Information & Advocacy Resources
Take Action Against Breed Specific Legislation
BSL will soon be a thing of the past: BSL defenders have a powerful ally and motivator on their side: fear. It’s their only ally, but it works. To fight the spread of BSL, vigilance and intelligent action are necessary. Laws are being proposed every day that are intended to take away our rights to own particular dogs for no
reason other than their purported “breed” – the way they look, the hype that surrounds them. BSL is the politician’s inadequate and uneducated band-aid solution to address the gushing “wound” of irresponsible ownership and lack of personal accountability. The fight against BSL will take unwavering commitment and unconditional dedication. Here are some steps on how to take action against Breed Specific Legislation:
- Monitor Legislation: Usually, the earliest hint of BSL comes from a newspaper article about a serious dog attack or dog-related death, especially if a commonly-targeted breed or type of dog is involved. This is typically followed by Letters to the Editor or editorial columns proposing a breed ban. From there, BSL discussions are put on the city council agenda. Occasionally, BSL is introduced at the start of a state legislative session. This may or may not make the news. To watch for potential BSL, you can monitor:
- your local newspapers
- your city council agendas—these are usually posted several days before the council meeting, and all but the smallest towns now post their agendas online
- your state legislature’s introduced bills—go online to your legislature’s website and see if they have a bill tracking service; for instance, you can enter keyword “dog” and it will e-mail you whenever a bill with that keyword is introduced.
- Contact Your Lawmakers: This depends on who is proposing BSL. If your city council is proposing BSL, then you would contact your city council members. If a state legislator is proposing BSL, then you would contact your state representatives (in your state’s House and Senate). Most towns, cities, and counties have websites that list the local lawmakers’ contact information. Contact your elected officials. If the bill is being considered by a committee (this usually occurs after a bill has just been proposed), you can contact the officials who are on the committee to encourage/discourage them from approving it. It is only after the bill is approved by a committee that it makes its way to the House or Senate floor for a vote. It is important to contact the lawmakers who will serve a role in the decision of enacting BSL or not. Be sure to communicate your concerns and voice your opinion when communicating with these political officials. Remember to always be respectful and educated in your approach.
- Write Letters. In order to create change, you must first influence change. Writing letters to politicians is the first step to fighting BSL. The key is to be brief and to the point. The first sentence in your letter or speech should tell the elected officials what you would like for them to do (or not do). State your position. The rest is up to you, but you probably should not exceed one page of text (for a speech, follow the time limit set by forum rules). Please do not use form letters and do not copy model letters. Officials absolutely hate it when they get a bunch of letters that sound the same. They may attribute form letters to radical groups and lobbyists, not to concerned individuals. The key is quality, not quantity. Use your own words and your own arguments, even if you think you aren’t a very good writer. As long as you manage to hit on a couple of important points, you’ve done more good by writing a personal letter than by sending a form letter. Always remain polite, calm, and informative. Do not threaten or insult. Remember that you are a direct representation of all the other individuals against BSL, including the dogs that are targeted by this law. Click here for some helpful tips on writing your letter.
Remember: If we do not stand UNITED, we will inevitably FALL.
Stand up AGAINST Breed Specific Legislation. End the HATE today.
Important Arguments Against BSL
- BSL does not improve public safety or prevent dog bites.
- BSL ignores the plight of victims and potential victims of non-targeted breeds.
- BSL is costly.
- BSL requires each and every dog to be identified as a breed—something that has proven impossible to do accurately and objectively.
- BSL makes targeted breeds more desirable to irresponsible and criminal owners.
- BSL does nothing to make irresponsible dog owners accountable.
- BSL punishes responsible dog owners.
- Not a single canine welfare organization supports BSL.
What alternatives are there to BSL?
Stronger dog laws and an emphasis on abuse prevention are the best alternatives. The only way to properly combat BSL is to offer better alternatives that will tackle the real problems of dog bites and attacks head on. Below are a few proposed alternatives to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL):
- Better Dog Ownership Laws. Studies have shown that dog owner mismanagement is frequently the cause of dog bites. Dogs that are not properly socialized, trained, and contained are often implicated in dog bites. Furthermore, dogs have no control over their environment, but their owners do. Consequently, dangerous dog laws should more properly be called dangerous dog owner laws, because the laws should focus on owner actions (and inactions), and owner responsibility (and irresponsibility). Dog owners are capable of—and should be held responsible for—safely controlling their dog, no matter what breed or type of dog they happen to own.
- Abuse Prevention. To achieve a safer and more humane community, abuse and dog fighting are two practices which must be of primary concern to animal control and police departments. Sadly, resources to tackle these two serious issues are often lacking. The way an animal is treated and its environment strongly affects its temperament. While our media gives dramatic reports of dog attacks, they often exclude important information about the manner in which the attacking dog was kept. Unfortunately, Pit Bulls are a direct target of scrutiny for the media and their involvement in dog attacks/bites are immediately reported by the media, while other attacks involving different breeds go unreported. Furthermore, the Pit Bull is the most abused type of dog. The problem of Pit Bull abuse is so severe and unique that many dog registries (such as Pet-Abuse.com) have a separate category specifically for abuse cases involving “Pit Bull” type dogs. Overall abuse of “Pit Bull” type dogs makes up 20 percent of reports of dog abuse in the United States database. Of tethered dog abuse cases, “Pit Bull” type dogs make up 40 percent of the total. Considering how many “Pit Bulls” suffer at the hands of cruel owners, their involvement in dog attacks and/or bites is almost obsolete. Efforts to stop dog fighting will also directly help this breed. Stronger laws against dog fighting should be implemented and there should be more research and investigation taking place to end these disgusting acts of torture. Identifying and preventing all forms of animal abuse will help make attack incidents less frequent.
- Safety, Education and Awareness: Education is a key component in dog bite prevention strategies. Yet this approach continues to be scoffed at by some lawmakers. Short-term studies have indicated that a child’s behavior around dogs is influenced by such education. Considering the pervasiveness of dogs in society, it makes sense that all people, young and old, should learn the basics of dog safety, even if they do not own a dog. In the United States, children make up the majority of dog bite victims. This points to a clear need for education of both children and parents about how to behave around dogs and how to avoid being bitten by dogs. Children should learn dog safety in school, much as they learn fire safety and stranger safety. Dog safety can also be taught throughout the community. Classes may be held in pet stores, booths may be set up at community events, local governments may issue tips and information in their regular publications, and so forth. Local governments and animal control departments may fund part of this education effort, rather than committing their money to enforce Breed Specific Legislation, laws that have been proven to not work. Education and awareness will lead to safer communities.
- Spay and Neuter: Unaltered male dogs are overwhelmingly implicated in dog bites, both fatal and nonfatal. In fact, this single factor is more strongly correlated to fatal attacks than the dog’s breed or the manner of containment. Considering the strong correlation between intact dogs and dog bites, it seems wise as a preventative measure to encourage spay/neuter. There are, of course, health benefits for the animal. Spay/neuter also reduces the number of accidental litters. This helps a community control the pet population. It is a win-win situation. Spay/neuter also provides an opportunity to educate dog owners about their responsibilities, to discourage the use of dogs for guarding or protection, and to provide additional resources for dog owners who are dealing with a dog’s behavior problems. It has been suggested, as well, that when an individual is encouraged to spay/neuter his or her pet, this helps to re-frame the animal as a valuable object requiring an investment of money and time, rather than a cheap disposable toy.
- Irresponsible Owner Regulation: The Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation commonly uses the phrase “Pit Bulls are not the problem, bad owners are the problem.” This phrase couldn’t be more accurate. Irresponsible pet ownership is a societal plague that has been ongoing for generations. When we take an animal into our home we are taking on a responsibility. Unfortunately for millions of animals, too many people choose to ignore that responsibility, either due to ignorance or laziness. It is common to see irresponsible owners letting their pets roam free off leash and even around their neighborhoods. This can be hazardous for a number of reasons. Pets can come into contact with other animals and a fight can break out, possibly even leading to death for one of the animals. Without an owner’s supervision, an animal can easily be involved in a dog attack or dog bite involving other adults or children. A responsible owner would never allow this risk to take place. Dogs left to roam free are susceptible to a much shortened life when met with speeding vehicles, poison left on other properties, property owners with firearms, potentially diseased wild animals and of course being picked up by animal control and taken to the shelter. Furthermore, lack of containment can lead to animal reproduction, specifically for those pets who are unaltered. It is for this reason that both owner supervision and spay/neuter programs are so important to the success of the pet population. People like to cast the kill shelters in a negative light, but in reality it is the population at large who is responsible. The shelter does not want to kill any animal, but it simply does not have enough room or enough people willing to adopt. Impulsive decisions are probably the number one cause of abandoned pets in the United States. It is so tempting to see the adorable kitten or puppy and want to take it home. A responsible individual evaluates his or her options before taking the first step to pet ownership and makes a full commitment once a decision is finally made. We choose to take on the responsibility of caring for an animal for its entire life when we adopt. To do otherwise is cruel. Pets can enrich our lives in so many ways. It is only fair we do the best we can by them.