Breed banning has been tried in numerous countries around the world and has been proven not to work. For over 20 years, Britain has banned 4 breeds of dog, and the incidence of dog bites in this time has risen by 50%. In Denmark, the number of banned breeds got up to nearly 40, before they repealed the rulings, after the incidence of dog bites didn’t drop.
There is no DNA test for Pit Bulls in Australia, so breed identification is done by a panel of people who agree to the “look” of a dog. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the seizing and euthanasia of many hundreds of dogs which were later proven not to be Pit Bulls at all. Additionally, many pit bull terriers are lovely family pets. The Breed specific Banning Legislation fails to capture dangerous dog owners, while unnecessarily persecuting responsible family pet owners.
The reason breed banning doesn’t work is simple – it doesn’t address the real problem. Banning a Pit Bull to try and reduce the number of dog bites is much like banning Holden cars to stop car accidents. Every single dog can and will bite and cause damage if its temperament and environment predispose it to doing so. The breeds on the top of the list of biting incidents in Australia include the Australian Cattle dog, Kelpie, Jack Russell Terrier, Border Collie, Rottweiler, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Labrador. Banning Pit Bull terriers will do nothing to stop these other breeds from biting.
So what does work? There is a proven answer. There is no “silver bullet” but we do know that a multi-factorial approach which concentrates on education and enforcing responsible pet ownership throughout the community is the only successful approach. The city of Calgary in Canada has more than halved the number of dog bites by enacting its Responsible Pet ownership bylaw in 2006. During this period, the population of Calgary doubled, so on a pro rata basis, they actually quartered the number of bites.
Calgary has a strict enforcement policy and punishes owners who fail to adhere to the legislation, which gives them every opportunity to succeed as responsible pet owners. In Calgary, 90% of dogs are licensed, allowing bylaw officers to keep track of pets and owners. It also allows officers to declare specific dogs as “dangerous” and this label brings with it higher fees, muzzling rules and age restrictions on the dogs handlers. The bylaw states that a dog can only be destroyed by owner request or court order.
The 2011 results in Calgary speak for themselves:
- Funded entirely by animal-related revenues, primarily licensing. It receives no tax revenue.
- Over 111,000 dogs licensed, out of a total estimated canine population of 122,325.
- 90% estimated compliance rate for dogs.
- 4,576 dogs impounded with 95% live release rate.
- 87% returned to owners.
- 8% adopted to new owners.
- 5% euthanised.
- Only 123 reported dog bites.
The findings from Calgary show that when a community is given support, education and resources to be a responsible pet owner, and enforces against a minority that refuse to comply, citizens can enjoy the companionship of their dogs, regardless of breed or type.
The solution to dangerous dogs, dog bites and community safety should be a science driven animal control model that has been proven to work, while preserving the human-canine bond.
Posted on 14 August 2013
Last updated on 12 December 2019