What is the Dangerous Dogs Act and Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL)Apr 25, 2023
What is the Dangerous Dogs Act and Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL)
The issue of dangerous dogs and breed-specific legislation is a controversial and complex one, with strong arguments on both sides. In the UK, the government introduced the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991, which banned four breeds of dog and placed restrictions on others that were deemed to be dangerous. Since then, there has been ongoing debate about the effectiveness of this legislation and whether targeting specific breeds of dogs is fair or effective. However, the UK is not alone in dealing with this issue - many countries around the world have also implemented breed-specific legislation or are in discussion to do so.
Breed-Specific Legislation in the UK
As mentioned, the UK introduced the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991. This legislation banned the ownership, breeding, sale, or exchange of four breeds of dog: Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentinos, and Fila Brasileiros.
The act also placed restrictions on other breeds of dogs that were deemed to be dangerous, including Rottweilers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
Since the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act, there has been ongoing debate about its effectiveness.
Some groups, such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), have argued that the law unfairly targets certain breeds of dogs and does not effectively address the root causes of dog bites and attacks.
Others, however, have argued that the legislation is necessary for public safety and that certain breeds of dogs are more prone to aggression and should be regulated.
In recent years, there have been calls to reform or even repeal the Dangerous Dogs Act. Critics of the legislation argue that it has not reduced the number of dog bites or attacks, and that focusing on specific breeds of dogs ignores the role that irresponsible ownership and lack of proper training and socialisation can play in dog aggression.
Breed-Specific Legislation Around the World
The issue of dangerous dogs and breed-specific legislation isn’t unique to the UK. Many other countries around the world have implemented similar laws or are also looking to implement something similar.
In the United States breed-specific legislation is controlled at the state or local level. While some states have implemented statewide breed-specific laws, many local governments have enacted their own regulations targeting specific breeds of dogs. These regulations can vary widely - some simply require owners of certain breeds to take additional precautions or follow specific rules, while others ban ownership of certain breeds altogether.
In Australia, the state of Victoria implemented breed-specific legislation in 2017, which banned the breeding, sale, and importation of six breeds of dog: Pit Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, Argentinian Fighting Dogs, Fila Brasileiros, and Perro de Presa Canarios. Other states in Australia have also implemented these, or similar bans.
The debate over dangerous dogs and breed-specific legislation (BSL)
This debate has been raging for decades with proponents of BSL arguing that certain breeds of dogs are dangerous and should be subject to specific regulations or even banned from certain areas or countries altogether. Opponents argue that this approach unfairly targets certain breeds and ignores the fact that any dog can be dangerous if not properly trained and socialised.
Lets have a look at the reasons behind BSL, the controversies surrounding it, and the potential alternatives.
What is Breed-Specific Legislation?
Breed-specific legislation refers to laws or regulations that target specific breeds of dogs. These laws vary by location globally but can include breed bans, mandatory spaying and neutering, and/or requirements for specific types of fencing or signage. In some cases, owners of certain breeds may also be required to purchase liability insurance or have their dogs muzzled in public.
The origins of breed-specific legislation can be traced back to the early 20th century when some countries, such as Germany and the UK, began to regulate specific breeds of dogs that were deemed to be dangerous. In the United States, breed-specific legislation became more widespread in the 1980s and 1990's, following a series of high-profile attacks involving pit bulls.
Reasons for Breed-Specific Legislation
There are several reasons why governments may choose to implement breed-specific legislation. The most common reasons include:
Government bodies may believe that certain breeds of dogs are simply dangerous and pose a threat to public safety. They argue that breed-specific legislation is necessary to reduce the risk of attacks or bites.
Owners of certain breeds of dogs may face higher liability risks if their dogs cause harm to other people or animals. Breed-specific legislation can be seen as a way to reduce these risks and protect the public.
In some cases, breed-specific legislation may be driven by public opinion or pressure from advocacy groups. If a particular breed of dog is widely perceived as dangerous, governments may feel pressure to act, even if there is little evidence to support the claim.
Controversies Surrounding Breed-Specific Legislation
Despite its popularity in some areas and/or countries, breed-specific legislation has been a controversial topic for many years. Here are some of the most common criticisms of BSL.
Critics of breed-specific legislation argue that it is ineffective at reducing the number of dog bites or attacks. They point out that any dog can be dangerous if not properly trained or socialised, and that targeting specific breeds ignores this fact.
Many people argue that breed-specific legislation is unfair to responsible dog owners who have well-behaved dogs of breeds that are considered dangerous. They argue that these rules punish them for the actions of the people who have these breeds for the wrong reasons.
It’s Based on Misinformation
Critics of breed-specific legislation also argue that it is often based on misinformation or stereotypes about certain breeds of dogs. They may point out that many breeds that are commonly considered dangerous, such as pit bulls, have historically been bred to be loyal and friendly companions.
Alternatives to Breed-Specific Legislation
Given the controversies surrounding BSL, alternative approaches have been proposed to reduce the risk of dog bites or attacks. Some examples of this are...
Education and Awareness
Advocates for dogs argue that education and awareness are key to reducing the risk of dog bites or attacks. They may suggest investment in programs that teach children and adults how to safely interact with dogs and how to identify signs of aggression.
Stronger Laws for Irresponsible Owners
Government bodies and their legal systems should focus on punishing irresponsible dog owners who fail to properly train or socialise their dogs, rather than targeting specific breeds. This could include stronger penalties for owners whose dogs bite or attack, mandatory training or obedience classes for certain breeds, or a dog permit scheme ensuring the owner of the dog is wholly responsible for its behaviour and the results thereof.
Encouraging Responsible Ownership
Encourage responsible ownership through human based positive reinforcement. This could include incentives for owners who participate in training programs or who spay and neuter their pets, or offering low-cost or free resources for owners who need help caring for their dogs. These incentives could include lower cost insurance (like drivers who have passed an advanced driver’s test), discounts on pet products (in partnership with pet stores), etc.
Finally, that any policies related to dog bites or attacks should be based on solid data and research. This could include tracking incidents of dog bites by breed, age, etc, as well as studying the effectiveness of different types of policies and regulations.
The issue of dangerous dogs and breed-specific legislation is a complex and controversial one, with strong arguments on both sides. This debate is likely to continue, with proponents and opponents of such laws offering strong arguments on both sides.
While some advocates argue that certain breeds of dogs are inherently dangerous and require special regulations or even bans, others argue that targeting specific breeds is unfair and ineffective.
Ultimately, the best approach to reducing the risk of dog bites and attacks requires a comprehensive approach that considers factors such as responsible ownership, proper training and socialisation and evidence-based policies that consider the unique circumstances of each community (this community-based approach considers the reason for the owner selecting the specific breed).