We are taught as children to “never judge a book by its cover.” We have heard it so many times throughout our lives, we instinctively know that it means we should never judge someone or something by its/their outward appearance alone. It is what we have been fighting for since the beginning of time … tolerance, acceptance, and love for those who are different from us. Because we are still human however, we - as a species - are faulted, and this idiom that we have heard countless times before, often escapes us. For the sake of our conversation today however, we are talking about pit bull-type dogs. We judge them harshly and undeservingly-so.
Helping and advocating for rescue dogs is at the very core of our mission and foundation as a business. With that comes championing for pit bull-type dogs because statistically speaking, they are the dog-types that makeup the majority of dogs in shelters and on the streets. They face the highest animal cruelty rates, along with the highest euthanasia rates. They are targeted unfairly and our goal is not only to help save their lives but to help people see them for who they really are - sweet-natured, loving and majestic creatures that deserve to be here just like every other living being on earth.
To celebrate our 2nd Business Anniversary, we have released an exclusive “END BSL” design that is currently available for pre-order, to help bring awareness to this very important issue.
Breed Specific Legislation - or “BSL” - is a term used to describe laws that highly regulate or (most often) ban certain breeds from residing within certain cities/counties in an effort to reduce dog attacks. In theory it sounds great because who doesn’t want less dog attacks? However, the way BSL is structured, the data available suggests that it is ineffective and actually does more harm than good. But before we get into those specifics, let's talk about why BSL exists to begin with.
There are a handful of dog breeds that, over the decades, have been targeted and labeled as “aggressive.” Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Mastiffs, American Bulldogs, Doberman Pinschers, Chow Chows… these breeds still face discrimination today. Throughout history, through some random ideology always created by humanity, various breeds of dogs have been targeted as inherently dangerous. In the 1800’s the popular portrayal of Bloodhounds as bloodthirsty killers provoked public outcry and fear similar to what exists today about pit bull-type dogs. Around the same timeframe in 1897, Newfoundland’s were facing a similar fate after a young girl was attacked “without provocation” only to find out her dog “attacked” as a reaction to his paw being rocked over while she sat in her rocking chair. Today it is the “pit bull” who faces infinite backlash after being exploited BY HUMANITY for dog-fighting, for going on three+ decades. We hold a lot of power in our words and it takes very little for something we put out there to gain traction all on its own to become something entirely different. BSL is a reaction to what we have put out into the universe as truth, without any factual basis.
First introduced in the 1980’s as a call-to-action to increased dog attacks, we now have three decades of data that prove BSL is ineffectual. So much so, even the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has taken a public stance opposing the use of BSL, yet today there are still more than 700 cities across the country with some level of BSL in place in the United States alone. Today, the number 1 targeted dog by BSL are “pit bulls.”
There exists a false narrative that “pit bulls” hold the highest percentage of dog bites and attacks. But this statistic is not measurable for a couple of different reasons:
- The majority of dog bites go unreported.
- There is no national organization or database that tracks this information.
These two points alone make the data available completely unreliable. Without a clear picture of dog bites across all breeds, there is no way to measure the validity of these claims. Not to mention that what BSL means and how it is enforced is a complete contradiction. Here you have a law that clearly states it is breed specific, yet it is enforced solely on the physical characteristics of the dog in question - short, muscular bodies, broad shoulders, block heads, etc. Municipalities that have BSL laws in place do not have someone standing by to perform DNA tests when an incident involving a banned or restricted “breed” arises. The lives of these dogs hang in the balance at the hands of legislators who are deciding their fate not based on circumstances, environmental factors, or even the temperamental history of the animal. These legislators also rarely have a background in understanding animal behavior, yet they are deciding what is best for communities regarding subject matter they know very little about. Not to mention that the term “pit bull” does not represent any one specific breed. Yes, The American Pit Bull Terrier is the only true pit bull, but in reference to how the media uses the term and how it applies to BSL, it is an umbrella term to describe dogs that look a certain way. Except that these targeted dogs are almost always a mix of breeds. The law at its very core is contradictory and discriminatory.
What are the consequences of BSL?
- The biggest is to the dogs targeted. Innocent dogs with no history of violence or aggression are ripped from their homes and in many cases euthanized. Owners of highly regulated dogs often attempt to avoid detection by keeping them locked indoors, foregoing proper socialization, exercise and even vet-care to stay under the radar. This can actually create behavioral issues when none were present to start.
- BSL affects rescues and shelters as well, which already operate on minimal resources. When you make it illegal for certain types of dogs - in this case the kind that makes up the highest percentage of dogs within rescues and shelters - to be adopted, you create an even bigger shortage of resources while increasing the euthanasia rates of perfectly safe and healthy dogs.
- Responsible owners suffer too. They’re often faced with the financial burden of having to find a new place to live or fighting the legality of all the red tape just to keep their families together. And all too often, owners are forced to give up their dogs who for most of us are family.
Families are being ripped apart for the sake of enforcing a law that does not actually lower the rate of dog attacks within our communities and neighborhoods, because this issue is not breed specific. Yes, genetics can play a role in temperamental tendencies, but you cannot breed aggression into DNA. Any dog can bite. Any dog can attack. And it has no bearing on size, weight, age or breed. Our issues with dog behavior start with humans. Even more importantly, our issues with “pit bulls” start and end with humans. Humanity domesticated dogs. We brought them into our homes and despite the thousands and thousands of years we have integrated them into our lives, very few have actually taken the time to understand dog behavior and how they communicate with us. We hold the responsibility to not only create safe and healthy environments for the pets we bring into our homes, but to the communities around us too. Any time we bring a pet home there is risk, so why wouldn’t we want to educate ourselves as much as possible about what it takes to be a responsible pet owner? Anything less on our parts is a huge disservice to both the animal and our communities.
So what do we do? How do we tackle this in a productive and effective way? Our focus shouldn’t be on regulating dogs, rather on the people who own them. This can be accomplished by creating realistically, enforceable, BREED-NEUTRAL laws and by providing resources and education that promote responsible ownership.
- Required and on-going, yearly education at the dog owner’s expense. Potential owners should understand dog behavior at a very basic level. Having even a basic understanding quickly teaches people that training and education is forever ongoing and people who are willing to commit to this are more likely to take dog ownership seriously, while weeding out those who might have ulterior motives.
- Required licensing for all dog-owners, regardless of breed.
- Creating laws that hold dog owners financially accountable for failure to adhere to animal control laws - including leash laws for ALL DOGS.
- Access to low-cost spay and neuter services, along with training resources for those who need it.
- Graduated penalties for owners whose dogs have been deemed dangerous. This isn’t meant to punish the dog in question, rather it holds the owner responsible. The penalties get harsher as the incidents occur, but b/c accidents happen, this gives owners a chance to correct the behavior before something worse occurs.
This is not the “be all, end all” of solutions, but it is a starting place. And clearly, this is a topic we could talk about for an eternity, but BSL as it stands does not work. Creating breed-neutral laws forces us to look at each incident individually and holds us all to the same standards. As dog parents we should want to be the very best and that involves setting up our dog’s for success regardless of what they look like or what makes up their DNA.
So help us celebrate TWO HAPPY YEARS of being in business and pre-order all your END BSL gear today! All prints available are exclusively FurRescue Fashions and this month we are donating 30% of sales to Lovepaws Rescue. Thank you for your commitment and loyalty to our brand, and for helping us fight the good fight in defending pit bull-type dogs.
Shop now by clicking HERE.