Fair: Breckenridge should take breed-specific regulations off the table
November 14, 2013
As a resident of Summit County and a veterinarian, I have heard many opinions and "facts" concerning breed specific legislation and specific dog breeds being dangerous…or not. Pit Bull, German Shepherd, Rottweiler and other breeds have been targets of these laws. Recently, after a dog-on-dog attack during the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, the "Pit Bull," which encompasses two breeds, American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier, is being considered as a breed to ban.
This is a very sensitive issue in our dog friendly community. A dog attack shouldn't be taken lightly. I'm hopeful that people are using reputable resources to guide them in their decision making regarding legislation concerning dogs. Obviously, Love-A-Bull, Inc is going to be biased in favor of pit bulls and Dogsbite.org, founded by a woman who was attacked by a pit bull, is against pit bulls. The resources below have too much information to list concerning education to prevent dog bites, education for potential dog owners to help them choose a dog breed best for their family's lifestyle, the financial costs to communities that have implemented breed specific bans and the ineffectiveness of breed specific legislation.
From A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention from the AVMA: "A dog's tendency to bite depends on at least 5 interacting factors: heredity, early experience, socialization and training, health (medical and behavioral), and victim behavior."
Note that no specific dog breed heredity is mentioned.
I don't personally own pit bulls. I own, and have owned, German Shepherds and shepherd mixes. Some were from working stock; others never worked a day in their lives. As a veterinarian, I'm lucky to work with a variety of dogs, purebreds and "wondermutts." Through experience, I can tell you that at least the five factors listed above do contribute to a dog's potential to bite: heredity, early experience, socialization and training (or lack thereof), health (medical and behavioral), and victim behavior. I have sent a deputy to an owner's property to investigate a potentially dangerous dog after seeing a puppy in an exam room where the owner's story didn't match the wounds I was seeing. Also, there was a small child on the property. Would the dog do the same thing to the child if a similar situation arose which led him to attack a puppy? Potentially killing the kid? Luckily, this particular county where I was working at the time didn't have breed specific legislation, but did have legislation concerning dangerous animals. The owner was given a dangerous dog citation. The owner was also given 24 hours to correct issues the deputy found on the property or additional charges would be pursued including animal neglect. Sadly, I wondered if the "dangerous dog" had been given the chance as a puppy to be raised with a good owner and in our dog friendly community would he never been labeled "dangerous"? Want to know what breed the dangerous dog was? It wasn't a pit bull, and it wasn't a pit bull mix. What's interesting it was a mix of a breed that rarely, if ever, gets mentioned as a "dangerous dog."
For more on this subject, read the following articles:
American Veterinary Medical Association
Colorado Veterinary Medical Association Coalition for Living Safely with Dogs
Dr. Denise Fair
College of Veterinary Medicine
Kansas State University