EVIDENCE SHOWS THAT BREED-SPECIFIC RESTRICTIONS DO NOT AND CANNOT WORK

This is the view held by the Australian Veterinary Association, their peers in Britain, the United States and Canada, and major animal welfare organisations internationally.

If indeed this is the case, why are these 5 breeds restricted? (Japanese Tosa, Fila Brasileiro, Dogo Argentino, Perro de Presa Canario and American Pit Bull Terrier).

If breed-specific legislation does not and cannot work, why do we have this legislation in Australia? 

Adelaide Dog Attack Register - BSL Ireland

Dangerous dogs sign erected in Co Meath, Ireland displaying 10 restricted breeds.

The fact that the breeds listed above have been restricted means that the government MUST believe that BSL does work! This contradicts the view held by the Australian Veterinary Association.

Presumably, the government takes advice from the Australian Veterinary Association who do not support BSL, yet we restrict 5 breeds. Am I missing something here?

There seems very little evidence to support the restriction of some of these breeds. If you Google Japanese Tosa or Fila Brasileiro attacks, it’s virtually impossible to find any reports (in English at least).

Definition of a restricted breed
Certain breeds of dogs have been identified by the Commonwealth Government as being particularly aggressive. They have been banned from import into Australia to protect the community from these breeds.

I don’t doubt for a second that any of these large dogs could cause significant damage or kill if attacking another dog or person, but it would seem the Tosa and Brasileiro are restricted based on historical pedigree and nothing more.

Conversely, international media reports offer some justification to the restriction of Presa Canario and Dogo Argentino. However, as is usually the case, irresponsible owners are to blame.

Presa Canario: report, report, report, report
Dogo Argentino: report, report, report, report

Many veterinary associations around the world concur that breed-specific legislation doesn’t work, yet many countries still restrict the following breeds:

  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro
  • Japanese Tosa
  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • Perro de Presa Canario

If the agreed thinking is that breed-specific legislation doesn’t work, why are these dogs restricted?

Adelaide Dog Attack Register - Restricted Dog Breeds

It’s hardly news that American Pit Bull Terriers (or their Australian equivalent the Staffordshire Bull Terrier), are the two breeds identified (rightly or wrongly) as being responsible for the majority of reported attacks in the US & Australia respectively. (Pit Bull statistics here, and if you read the blog posts on this website and view the reference links, council statistics and media reports here, there is no shortage of evidence. Alternatively, a Google search will reveal about 17 pages of Staffordshire Bull Terrier attack reports.

If the aim of the legislation was ‘to protect the community’, evidence would suggest both the Tosa and Fila Brasileiro have done little to justify their restriction, certainly less than several other breeds.

It seems there are only 2 reasons for restricting a breed in Australia:

a) It’s considered dangerous (even with little evidence to support it, ie. Tosa & Brasileiro)
b) It’s easy to do (low numbers of a particular dog breed in Australia)

Or, if you view this from a different angle, why are there so few Tosa or Dogo Argentino dog attacks in Australia? Is it because breed-specific legislation works?

Ontario’s experience seems to be at odds with the views of the Australian, British, US and Canadian veterinary associations:

In 2004, the last full year before the Pit Bull ban was introduced, there were 984 licensed pit bulls in the city and 168 reported bites. Last year (2013) there were 501 pit bulls registered in Toronto, and just 13 bites. That’s right — the number of reported bites went from 168 to 13.

During the first 5 years of the ban, reported bites from Pit Bulls (and the 3 other banned breeds) fell from 71 to 6. Initially, it looked like the ban had succeeded, and in some ways it did, Toronto recorded only 19 Pit Bull attacks in 2014, down from 112 in 2005. However, it has not managed to reduce the overall number of dog attacks which reached record levels (767) in 2014.

In 2005 when the Pit Bull ban commenced in Ontario, attacks by German Shepherds were the most prevalent (112); in the 2014 figures, German Shepherd attacks were still the most prevalent (92). So why were Pit Bulls singled out?

I am neither an advocate or opponent of breed-specific legislation, this is a decision for the government to make based on advice and recommendations from the Australian Veterinary Association. I just want to walk my dog without being attacked.

This is the AVAs current view:

The failure of breed-specific legislation to prevent dog attacks is due to a number of factors:

  • Firstly, breed on its own is not an effective indicator or predictor of aggression in dogs
  • Secondly, it is not possible to precisely determine the breed of the types of dogs targeted by breed-specific legislation by appearance or by DNA analysis
  • Thirdly, the number of animals that would need to be removed from a community to have a meaningful impact on hospital admissions is so high that the removal of any one breed would have negligible impact
  • Finally, breed-specific legislation ignores the human element whereby dog owners who desire this kind of dog will simply substitute another breed of dog of similar size, strength and perception of aggressive tendencies

Every study and research paper about breed-specific restrictions and high-risk dogs reaches the same conclusion. Dog owners who desire this kind of dog.

IT’S A PEOPLE PROBLEM, NOT A DOG PROBLEM

Stanley Coren (2006), Kaspersson (2008), Barnes et al (2006), Maher and Pierpoint (2011). Laurie Ragatz (2009) and Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent article in the New Yorker magazine (2006).

The ‘problem’ has been identified, so why has nothing been done to address it?

Adelaide Dog Attack Register - High Risk Dog Owners

Owners of Low-Risk Dogs and High-Risk Dogs: Differences in Criminal Convictions & Traffic Citations. Study conducted by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in 2006.

It’s now 5 years since the Australian Veterinary Association published excerpts (pages 7-8) from authors listed above in its Dangerous Dogs – a sensible solution policy and model legislation framework.

The future outlook is grim. In the hands of irresponsible owners, 7 of the top 10 dog breeds in 2017 are large (potentially aggressive) ones. If the situation is bad now, it’s surely only going to get worse unless something is done to minimise the risks.

It’s time for SAPOL to practice what they preach

The South Australian Police proudly proclaim ‘Keeping SA Safe’, presumably that also includes people who wish to walk their dog safely without being attacked.

If dog attacks are to decline in SA, SAPOL must engage with vets and councils to make it more difficult for high-risk dogs to get into the hands of dog owners who desire this kind of dog.

Interestingly enough, SAPOL officers will soon be wearing cameras to capture evidence – exactly as I now do to ensure any attacks that occur in future don’t go unrecorded.

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Showing 2 comments
  • NoMorePitBullVictims
    Reply

    As an advocate for victims of pit bulls in the USA who has been following dog attacks (all breeds) for more than 5 years, I can say that most maimings, mutilatings and killings have been inflicted by pit bull type dogs that came from loving family homes where they were not abused etc.
    Take a look at DogsBite.org and see for yourself.
    Sure, there are plenty of irresponsible owners that do not help but if they were the main reason for all these terrible attacks, plenty of other breeds would be linked which is not the case at all.
    It is the breed.

    • Alan Timms
      Reply

      Hi there, I used DogsBite.org for some of my research, Pit Bull type dogs are restricted in Australia, but we have similar breeds that seem to be as problematic, unfortunately record keeping in Australia isn’t that great.

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