Breed bans

Last year, the Woodbine City Council amended their animal ordinance to allow breeds formerly considered dangerous, including Pit Bulls.

Their new ordinance requires dog owners to provide documentation of vaccinations and insurance, among other rules, placing the responsibility squarely where it should be.

Shortly thereafter, Dunlap discussed Pit Bulls, but have yet to change their ordinance.

This month Logan has taken steps to change their local ordinance as well, doing away with their antiquated breed-specific ban. Instead, the city focused animal control efforts on the animals that have shown individual proclivity to aggression, with support from the Harrison County Humane Society and Logan Police Chief Zach Cavalier.

There are many myths and much undo fear surrounding “dangerous breeds,” such as Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Chow Chows, and Pit Bulls.

By far, of all these breeds, Pit Bulls have the worst reputation and so have become the “poster child” of breed-specific bans.

Formal breeds often considered Pit Bulls include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Bullies, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and occasionally the American Bulldog.

One such myth directed specifically at Pit Bulls is that they have a locking jaw, but research conducted by Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin at the University of Georgia found that no dog has the ability to physically lock their jaws.

Furthermore, the 2014 American Veterinary Medical Association report titled, “The Role of Breed in Dog Bite Risk and Prevention” found that pit bull-type dogs are not even excessively aggressive.

Instead, the American Pit Bull Terrier was described as gentle with loved ones by the United Kennel Club, as well as physically active, muscular, courageous, and very agile.

Pit Bulls get their strength from the Bulldog and their tenacity from the Terrier. The once iconic breed was a mascot for the American military, was portrayed in movies and advertising, and is still used by ranchers, hunters, trackers, and families.

The Pit Bull is smart, eager to please, and enthusiastic, and they have always been noted for their love of children.

As with any strong, smart canine, they can become aggressive, so they need an owner who will train them, work them, and carefully socialize them.

In the 1980s, this beloved breed fell from grace and lawmakers began outlawing them in cities, counties, and states in an effort to prevent severe and fatal dog attacks.

The error was focusing on the breed as a whole instead of each individual animal, and more so, the people who owned them. After decades of research, the impact of breed-specific bans is far less than expected.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there is no evidence at all that breed-specific laws have positively impacted the safety of communities, citizens, or other animals.

The Humane Society of the United States, and American Bar Association, the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior all reject breed-specific laws, according to their respective websites.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests animal control at the community level, but does not support breed-specific legislation.

A breed-neutral approach can have the positive impact desired. Such an approach could include laws that hold irresponsible owners accountable, enforce reasonable and effective confinement, and graduated penalties for owners of dogs deemed dangerous.

This approach should be coupled with increased education and enhanced enforcement of licensing, animal cruelty, and animal fighting laws.

Two Harrison County communities, Logan and Woodbine, have done just this, reversing their breed-specific bans and placing the responsibility on dog owners.

We applaud these communities for replacing their outdated breed-specific bans with strong ordinances and clear expectations for all animal owners.

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