks. Virtually any breed of dog can be aggressive towards people or other animals and pet owners must take proper precautions to decrease the likelihood of an incident. Owners should ensure that their animals are supervised and effectively contained when outdoors, and on a leash when walking.
• Banning a breed fails to account for negligent owners who allow their animals to engage in dangerous behavior and instead punishes owners who responsibly care for their dogs.
• It is, at best challenging to enforce, and often highly subjective and arbitrary in its application.

There are multiple effective alternatives to breed specific legislation, including:
• Promote responsible ownership practices such as training, socialization and veterinary care
• Require that guardians supervise and effectively contain their animals when outdoors, and keep dogs on a leash when walking.
• Effectively and aggressively enforce existing laws regarding dangerous dogs – recent instances can, and are, covered in existing laws.
• Increase fines and penalties for guardians who allow their dogs to roam loose
• Increase efforts from animal control to respond to animals at large and uniformly and consistently address violations with owners or guardians
• Require that animals that are found roaming loose be spayed or neutered before returning them to their owners. Aggression is more likely to occur in dogs that are unsterilized.
• Establish an anti-tethering ordinance. Chained dogs are not as well socialized as indoor household pets. They are also unable to flee in a fearful situation, which leaves them with the only option to bite.

If we focus strictly on one breed of dog as opposed to the individual behavior of a dangerous or vicious dog, we are addressing the wrong issue and not protecting our community or the innocent dogs who reside in there.