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What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog's Breed?


What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?
The Heartbreak that is Breed Specific Legislation

By Corey Van’t Haaff

The banning of breeds, confiscation of family dogs, and the business of changing public perception

I have a secret. It’s something that few people know about me, a dog fanatic that lives her life as an open book. I am scared of Pit Bulls. Terrified, actually. I am afraid to extend my arm, hand out, palm up, to a Pit Bull for fear of being attacked. And this is from a woman who greets every dog who comes her way with a “Hello baby†or “What a pretty dog.†For every breed but one, I will ask the owner, “Can I pat your dog?†and then gleefully rub the head of any pup whose owner permits it.

Except Pit Bulls.

This isn’t the result of some historic Pit Bull trauma. When I was in grade school, a Borzoi at the top of our street once lunged at me, tearing the collar of my coat. And as a child, visiting my grandpa, a pair of Pomeranians used to try to bite us kids through the fence. Neither breed scares me now. My sister had a Rottweiler and now has a Doberman, and I have no fear. I had German Wirehaired Pointers and currently have a large cross breed that is far more German Shepherd than Golden Retriever, and I have no fear. But I am afraid of Pit Bulls so I’ve kept my distance— and, until now, my secret.

Then, I received a chance invitation to the Vancouver premiere of the documentary Beyond the Myth: The Truth About Pit Bulls, a film dedicated to demonstrating that Pit Bulls are saddled with an undeserved reputation fueled by ignorance and misunderstanding. It heartrendingly illustrates the consequences of breed specific legislation (BSL). Imagine your dog confiscated by the authorities and put down simply because he is of a breed your city has legislated against. I RSVP’d in the affirmative. The viewing was a watershed moment. I realized I was guilty of buying into a myth. Somehow, somewhere, at some unknown point in time, I had allowed a notion to become a belief—one without a grain of evidence to support it. Fear has a way of doing that, insinuating itself though unsubstantiated. There are a lot of theories of how fear takes root. Certainly, in the case of Pit Bulls, there is a lot of blame on the media for reporting Pit Bull attacks differently than other dog bite incidents. If a Pit Bull is incriminated, the language employed is frequently more graphic and the breed is often only named (sometimes incorrectly) if it’s a Pit Bull.

But more scary than my fear of Pit Bulls is the fact that this fear is so widely shared that many cities and jurisdictions have acted on it, introducing BSL that can either impose conditions on bull-breed dogs or prohibit people from owning or keeping the dogs within the jurisdiction altogether. Like Ontario—a province so scared of Pit Bulls, it banned them altogether (with few grandfathering exceptions).

Think of it: your city empowered to outlaw your perfectly lovely, well-socialized dog simply because it is a member of a certain breed. BSL means a dog is considered vicious and then treated as such solely because of how it looks. It has nothing to do with past behaviour. It has nothing to do with current behaviour. It has nothing to do with the commission of an aggressive act. The basis for BSL rests solely on a collection of perceptions such as the size of the body, shape of the head, and length of the hair. In other words, it is guilt by association— you look like a guilty dog so you will be treated like a guilty dog.

That was the case in the City of Denver where officials passed BSL and began seizing and euthanizing any dog it identified as a Pit Bull. Beyond the Myth relates the heartbreaking story of Desiree Arnold, who still grieves the death of her dog Coco, picked up for the sole crime of being a Pit Bull. City rules gave Desiree seven days to request a hearing or Coco would be killed. She found a third party outside the City who agreed to provide a new home for Coco, and Desiree waived her right to a hearing, allowing Coco to be released to a new caregiver.

Ultimately, though, that arrangement fell through and Coco returned home, only to be picked up by animal control again after someone reported seeing her back in Desiree’s house. After five weeks of being kenneled behind a chain link fence without any natural light, where she would “scream bloody murder†every time Desiree visited then left, Coco was euthanized, her body returned to her owners in a garbage bag.

What makes this terrible story all the worse is that Coco’s death was for naught. BSL does nothing to diminish dog bites and attacks. It is costly to enforce and cannot be enforced consistently as it is based on a look not a reality.

“Knowing dogs, lots of Pit Bulls can be lovely, happy, friendly, kissy family dogs when they are raised and bred properly,†says Sarah Bull, the City of Coquitlam’s Bylaw and Animal Services Supervisor (her opinions are her own and do not represent the City). “Every decade seems to have a different breed that gets demonized. For Pit Bulls, it kind of stuck.â€

Compounding matters is the confusion over what dogs actually fall into the Pit Bull camp. Most people who speak of Pit Bulls are actually referring more broadly of a group of dogs that have Pit Bull or bull-breed characteristics, including muscular bodies, broad chests, short coats, and pronounced heads and jaws and cheeks.

Profiling dogs as Pit Bulls is opening a can of worms, says Shelagh Begg, Director of the bull-breed advocacy, education, and rescue group Hugabull. There are only three recognized bull-breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. “Everything else is a catchphrase or a mix thereof; all are based on a look not an actual breed,†Begg explains.

This is important when it comes to breed specific legislation. If you ban a breed you need to first define the breed, or else enforcement personnel are left wringing their hands trying to enforce the law with a “looks like a duck, quacks like a duck†assessment. Begg says studies show that shelter workers incorrectly indentify a dog’s breed just by looking at it more than 85 per cent of the time.

Knee-jerk reactions are not the basis for sage decisions and such is the case with BSL. Italy is a perfect example. It began banning specific breeds and, with new attacks implicating yet other breeds, (worth noting the bans already in place did not prevent bites), more breeds were added until Italy boasted BSL naming some 92 different dog breeds. Also of note is the fact that Italy has recently repealed breed specific legislation in favour of more general terminology that addresses the problem of irresponsible owners and proven vicious dogs. Begg says that there isn’t a single statistic to prove BSL works and in jurisdictions with BSL, dog bite statistics do not decrease. One of the reasons is that BSL doesn’t address vicious dogs; rather it addresses dogs that look like another vicious dog.

The City of Coquitlam, BC had BSL. Until October 2011, the three recognized bull breeds were automatically considered vicious dogs and were required to be muzzled, along with other restrictive criteria imposed on them.

Animal Services Supervisor Bull says, in her opinion, BSL doesn’t work as any breed of dog can display bad behaviour and can bite, and City resources and efforts are better spent educating owners, enforcing rules, and ticketing owners who fail to comply.

“Punish the deed not the breed,†says Bull. The City of Coquitlam came to the same conclusion. Some of the criteria were hard to enforce, plus enforcement efforts were devoted to ensuring “perfectly friendly†Pit Bulls were muzzled, Bull says.

Another problem with BSL is it acts to support and confirm people’s unfounded biases. “We’d had a lot of complaints because people were afraid of the look of a dog that had never tried to bite anything. A neighbour would call us to report a vicious dog next door and we would ask, “Can you tell us about its behaviour?†and they would respond that it did nothing wrong but that they had kids and there was a Pit Bull in the yard next door and everyone knows Pit Bulls are vicious.â€

It took a few years, she says, looking at how the City could create a bylaw that would provide the tools to allow animal service officers to address problem dogs. The City went from a two-tier system (the dog was either a normal dog or a bull-breed dog and therefore vicious) to a three-tiered system outlining the approach for dealing with normal, aggressive, and vicious dogs, regardless of breed, based solely on exhibited behaviour.

“From an enforcement perspective, it’s the best way to have consistency,†Bull says. “Pit Bull owners across the board have given positive feedback. They feel like they are being more fairly treated.â€

Coquitlam wasn’t alone in repealing ineffective and prejudicial BSL, says Hugabull’s Begg. Delta and Vancouver, BC, repealed their own BSL as did Edmonton, AB. Cincinnati, OH repealed BSL after living with it for nine years. But the question remains, why would any jurisdiction keep—or worse, introduce—BSL knowing it doesn’t address the problem? Why create a law that leaves us all vulnerable just because it wears a cloak of false protection?

“Because it’s easy to do,†says Begg. “It’s easy to enact. You write it on a piece of paper. It gives policy makers an easy out to address a problem. An incident happens and the media glom onto ‘Pit Bull versus Dog’ story and there’s a lot of hype. The community cries for a breed ban in response and the policy makers feel pressure. Besides, they see that other places have done it.â€

Shattering entrenched irrational fears is neither fast nor easy work, but exposing them to the clear light of day is a good start. In the case of BSL, the documentary Beyond the Myth does just that, forcing an examination of mistaken beliefs and providing much-needed information to counter the myths and misperceptions surrounding this group of dogs.

I know personally that the first step to addressing a fear is to recognize it as unfounded. I also know I need to take Begg up on her offer to spend some time with one of her “very clownish, gregarious, goofy, and loving†Pit Bulls because, as she says, until we look at the root cause of our fear, nothing is going to change.

Bully for you? Get to know six of the beautiful bully breeds, including
the four shown above, at http://www.moderndogmagazine.com/bullyforyou.

What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed? | Modern Dog magazine


Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

I just watched Beyond myth last week on Netflix. It was quite an eye opener, seeing how we have been conditioned to believe all of one breed is bad. Racial profiling dogue style is how I see it.


Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

I will have to check and see if that film is on Canadian Netflix... sounds like a good watch.

I cannot imagine being told that Tony isn't allowed to stay where we currently live (thankfully no BSL here). I love my community, but my decision would be very easy if I was told that Tony had to go. He is my boy and we are a team, so where ever he goes, I go.

This thread put me in mind of baseball player Mark Buehrle's recent transfer from the Miami Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays. Ontario currently has BSL against pit bulls and Mark has four dogs... one being an American Staffordshire Terrier Bulldog mix, Slater. Mark had intended to move his family to Toronto when he first decided to pitch for they Jays, however, he was hit with a hard decision when he found out that Slater was unable to join them. Ultimately, he decided that he was going to keep is family in Miami and travel to Toronto for ball. This means seeing his family much less, but getting to keep Slater. I love this quote from his wife, "A lot of people have said, 'We'll just keep Slater for you,'" Jamie says. "To me, that would be like if we moved somewhere that only allowed boys. I wouldn't leave my daughter behind."

If more people were this committed to their dogs, the world would be a better place!

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Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

When Buerhle first came to Miami he did not move into Miami-Dade County, as it's the only place in Florida with a BSL. It started a movement to abolish the BSL in Miami, but unfortunately it's still in place. Still working on getting it removed. Hopefully the publicity generated from Buerhle's latest move will help Ontario.
I don't think I can watch that film. It would probably make me even crazier on the subject of BSLs.

el gato diablo

Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

If CC were banned in my area...I wouldn't do anything. I wouldn't take him out in public as much, but I live in the Santa Cruz mountains where people pretty much do whatever they want anyway, so...good luck with that.


Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

My husband and I have actually discussed this. We live in the country and like most place out in the country there is very little concern with animal walfare let alone breeds. If we did live in a place the passed BSL then we would move, plain and simple. There is always somewhere else to live. My husband and I watched a segment about Denver and the mass killing the city officals allowed. My husband said if anyone tried taking our dogs they would have to take him to jail. When I walked my sister in laws pittbull and my dachshund they always assumed the dachshund would be the friendlier. When in fact my dachshund is a mean lil turd who has the attuide everyone assumes pitts have. My sister in laws pitts are the sweetest dogs ever, the only thing dangeous about them is their tail. That tail when it gets going hurts when the bang it on the side of your leg lol. I'm including a pic of my dachshunds, yes they looks sweet, the small one is. The big one like me and that's about it, as a puppy I took her everywhere with me she was even a truck dog for a year but she's a mean lil turd.


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Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

I'd move and not look back. Anywhere that blames the wrong end of the leash doesn't deserve my tax dollars

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Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

I never image that BSL cities take the dogs from their families and murder them(that´s the only word one can use), in Costa Rica laws don´t have a backslash effect if you have dog and they pass a law banning the breed you could kept it till its dead, like now you can place a bar close to a school or church but if it was already there before the law then it can stay there, kiliing a dog just for the breed it belong to that´s just ciminal. I don´t know what i would do but am a big idiot if the authoryties show up to murder my dog just because, i´m sure i will do something crasy.


Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

Wish it was that way here, alejandro, but unfortunately, they will euthanize the pups. There is an animal shelter here, Arlington TX, that euthanizes are pit bulls over 6 months old and it's not a BSL city. There are not many BSL cities in TX.


Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

That´s just wrong for so many reasons i wouldn´t know where to start ramping about it.


Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

I don't know what to say without getting flamed.

The authorities are trying to gain SOME control, the only way they can--& it's certainly not the right path, but to try to change the laws on humans, it is much harder & takes a ton more time, effort & lobbying.
I'm glad that the movie is out there, honestly, because it needs to be, because a better solution *NEEDS* to come along.

But there is another side to this story.
Until you've lived it, saw it, & live daily in fear of it-you may never know how bad it truly is.
I live in such an area.
Pit Bulls are a status Symbol here.
They are abused & mean. They also fight. It is disgusting.
No one neuters, & now they are purposefully interbreeding them with bull mastiffs to created the biggest pit, which causes issues for people with Bull Mastiffs.

There is an attack on the news at least 1x per week. People are taking the situation into their own hands, because law enforcement can do little & has less resources.
This means dogs in my neighborhood get shot.
I pulled a bullet, not a shell, out of my front garden this spring, from the last pooch (pit) who was shot, right in front of my house.
It is a very real problem.
I lived across the street from a known offender.
It took us, the part of the neighborhood not AFRAID to speak up-- 2 years, 18 citations & 23 documented attacks, Animal Control, the police, the housing authority, the landlord, our local state representative & the news to get 1 pit bull removed.

Why? Because no one could prove who the owner was, he was living illegally in section 8 housing, so said he didn't live there & the actual renter, the baby mama, lied & said there was no dog.
Yes, the problem is the owners. That is the essential root of the problem.
But the overbreeding & fighting has left a massive amount of dangerous dogs, & for whatever reason, people in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods treat dogs like disposable items.
Numbers of pit bulls at places like the humane society hold the majority of the breed population, but it doesn't come close to what is on the streets.
It is safe for me to say that about 75% of the dog population in my area is pit bull or a mix of pit bull. It is a rarity to see other breeds.

Add to that most of the 'owners' deny it is their dog, & most of these owners do not OWN anything like real estate or even have renters insurance, rarely are people held accountable.
But emergency rooms can tell you the story of who this issue affects most, & they can also tell you they do not get paid, unless it's low income insurance.
There is no one to sue for damages--& there are a LOT of damages, lives lost.

And let me tell you, the side of the story this affects the most is grossly disproportionate, & under served, but
the biggest issue is this very population are the ones facilitating the very issue & it is NOT slowing down.

Most suburbs & non urban areas probably think dog fighting is a myth, or a rarity.
It is NOT.
Where the issue is happening the most isn't where the people who have the resources or means to put out an informative flick to save the breed-
Suburbia dog attacks just aren't as frequent, but yes, they do gain a lot more attention, especially if it's a pit, because no one wants this in their back yard.
It's mostly happening in the areas where it is poor & over populated & most of the attacks aren't making it to the news.
the problem is it's where most of the poorly bred pits are located & bred indiscriminately.
Inner city urban poor areas.
Dead children, severely disfigured children, mauled owners, killed & mauled pets.
Starved pets left behind in vacant buildings, dead pits in dumpsters after fights--it is all very very real, & a regular occurrence.

There is a different mentality in the urban poor areas, & no one wants to really dive into the real issues, the resources aren't there, & education & better living environment has not seemed to help.
It is a crazy situation, gangs & hoodrats & entire families involved-people covering up-and authorities can't get to the bottom of it, & even if they do-there are no damages awarded that will EVER get collected.

People just want to keep the problem out of their backyard--because, at the end of the day, it's all they can do--so you get BSL--from the people who have the resources to do so.

I've lived on the front line of this, & have witnessed numerous attacks, including a pit coming through my own front door to attack my last pooch, & I witnessed a great dane get mauled & gutted by the same dog, I didn't witness all of the other 21 *documented* attacks that took place right in front of my own home by the same dog. The owner of that dog gets free legal aid to defend him, because he says he is indigent.
While the actual working population is forced to pay for their childs medical care or funeral, or that of their pets.

I can go on & on about the injustice occurring against a specific breed, namely pits, I do not fully agree with it, but parts I do, because there is no one out there making sure the poorly bred ones aren't making it to some innocent family who is trying to do the right thing & believed nurture is stronger than nature.
On the other hand, what's to be done with the thousands upon thousands of poorly bred dangerous pits that would be left over should a real solution come about *where it is actually needed*-- only purge the bad ones? Good Luck with that.

The solution is needed where the problem is deeply rooted & occurring the most, & until that occurs, "Not in My Backyard" aka BSL will remain an issue.


Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

IF they'd take they money they spend on BSL and spend it on education, and proper enforcement of laws tht look at actual incidents, it'd be far less an issue.

Towns and countys and states spend TONS of money rounding up and killing "pits" that aren't really any of the banned breeds. But insist that it would cost to much to manage a dangerous dog law properly. Which is total BS. Yes, thered be upfront costs to education, but once it starts to get though the community the overall incidence drops SEVERELY. Presto money saved.

Unfortunetly there will always be idiots who "train", and even breed, to produce unstable aggressive dogs, but as education works its way through the community there will be fewer, and proper law enforcement will get more of the dogs off the street.

But BSL isn't the answer, there will always be another breed to fill the banned one's place. I shudder to think of what'd happen if that type ever really heard of TMs and like dogs.....
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Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

Situation is very diferent here ,we don´t have so many attacks even when there is dogs figths here and thats no myth, but rigth now we have a a big crime problem that´s tearing our country apart and i could tell you a very similar story, almost the same, about how frustrating it is to live with it and how much miserable it is to live like this and how desperate we are for a solution, but thats no reason to round up every one who looks like a criminal and shoot them. And let me tell you another history, like 20 years ago when my younger brother was a kid he was playing in our garaje and a GSD scape from a house up our Street and attack him, he was wounded very bad and there wasn´t much we could do but because it´s owner was a very wealthy and conectec member of the comunity, wich we are not.


Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

I'm sorry to hear your brother was attacked. :( When a person is attacked by a dog, it can scar them for life. :(

I hate BSL's, dog fighting and people who should never own a dog because they are idiots!


Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

Thanks for your simpathies, i think instead of Breed Specific Legislations there should be Owners Specific Legislations to stop jerks from owning dogs or any other pets.


Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

Everybody needs to check out Calgary's model for dog ownership. Basically to sum it up the owner takes full responsibility for their dogs actions.

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Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

Wish it was that easy, taisa899. In the U.S., we do not believe in holding individuals accountable. In the U.S., we believe it's society's fault.

If everyone would just do the right thing, we would not need BSL's. Meaning, treat all animals and humans with respect.


Well-Known Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

If I get bitten at work it's usually by a dachshund. They have a serious Napoleon complex... lol


New Member
Re: What Would You Do if Your City Banned Your Dog’s Breed?

I live in the UK where we have band breeds. I owned a band breed for 9 years (sadely he departed this Christmas day just gone) to keep a band breed in this country you have to go to court get a special license,your dog has to be chipped that feeds back to the police station. The dog has to be kept on a lead at all times in public and in your garden also has to be muzzled in public. And the dogs temperament has to be checked and approved for soundness. But all dogs are not this lucky, there are hundreds of dogs taken and put down every day just because there a dog of that type meaning a banded breed or has the look and build of a band breed.. fight for your dog as I did, my family had a happy 9 years with him without any incidents. Everyone who came in contact with him loved and admired him. He got lots of fuss from the public whenever we took him out. He was the majestic Tosa.
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Well-Known Member
Here in my country, there are some laws about ''dangerous breeds'' (they need to be on leash and muzzled, but nobody does that), but there are no banned breeds.

The only thing that is forbidden is breeding pit bulls or staffs if you do not have license from Croatian kennel club for that. You can imagine how that works.. People just asks their veterinary friend to write in the ped that his breed is not pit bull but for example labrador mix, and nothing ever happens. That's one of the reasons why we also have a lot of mixed bull breeds.