Many thanks to my friends who provided pictures of their pit bull type dogs!
The city of Montreal instituted a ban on pit bulls that has been suspended…for now. The suspension is thanks in large part to the efforts of the Montreal SPCA and their attorneys bringing suit and citing a ban in Ontario as a landmark case. Breed Specific Legislation simply doesn’t work and there’s a really good reason for that: BSL punishes the wrong end of the leash.
Under the terms of the ban should it be upheld, a “pit bull type dog” will be defined solely based on physical appearance. Provisions were made for formal DNA testing. I’ve pointed out in a previous entry that the term pit bull is not in any way scientific and refers to a DESIGNATION not a BREED. I’ll point out here that DNA testing for dogs is expensive and largely unreliable. A known wolf-dog hybrid came back as a Sharpei. On these grounds alone the ban makes no sense.
Under the Montreal ban, people will be allowed to keep their pit bulls, but they must be muzzled when off their own property and on a leash no more than 4 feet in length. It’s a known fact that dogs don’t like to be muzzled. To muzzle a dog that doesn’t need to be muzzled is just cruel. The ban also dictates that every pit bull in the ban area currently in a shelter will be put down. Yes, that’s correct. Thousands of healthy animals could be killed simply for being born. This is canine genocide.
The people who have it worse under the Montreal ban would be the veterinarians. They’re governed by a code of ethics that prohibits them from putting down a healthy, social animal with a good quality of life. Under the ban, Montreal vets are within their rights to refuse to perform a euthanasia on a pit bull, but are responsible for finding another veterinarian who will. Basically they can either violate their code of ethics or violate their code of ethics.
The intentions of the legislators who supported the Montreal ban had nothing to do with discrimination, ripping families apart, canine genocide, alienating the veterinary community, or wasting of public resources. I’m sure their intentions had everything to do with public safety. President Obama said it best “We don’t support breed-specific legislation — research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.”
BSL doesn’t target the right groups. To write effective policy that reduces dog attacks, the focus should be turned from dogs to humans who often through either lack of education or willful acts of abuse provoke these attacks. Policy should target backyard breeders, abusive owners, dog fighting operations, current pet owners, prospective pet owners, and law enforcement officers. Here are some proposals on how the law should be written:
1. All breeders of dogs MUST be licensed. To obtain a license, you must submit pedigrees, veterinary records, and be subject to an initial inspection of your facilities and your animals as well as surprise inspections after the license is issued. A fee will be charged to pay for the enforcement of this policy. Anyone found to be breeding dogs or in possession of an intact male or female dog without a breeding license and cannot verify that an appointment for a spay or neuter has been made within 30 days will be fined, the animals will be seized, spayed/neutered at the offender’s expense, adopted out to an appropriately screened owner, and the offender will be banned from ever owning another dog.
2. Animal cruelty will no longer be a misdemeanor. All charges of animal cruelty will be treated as FELONIES. Penalties for animal cruelty will be stiffer with more jail time. Changing the classification of animal cruelty and imposing harsher penalties will act as a greater deterrent. Any individual charged with animal cruelty will have all of their animals seized. Any veterinary care required will be provided at the offender’s expense, and the animals will be adopted out. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty will be banned from ever owning another animal.
3. A police task force will be created to combat the growing problem of dog fighting. Officers will be trained on proper ways to assess and evaluate canine behavior. Officers will also be trained on proper handling of dogs and be better equipped to assist rescuers and animal control officers during raids of dog fighting operations. This special training will also assist officers when they arrive at a home during the course of their duties to better handle canine residents and avoid the unnecessary killing of beloved family pets.
4. Educational programs and government-sponsored low-cost spay/neuter services will be provided to all pet owners. In order to receive a dog license, potential owners must prove that they are proficient in the proper care, handling, and training of their dogs. Revenue from dog licensing fees and fines collected for failure to properly license a dog will be used to cover the cost of this program. Low-cost spay/neuter options will be made available by offering economic incentives to veterinarians.
All of this makes sense, right? There’s a reason for that: All of the above proposals are aimed at humans because we are the real problem here. It is exceedingly rare for a dog to be born aggressive. If a dog is aggressive odds are it’s because a human made it that way. If you provide education to pet owners, law enforcement officers, and the general public you empower people to make the right decisions for themselves and their animals. Pit bulls are not maligned in society because of anything they’ve done. Dogs do what they’re taught to do by humans. We’re the reason these animals are suffering and it’s our responsibility to put an end to it. Breed specific legislation is not the way. Education and stronger enforcement is.