Breed Specific Legislation – why it doesn’t work

2-28-13: The City of Lansing is considering a vicious dog law that may or may not contain Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). The Mayor of Lansing, Virg Bernero, has repeatedly said in public the ordinance should hold owners of specific breeds, including pit bulls, more accountable. That includes building higher and stronger fences and having certain types of pet insurance. City Council member Jody Washington has said the ordinance won’t focus on specific breeds. Does the Mayor of Lansing fully understand what BSL is? And that BSL overwhelmingly does NOT work?
 
What is Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)?
Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is a law or ordinance passed by a legislative body pertaining to a specific breed(s) of dog, and/or to any dogs that appear they may be mixes of those breeds. The most drastic form of BSL is a complete ban; but BSL also includes any laws or governmental regulations that impose other requirements or limitations on specific breeds or mixes: mandatory spay-neuter, mandatory muzzling, special liability insurance requirements, special licensing, property posting requirements, enclosure requirements, breed-specific pet limit laws, sale or transfer notification requirements, and prohibitions in government and military housing. BSL, in all of its forms, results in the destruction of many pet dogs.
 
Why has BSL been repealed or never passed in so many jurisdictions?
 
Because it’s ineffective, difficult to enforce, very costly to tax payers and does nothing to reduce dog bites. No evidence has ever been introduced that that breed bans or restrictions have improved public safety.  Nationwide, there are approximately 300 municipal jurisdictions that have some form of BSL ordinance.  There has been no jurisdiction that can show a reduction in dog bites and/or community safety as a result of BSL.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Many jurisdictions have repealed BSL when it was shown NO effect or reduction in dog bites.   Denver, CO enacted a breed ban in 1989. Citizens of Denver continued to suffer a higher rate of hospitalization from dog bite-related injuries after the ban, than the citizens of breed-neutral Colorado counties (Source: National Canine Research Center).   At this time (February, 2013) the city of Waterford, MI is currently considering repealing their current BSL (pit bull ban) to a more effective, breed-neutral dangerous dog ordinance. 

 Why is BSL so costly?
 
Ineffective laws waste precious public resources. Laws that target a breed of dog not only waste currently budgeted resources, but demand additional appropriations.  A recent study shows why the expense related to enforcing ineffective breed-specific legislation does not produce the desired result of reducing serious dog bite-related injuries. Click here to read about this study. In addition to the taxpayer expense, ineffective, discriminatory laws are costly to individual dog owners, who may be confronted with the high emotional cost of having their family pet taken from them and destroyed. Or they may bear ordinance-imposed financial costs as a result of a requirement that they maintain higher liability insurance limits, or purchase expensive containment systems. Finally, because ineffective laws lower license compliance, communities also lose licensing revenues that could have been used to fund important animal services.  Best Friends Animal Society developed a fiscal impact calculator that allows communities to estimate the cost of attempting to enforce breed-specific legislation.  See here the estimate of YEARLY costs for the City of Lansing to enforce BSL:  http://bestfriends.guerrillaeconomics.net/Home/Download/0d2d99a5-cab8-4ed9-92c8-4772e60a9c56
 
Why is it difficult for law enforcement/animal control agencies to enforce?

How can animal control officers know when responsible pet owners are in violation of a limit law, breed-specific law, a time-limit tethering ordinance, or a mandatory spay/neuter law? They can’t — unless they patrol door-to-door looking for violators.  All this is timely, costly, and just not practical. Breed-specific legislation is especially difficult to enforce because it is impossible, even for animal professionals, to breed label dogs of unknown origin.  This has often resulted in lengthy and costly court litigation.  Learn more about the inaccuracy of Visual Breed Identification for a more complete understanding of the ineffectiveness of breed-specific legislation.

To demonstrate the ineffectiveness of law enforcement and/or animal control agencies ability to correctly identify dog breeds, Western University of Health Sciences conducted a study of dogs who were erroneously breed identified by Animal Control agencies.  The study found there was no correlation between the agency identification and actual breed correctly identified through DNA tests. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THAT STUDY. 

How does BSL affect the community?

In addition to the added cost to tax payers mentioned above, ineffective laws cause responsible pet owners who own a breed or breed mix targeted by breed-specific legislation will be less likely to license pets and less likely to take pets to the vet for fear of facing stiff fines or worse: having their pets taken from them and destroyed. The resulting impact to communities is a loss of licensing revenue, and an increased threat to public health for animals that do not receive vaccines that prevent the spread of disease in the community.

What related national organizations oppose BSL?  

MOST!   Even the National Animal Control Association (NACA) does not support BSL because of it’s difficulty to enforce and ineffectiveness.  Others include American Bar Association because of the costly litigation and difficulty to defend,  most all national animal welfare organizations, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and so many others!  NACA position statement 

 What is the alternative to BSL?
 
A breed-neutral law targeting specific dangerous dogs and owners of dangerous dogs.   Rather than spend precious resources attempting to enforce ineffective breed-specific laws (targeting dogs that are not dangerous and penalizing responsible pet owners) use those resources to enforce a dangerous dog ordinance.  Many samples of effective breed-neutral dangerous dog ordinances are available. To see the full source for the above information, see the National Canine Research Council “Ineffective Laws” here: http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/dog-legislation/ineffective-laws/
LANSING RESIDENTS – What can you do? A LOT!
 
If you are a Lansing, Michigan resident, make your voice heard! Contact Mayor Virg Bernero and the Lansing City Council to let them know BSL doesn’t work and you have proof. CLICK HERE for pointers on letter writing and a sample letter. Please be polite and respectful. 
 
Mayor Virg Bernero            Lansing City Council                     
9th Floor City Hall                      10th Floor – City Hall
124 West Michigan                     124 West Michigan
Lansing, MI 48933                     Lansing, MI  48933
(517) 483-4141                            (517) 483-4177
mayor@lansingmi.gov              (517) 483-7630   fax
 
COUNCIL MEMBERS
 
Carol Wood                              Council President                         cwood@lansingmi.gov
A’Lynne Boles Robinson     Vice President                                arobins@lansingmi.gov
Kathie Dunbar                         At-Large Council Member         kdunbar@lansingmi.gov
Derrick Quinney                     At-Large Council Member         dquinney@lansingmi.gov
Brian Jeffries                            At-Large Council Member         bjeffrie@lansingmi.gov
Jody Washington                   1st Ward Council Member          jwashington@lansingmi.gov
Tina Houghton                        2nd Ward Council Member        thoughton@lansingmi.gov
Jessica Yorko                          4th Ward Council Member         jessica@lansingsfourthward.com
 
 

More information links:

National Canine Research Council