Draft Policy on Dangerous Dog Strategies and Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)
Animal Aid supports the creation of evidence based regulatory policy.
While enforcing the enacted legislation, Animal Aid would seek to replace Breed related legislation aimed at reducing dog bite statistics on the grounds that:
• BSL does not reduce the number of dog bites.
• BSL does not address the number of bites that arise from other breeds and cross-breeds.
• BSL ignores the fact that there may be highly sociable and well adjusted individuals in any breed.
• The identification of Pitbull Terriers (the breed under scrutiny at present) and other banned breeds from visual standards cannot be determined with complete relaibility.
• Studies have shown that BSL has not reduced bites in the UK (Klaassen, Buckley, & Esmail, 1996), Germany (Schalke, Ott, & von Gaertner, 2008; Ott, Schalke, von Gaertner, & Hackbarth, 2008) or the Netherlands (Cornelissen & Hopster, 2010) and BSL has been repealed in Germany and the Netherlands. Only one study supports the effectiveness of BSL and that incorporated many other strong initiatives to promote responsible ownership (Villalbi et al., 2010).
• Incontestably identifying a ‘restricted breed’ dog is currently impossible. Visual determinations of breed made by a Victorian government appointed ‘breed panel’ of experts was overturned by legal challenge.
• There are no definitive objective criteria, such as a DNA test, to identify a Pitbull Terrier.
• The Division of Local Government in NSW reports that in 2005 only 1-2% of attacking dogs were identified as restricted breeds i.e. 98% were not. The percentage of bites attributable to restricted breed dogs has been steadily decreasing (0.06% in 2008 and 0.2% in 2009). Therefore, BSL could only ever be expected to reduce the number dog bites by a very small amount.
• Any breed of dog breed can bite regardless of breed. The challenge is identifying which one is likely to do so before they actually do it. Recommendations
• Identifying strategies that work elsewhere and implementing them. For example, Calgary, Canada has reduced dog bites and shelter euthanasia; increased desexing and regulatory compliance without BSL or mandating desexing. Incidentally, Calgary has a very high population of Pitbull Terriers
• Develop the ability to identify individual dogs that have a propensity to bite, regardless of species by establishing if there are genetic markers of canine aggression.
• Provision of widespread, low-cost dog training targeting problematic and anti-social behaviour to proactively prevent issues developing.
• Development of validated assessments for good temperament and only breeding with dogs that have passed such tests to reduce aggression. While all dogs have the ability to bite, the risk is mediated by the size and sociability of the dog, genetic factors, specific breed characteristics (which are the focus of current attention) and owner responsibility. The Calgary experience indicates that owner responsibility is the key variable. Animal Aid believes that society’s interests are best served by moving away from BSL and using a combination of strategies to reduce dog bites including rewarding responsible owners who register, socialise and train their dogs while rigorously enforcing registration requirements and owner liability for the offences that their dog’s commit. Reference List
Cornelissen, J. M. & Hopster, H. (2010). Dog bites in The Netherlands: a study of victims, injuries, circumstances and aggressors to support evaluation of breed specific legislation. Veterinary Journal, 186, 292-298.
Klaassen, B., Buckley, J. R., & Esmail, A. (1996). Does the dangerous dogs act protect against animal attacks: a prospective study of mammalian bites in the accident and emergency department. Injury, 27, 89-91.
Ott, S. A., Schalke, E., von Gaertner, A. M., & Hackbarth, H. (2008). Is there a difference? Comparison of golden retrievers and dogs affected by breed-specific legislation regarding aggressive behavior. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 3, 134-140. Schalke, E., Ott, S. A., & von Gaertner, A. M. (2008). Is breed-specific legislation justified? Study of the results of the temperament test of Lower Saxony . Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 3, 97-103.
Villalbi, J. R., Cleries, M., Bouis, S., Peracho, V., Duran, J., & Casas, C. (2010). Decline in hospitalisations due to dog bite injuries in Catalonia, 1997-2008. An effect of government regulation? Inj.Prev., 16, 408-410.