The hot topic of the day is Montreal’s new breed specific legislation (find more info: here). So I thought I’d weigh in on BSL in general and why it’s not effective.
Breed Specific Legislations (BSL) is typically enacted on a municipal or provincial level in Canada. These rules have also turned up at the federal level (Germany – here for more info) and throughout the United States. What is it exactly? Well it varies everywhere.
Where I live we have BSL and it states that Pitbull type dogs must be muzzled until they pass their Canine Good Neighbour exam (see here for info). So it’s a pretty mild ruling for a few reasons. First people don’t have to get rid of their pets, they can continue to own the breed of their choice and the dog can “prove” him or herself through obedience testing. There are other places like the province of Ontario where you cannot own a Pitbull type dog or even travel with a Pitbull type dog through the province (see here for info). Dogs can face a lifetime of being muzzled (inhumane) and/or euthanasia for no reason other than their breed.
These rules don’t prevent dog bites or attacks. Why? Because ANY BREED of dog can bite and attack. In fact dog bites have increased in Ontario since they implemented their ban 10 years ago (see here for more info). There’s a lot of myths out there about “pitbulls” and in fact it’s hard to even know what a “pitbull” is since they aren’t a registered breed at all (see here for more info). So anyone who owns a muscular dog with a broad head can be discriminated against. Even my German Shorthaired Pointer could potentially be mistaken as a “pitbull”.
I have worked with bully breeds for over 10 years now. This includes English Bulldogs, Olde English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Bull Staffordshire Terriers, Boxers, Mastiffs of all varieties, American Bulldogs, Valley Bulldogs, etc. They aren’t anymore aggressive than the Golden Retrievers or Chihuahuas that I’ve met. I’ve seen aggression across the spectrum of dog breeds.
There’s so much fear related to these breeds because a stereotype has developed against the “type” of people who own these dogs. Everyone pictures a violent drug dealer with a raging “pitbull” at the end of the leash. Well guys hate to break it to you but my clients who own bully breeds including “pitbull” type dogs are typically middle class families. They love their dogs and they spend time and money training their dogs to be good pets. These laws hurt everyday families who are typically good dog owners.
I am just as likely to be bit by a Labrador as any breed listed in BSL. And in fact one of the worst attacks on my own dogs was a Labrador. We’ve also been attacked by a Jack Russel, West Highland Terrier and a Rottweiler. But never a “pitbull” – interesting. The Labrador attack on my Irish Terrier was actually the worst one too – he punctured my dog’s head in 3 places and he needed surgery. So much for a soft mouth! Any dog can do damage if they are in the wrong situation. Owners need to be accountable for their dogs across the breed spectrum.
As a dog trainer what I would love to see is municipalities reward citizens for training their dogs. For example if a citizen completes a puppy class they should save money on their license every year. For every addition class or hour they spend with a Certified trainer they should save more. Want to know why? Because TRAINING PREVENTS DOG BITES. Let’s invest in responsible dog ownership and get over the breed discrimination laws that do not protect me, you or anyone!
Right now all Montreal has done is broken the hearts of regular families and placed a crushing demand on foster and adoptive homes in areas where BSL isn’t enacted. It’s discriminator and it’s not based on ANY science or study that states that it works. This is fear mongering and mythology.