Breed Specific Legislation was a hot topic this year with all of the news surrounding Montreal’s BSL. Although things did not turn out as we’d all hoped with Montreal, the fight there is not over. But in the states, the fight is over for two cities – Shawnee, KS and Hubbard, IA. Why is the fight over? Because officials repealed their BSL.
The law in Shawnee was put into place in 1985. That’s 31 years of “pit bull” dogs being banned from the city! When officials enacted the law, there was already dangerous dog legislation on the books. In an April 2016 hearing, councilmembers moved to strike the breed specific identifier in the city’s municipal code.
During the council meeting, Councilmember Stephanie Meyer said:
“I just want to say that I’m glad we’re discussing this tonight. I think it’s past time.”
Councilmember Brandon King chimed in with his personal experience:
“Back when I was on my homeowners’ association board I had residents that were concerned with this just because when you get into mixed breeds, it becomes an issue, too.”
Resident Jillian Walsh brought up the key fact that the city’s BSL was arbitrary and often based on inaccurate visual identification:
“You say that it’s pit bulls, but it’s not just the American Pit Bull Terrier, it’s Argentine Dogo, Cane Corso, Presa Canario. These are mastiffs. It’s not the same breed. I mean they’re all lumped together into this bully breed category. I have an American Bull Dog, people mistake him for a pit bull all of the time.”
Her comments echo how we feel about what has become an arbitrary label. Through our work we understand that the phrase “pit bull” means something different to everyone. Animal welfare workers don’t agree on how to define “pit bull.”.Law enforcement officers don’t agree. Even dog owners don’t agree on exactly what a pit bull is! Plus, there is no standard legal definition for “pit bull”. The use of that label, “pit bull” is arbitrary, subjective, and often randomly applied.
The motion to remove the breed ban in Shawnee, KS passed with only one nay from Guest Councilmember Fagan.
Hubbard, IA officials repealed their ban on dogs with the “pit bull” label in February of this year. The law had been on the books since 2012. The repeal passed unanimously.
While not all of the news related to BSL was positive this year, it is important to remember that breed specific legislation is on the decline overall. More people are focusing on building safe communities, rather than banning specific breeds. A good deal of this is due to science, as people are becoming aware of the inaccuracy of visual identifications and the complex nature of a dog’s behavior.
For up to date information on breed specific legislation, check out our interactive BSL map.