All Dogs Are Equal

Raise the bar for dogs, families and communities by fighting harmful breed-specific policies

Humane Society International / Canada

Pitbull terrier

Across Canada, municipalities and even entire provinces like Ontario ban or restrict dogs because of their breed (or perceived breed).

HSI/Canada opposes such public policies as inhumane and ineffective. There is no evidence that breed-specific laws reduce dog bites or attacks on people, and they divert resources from more effective animal control and public safety initiatives. This is also reflected by the position statement of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association on dangerous dog legislation, which they support, “[p]rovided that it is not discriminatory of a specific breed. This legislation should be directed at fostering the safety and protection of the general public from dogs classified as ‘dangerous’ or ‘vicious.’ The CVMA encourages and supports a community approach to dog bite prevention, including responsible breeding, training, pet selection and pet ownership as well as education on animals in the community.”

Breed-based policies aren’t founded on science or credible data, but on myths and misinformation surrounding different breeds. Their impact on dogs, families and animal shelters, however, is heartbreakingly real.

Learn the truth about breed bans, and help your community become a place where dogs aren’t judged by their looks, but by their behavior.

Bad laws have high costs

Breed bans and restrictions force dogs out of homes and into shelters, taking up kennel space and resources that could be used for animals who are truly homeless. Underfunded animal control agencies bear the burden of enforcing the laws, and are often called on to decide, based on looks alone, whether a dog belongs to a certain breed. Battles erupt between dog owners and local agencies—and often continue to the courts—costing the community resources that could have been spent on effective, breed-neutral dog laws and enforcement.

Science doesn’t support breed bias

Experts have found that no breed is more likely to bite than another. The CVMA, the Ordre des médecins vétérinaires du Québec, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Companion Animal Coalition and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention oppose breed-specific legislation, along with leading animal welfare organizations.

Complicating the issue of breed bans and restrictions is the fact that often pet dogs are mixed breeds. Through canine genetic testing, studies have found that even people in animal-related professions can’t accurately identify the breeds in a mixed-breed dog’s genealogy. Tragically, breed-biased laws have caused the deaths of countless dogs whose only crime was to resemble a certain breed.

Breeds don’t magically disappear

In a 2012 article about the long-standing breed ban in Miami-Dade County, Fla., Kathy Labrada, then head of animal services enforcement, admitted that the ban had been a failure. “No, it has not been effective,” she told The Daily Telegraph. “To target a specific breed I don’t think is logical.”

Many animal shelters are flooded with dogs who, because of breed bans, can’t be adopted to the people in their communities. Shelters in neighboring cities and counties often end up taking in the dogs, creating something like a shell game. Katie Barnett, an animal law attorney in Kansas, remembers when animal control officers showed up at her door several years ago and told her that she had two weeks to get rid of her dog, Katrina. Instead, Barnett and Katrina moved just 10 miles away, to another city in the Kansas City metropolitan area that didn’t ban Staffordshire bull terriers. Her experience, Barnett says, underscores the illogic behind a patchwork of local breed bans: “I can live in one city and by simply crossing the street into another, all of the sudden my dog is labeled dangerous.”

BSL is a dying trend

Fortunately, more people and their elected officials are learning why breed bans don’t make sense, and BSL is on the decline. In the United States, 19 states have passed laws prohibiting BSL on the local level, and nearly 100 municipalities have replaced BSL with breed-neutral policies. Repealing BSL has not resulted in more dog bites in these communities. In fact, after Ohio repealed its statewide breed-based law, State Farm Insurance reported a decrease in dog-related claims in the state.

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