- - Monday, July 6, 2015

Some of man’s best friends have been turned into public enemy No. 1 thanks to some bad PR and a laundry list of unreasonable regulations by elected officials.

Over the last 30 years, pit bulls have been vilified in the United States. Following a few high-profile attacks on other dogs and people, overzealous lawmakers hoping to get credit for “protecting the community” and “advancing public safety” enacted local laws banning pit bulls and other breeds.

More than 700 cities across the U.S. have breed-specific bans and other restrictions on certain types of dogs, most often pit bulls. The kneejerk laws are unnecessary, heartless and ineffective.

Not only are deaths or serious injury at the paws of a pit bull extremely rare – a falling coconut is 16 times more likely to kill a human than a pit bull attack – the laws often force people to choose between moving from their home or unnecessarily killing a beloved family member.

Largely as a result of breed-specific bans, more pit bulls are killed in dog shelters than any other type of animal. An estimated 1 million dogs categorized as pit bulls are euthanized every year in America, often for no other reason than committing the crime of being born with a block-shaped head.

Research published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and a study featured in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior both revealed that laws banning specific breeds do nothing to reduce dog bite-related injuries. Policies outlawing people from owning certain types of dogs don’t just fail to improve public safety in America, data reveals they’ve been a disaster in Canada, Spain and the Netherlands, too.

It’s no wonder running a bunch of pit bull-owning families out of town and euthanizing truckloads of family pets hasn’t resulted in safer communities. First, pit bull bans are startlingly vague and lead officials to target dogs that aren’t pit bulls at all. That’s because the term “pit bull” doesn’t refer to a specific dog breed, but covers a number of breeds – and many other breeds look like pit bulls, even though they aren’t. Second, no matter what frightened politicians may believe, dogs generally defined as pit bulls are no more dangerous than other breeds.

Breed-discriminatory policies unfairly target safe, friendly dogs and do nothing to protect the public. But the laws are good at one thing: wasting tax dollars.

In Washington, D.C., a ban on pit bulls and Rottweilers costs taxpayers $1.2 million a year, according to estimates by the Best Friends Animal Society. The price tag for a particularly aggressive pit bull ban in Miami-Dade County, Florida, exceeds $3.6 million annually. That includes $59,000 to kill and dispose of dogs, and another $343,347 for DNA tests to determine if a dog is, in fact, a pit bull – even though the animal-services investigator in charge of administering Miami’s pit bull ban admits there is no completely reliable DNA test to conclude whether a dog is a pit bull.

Fortunately, elected officials from coast to coast are coming to understand that breed-specific dog bans are bad policy. More than 100 cities and towns have reversed their bans of pit bulls and other breeds. Nineteen states now prohibit municipalities from passing bans that target particular breeds.

Earlier this year, city council members in the Kansas City, Kansas, suburb of Roeland Park voted to overturn its two-decade-long ban on pit bulls. A short-lived breed-specific ban in Moreauville, Louisiana, was recently reversed. A Pawtucket, Rhode Island, judge overturned the city’s ban on pit bulls last year, and police records show there hasn’t been any increase in dog bites as a result.

The growing number of pit bull bans being overturned is a heartening trend, and one that should continue until every single law banning a specific breed of dog is reversed. After all, dogs aren’t bad because of their size, shape or breed. Dogs are almost always bad because their owners are bad. It’s these bad owners – people who mistreat their dogs, or train them to fight or attack – that should be punished, not innocent dogs.

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