Each year, KC Pet Project handles more than 6,000 dogs. As an organization, we see dogs of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments – large dogs, small dogs, friendly dogs, fearful dogs and aggressive dogs. As an organization we have an obligation to minimize risk for our shelter staff, volunteers, and adopters. We must make recommendations and create policy to create the safest environment possible for our staff, volunteers and adopters. This is not unlike the responsibilities the municipalities around our Metro face, to create policies to maintain the safety of their community.
It has been our experience that dogs that pose a threat to our staff, volunteers and the public come in all shapes and sizes. And indeed, the vast majority of the pit bulls we see in our shelter (we handled more than 1200 pit bulls in 2015) are very loving, affectionate dogs – just like most dogs of all other breeds we see. The general good nature and behavior of pit bulls has actually caused them to be the most commonly adopted dogs at our shelter and one of the most popular breeds in the country (per Banfield Pet Hospitals).
We have consistently found that by far, the most effective solution to increasing public safety and the safety of our staff is to identify dogs that may be aggressive based on their behavior, not on their breed. Two decades ago, policies focusing on specific breeds were often seen as a viable solution to handling dangerous dogs in communities. However, current case studies and science have continually invalidated the breed discriminatory approach. There is now virtually no professional support for breed-specific policies and animal control authorities, including the National Animal Control Association that opposes legislation targeting breeds.
One major point of contention is visual breed identification is virtually impossible to determine with a high degree of accuracy even by animal control offices. A dog can be deemed an American Bulldog mix in one city with BSL and then be deemed a pit bull mix in another. This leaves many dog owners at risk of tickets, fines and even jail time based on the dog’s “looks” with no regard to the temperament of the animal.
This is why many area communities, such as Fairway, Roeland Park, Shawnee, Bonner Springs, Basehor, Edwardsville, Osawatomie, Topeka (in Kansas) and Riverside, Greenwood, Richmond and Grandview (in Missouri) have all repealed their archaic breed bans targeting pit bulls in favor of more-effective behavior-based policies.
We also see several cities in our Metro striving to reach No Kill but also maintaining breed bans in their city. On this, we want to be very clear: you cannot be No Kill while displacing pets from their homes for no other reason that perceived breed. Nor can you be No Kill by pushing homeless pets off onto other communities. This practice increases the burden in other cities to absorb not only their own homeless pets, but also absorb homeless pets from other communities, many that actually had homes. Pets losing their homes, and families losing their pets for no other reason that arbitrary breed bans, lacks the compassion for people and pets that is necessary to be considered a safe, humane, No Kill community.
Below we’ve included the position statements of expert organizations from around the country that support breed-neutral, behavior-based laws as the most efficient, effective, and fair way to deal with dangerous dogs in a community.
We urge all communities in our Metro to adopt current best practices which involve targeting dangerous/vicious dogs and reckless owners based on behavior, not on perceived breed. It is an excellent opportunity for the Metro to unite in the shared goal of creating a safe, humane, community by valuing all well-behaved and cared for members of the family.
Organizations of animal behavior professionals that oppose breed-specific laws:
National Animal Welfare Organizations
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
“There is no evidence that breed-specific policies reduce dog bites or attacks on people and they divert resources away from more effective animal control and public safety initiatives….Breed based policies aren’t founded on science or credible data, but on myths and misinformation surrounding different breeds. Their impact on dogs, families and animal shelters, however, is heartbreakingly real.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) (The full report at this link provides a wealth of research supporting their opinion).
“Although multiple communities have been studied where breed-specific legislation has been enacted, no convincing data indicates this strategy has succeeded anywhere to date. Conversely, studies can be referenced that evidence clear, positive effects of carefully crafted, breed-neutral laws. It is, therefore, the ASPCA’s position to oppose any state or local law to regulate or ban dogs based on breed. The ASPCA recognizes that dangerous dogs pose a community problem requiring serious attention. However, in light of the absence of scientific data indicating the efficacy of breed-specific laws, and the unfair and inhumane targeting of responsible pet guardians and their dogs that inevitably results when these laws are enacted, the ASPCA instead favors effective enforcement of a combination of breed-neutral laws that hold reckless dog guardians accountable for their dogs’ aggressive behavior.”
Best Friends Animal Society
“We draft and lobby for laws that protect communities from reckless owners and dangerous dogs. Best Friends opposes breed-discriminatory legislation, which arbitrarily targets particular dogs because of their appearance or breed. Canine profiling is not only ineffective at improving community safety, it is extremely expensive to enforce and a waste of tax dollars and lives.”
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
“By generalizing the behaviors of dogs that look a certain way, innocent dogs suffer and may even be euthanized without evidence that they pose a threat. Responsible dog owners are forced to give up their dogs, or move, cities and state spend money enforcing restrictions and bans instead of putting that money to better use by establishing and enforcing licensing and leash laws, and responding proactively to target owners of any dog that poses a risk to the community”
See also the AVMA’s: A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
(This is a very thorough report with many citations also).
“The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) is concerned about the propensity of various communities’ reliance on breed-specific legislation as a tool to decrease the risk and incidence of dog bites to humans. The AVSAB’s position is that such legislation – often called breed-specific legislation-is ineffective, and can lead to a false sense of community safety as well as welfare concerns for the dogs identified (often incorrectly) as belonging to specific breeds.
Animal Control Officers
National Animal Control Association (NACA)
Dangerous and/or vicious animals should be labeled as such as a result of their actions or behavior and not because of their breed.
Basis for Guideline
Any animal may exhibit aggressive behavior regardless of breed. Accurately identifying a specific animal’s lineage for prosecution purposes may be extremely difficult. Additionally, breed specific legislation may create an undue burden to owners who otherwise have demonstrated proper pet management and responsibility.”
Kansas Animal Control Association
“BSL is commonly perceived to be a proactive measure to prevent public safety issues that are thought to be associated with certain breeds. However, implementing breed restrictions/bans has negative and unintended consequences…the Kansas Animal Control Association recommends implementing laws that are truly effective and can be applied fairly to all breeds and not be discriminatory to certain breeds and their owners.
There is no behavior that is unique to a single breed or kind of dog. A dog’s physical and behavioral trails will be the result of multiple factors including genetics, training, management and the environment.”
National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
“The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructor, Inc. (NADOI) strongly opposes breed specific legislation which targets or discriminates against certain dogs based only on their breed or appearance. Such laws are unfair because they assume that a dog may be dangerous simply because of breed. In fact, it is almost always the behavior of the owners of these dogs which makes them a danger to others.
Since 1965, the NADOI has worked to help people train their dogs to be well behaved. Also, NADOI educates dog owners about the responsibility not only to their dogs, but to their communities. Ordinances against dangerous dogs, unattended and loose dogs, nuisance barking and other objectionable dog behaviors should be enacted and aggressively enforced. These laws, unlike breed-specific laws, force all dog owners to be responsible for the behavior of their dogs.
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
“The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) supports the adoption or enforcement of a program for the control of dangerous or vicious dogs that is fair, non-discriminatory and addresses dogs that are shown to be dangerous by their actions.
The APDT opposes any law that deems a dog as dangerous or vicious based on appearance, breed or phenotype. Canine temperaments are widely varied and behavior cannot be predicted by physical features such as head shape, coat length, muscle to bone ratio, etc. The only predictor of behavior is behavior.
As an organization comprised of dog trainers, behaviorists and other animal professionals, the APDT is fully aware that any dog can bite, any dog can maim and any dog can kill. A dangerous or vicious dog is the product of a combination of individual genetics, upbringing, socialization and lack of proper training. The solution to preventing dog bites is education of owners, breeder and the general public about aggressive prevention, not legislation directed at certain breeds.
Singling out and publicly demonizing certain breeds as dangerous is unfair, discriminatory, and does an immense disservice to those breeds and the people who care about them. Even more chilling, breed specific legislation encourages the faulty public perception of other breeds as being inherently safe. This can lead misguided individuals to engage in unsafe conduct with other breeds that can result in injury or death by individual representatives of those breeds mistakenly perceived as safe. Also, designating certain breeds as inherently dangerous implies to the public that behavior is not effectively influences, positively or negatively, by training. This misconception will likely produce a growing number of dangerous dogs as misinformed, complacent dog owners fail to practice responsible aggression-prevention measures.”
International Association of Canine Professionals
“The International Association of Canine Professionals strongly opposes legislation which discriminates against dogs and their owners by labeling certain dogs as “dangerous” or “vicious” based on breed or phenotype. Breed-specific legislation does not protect communities nor create a more responsible dog owner. Instead it negatively affects many law abiding dog owners and dogs within the targeted breeds.
Breed or breed type is only one factor which determines an individual dog’s temperament. Many other factors also influence behavior. In the case of aggressive acts by dogs, factors may include, but are not limited to: genetic predisposition; irresponsible handling; lack of animal management; general care; improper socialization and training; poor housing conditions; physical ailment, and lack of education and supervision.
A common and serious error in the ‘assumption of risk by breed’ is the inability to identify individual dogs by breed, according to an established breed standard or breed type. Purebred dogs which are registered with national clubs may or may not fit the ideal standard for their breed. As dogs are further distanced from the “ideal” standard by phenotype, especially in mixed breeds, it may become all but impossible for accurate identification.
The vast majority of dogs typically affected by breed-specific legislation are not “dangerous” by any standard. Their physical appearance alone cannot be used as an indicator of an aggressive nature. Breed-specific legislation creates an undue burden on responsible owners of targeted breeds – dogs which are most often not dangerous to their communities….”
American Kennel Club (AKC)
“The American Kennel Club supports reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern the ownership of dogs. The AKC believes that dog owners should be responsible for their dogs. We support laws that: establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as “dangerous” based on stated, measurable actions; impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proven to be dangerous. We believe that, if necessary, dogs proven to be “dangerous” may need to be humanely destroyed. The American Kennel Club strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be “dangerous” based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs.”
National Animal Interest Alliance
“NAIA supports reasonable laws to protect the public from dangerous dogs and opposes breed-specific legislation in any form. Breed-specific laws target good dogs and responsible animal owners along with the bad.”
Center for Disease Control (CDC)
A CDC study on fatal dog bites lists breeds involved in fatal attacks over 20 years. It does not identify specific breeds that are more likely to bite or kill, and thus, is not appropriate for policy-making decisions related to the topic. These bites result in approximately 16 fatalities; about .0002 percent of the total number of people bitten. These relatively few fatalities offer the only available information about breeds involved in dog bites. There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.
Many practical alternatives to breed-specific policies exist and hold promise for preventing dog bites. For prevention ideas and model policies for control of dangerous dogs, please see the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Task Force Guide on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions: A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention.” (I’ve provided the link to that study above)
American Bar Association
“Resolved, that the American Bar Association urges all state, territorial and local legislative bodies and government agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific provisions.