Many local governments, including those in the Chicago Metropolitan area, continue to debate legislation prohibiting ownership of some breed-specific dogs, including pit bulls. The epidemic of dog bites has long been of great concern to insurance companies, humanitarians, canine professionals and others. Reports of children being maimed or killed by pit bulls and other dog breeds are continually splashed across newspapers and the nightly news.
But exactly what can be done? There are arguments for and against any type of law that prohibits specific breeds. The points below outline nature versus nurture, and the benefits of each.
Individuals and legislators can argue to do nothing and avoid taking any steps to solve the problem. Banning specific dog breeds can be viewed as discrimination, in that the real problem lies more with a specific dog, and less with a specific breed. Many times, individuals arguing to take no action believe that dog attack statistics tend to be inaccurate or the media creates a false impression that dog bite problems are on the rise.
Others believe that the problem lies with the uneducated dog owner or those being bitten and not so much with the dog. This belief revolves around enacting criminal laws to hold the dangerous attack behavior of the dog against its owner. This approach supports educational efforts and strong animal control ordinances along with better ways to accurately report and document dog attacks.
Supporting Breed Restrictions
Legislators often indicate that the solution involves teaching dog safety to everyone, regulating tougher criminal and civil penalties, along with restricting ownership of specific breeds. This approach prevents human interaction with certain breeds in a variety of situations and places.
Support for breed restrictions tends to be based on a community approach to strengthen dog control laws to prohibit dangerous breeds in a public setting. Much like the restriction of owning a chicken, goat, horse or livestock in crowded cities, it makes sense to restrict dog breeds that have a high potential of attacking humans. However, for this legislation to be successful, current regulations applied to all dogs will need to be rewritten.
Supporting Breed Bans
Because the dangers involving Rottweilers, pit bulls and other specific dog breeds are well established in crowded communities. These breeds account for nearly three out of every four reported human death involving a canine attack over the last 20 years.
Accurately Diagnosing the Problem
Unfortunately, nearly any dog, regardless of breed, that is poorly socialized and/or raised in an aggressive environment has the potential for inappropriate aggression. Good management and upbringing of dogs plays an important role in responsible dog ownership.
Determining a method to diagnose the problem accurately is essential to legislate any type of solution. This is because dog bite statistics tend to misrepresent the actual truth about the types of bites and the outcome of the victim. Until communities begin tracking aggressive assault dog bites, legislators will be confused on how to address the issue properly.
Dog bites by definition indicates that the tooth or nail of the dog broke the skin of a human, irrespective of the circumstances or intention. As a result, many non-aggressive reactions by all types of dog breeds are documented as bites.
While the debate continues, it is important to note that some dogs have an increased potential of causing serious injuries to humans. Whether one specific breed poses unacceptable high risks as opposed to another breed may be more challenging to determine.
Legislation to manage dangerous dogs better will always be a controversial subject for dog lovers. The extremes of doing nothing or exterminating dangerous dog breeds are hopefully not on the table for discussion. However, any step to enact breed-specific legislation or banning specific breeds might be able to solve some parts of the problem involving dog owner responsibility. Until then, it is beneficial that everyone become more aware whenever around any dog.