Dogs are often credited as a man’s best friend, a faithful and loving companion who will always stand by their owners. However, local governments have been using generalizations in state legislation to put a ban on specific dog breeds.
All across Wash. certain cities have bans on specific dog breeds, the most common being the Pit bull. With a new bill passed, House Bill 1026, dogs can now be exempt from these bans.
The bill mainly works with the American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen program to measure two major factors that the bill calls “responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs.” Any dog that passes this program or any equivalent program will be exempt from dog breed exemptions for a minimum of two years.
According to the bill, the program will require a dog to perform the following activities without major issue; “accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely for petting, appearance and tolerating grooming, walking on a loose lead, walking through a crowd, sitting and staying on command, coming when called, reaction to other dogs, reaction to distraction, and supervised separation.”
How exactly were local governments able to take advantage of our legislation then to ban specific dog breeds? The main focus is on what is considered a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog. In summary, Wash. state legislature considers a dog potentially dangerous if it will inflict violent actions without provocation and has been previously dangerous due to attacking or endangering the safety of a human. This can include aggressively biting, killing and menacingly chasing someone. Local governments will argue that specific dog breeds as a whole have a tendency to perform these actions, and as such should be banned. However, banned dog breeds differ from city to city.
In an interview with Adelyn Jackson, a member of AKC, she had the following to say, “Some dogs are more genetically disposed to being aggressive, but there are different tasks that they can take. So if you pass something like a certified basic obedience training or a Canine Good Citizen test through AKC, and I feel like it should be allowed to be exempted because training can sort of, it doesn’t override their natural instinct to be aggressive but you have more control on them.” Control over a dog is a major concern, according to the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI), they found that the primary cause of dog-bite related incidents had to do with irresponsible ownership, not the dog breed. Irresponsible ownership according to NCBI included; absence of an able-bodied person to intervene, incidental or no familiar relationship of victims with dogs, owner failure to neuter dogs compromised ability of victims to interact appropriately with dogs, dogs kept isolated from regular positive human interactions versus family dogs, owners’ prior mismanagement of dogs and owners’ history of abuse or neglect of dogs.
The idea that a specific dog breed is a major factor in the potential danger of a dog may stem from a stigma that has been built up over the years. For example, in the state of Wash. 28 cities have a ban specifically on Pit bulls or a certain breed of Pit bull. Jackson had some ideas on this as well; “Pit bulls were kind of bred for dog-fighting and so were other dogs like bulldogs and other breeds, but like bulldogs were bred to not be that way anymore bit Pit bulls have kind of stuck that way, but also the generalization for Pit bull is super broad, like there’s Amstaffs[American Staffordshire terrier] and regular Staffies [the Staffordshire bull terrier] and then other bully mixes that look like Pit bulls, so it’s not specifically Pit bulls but people kind of generalizing all of those bully breeds into the pit bull breed.” In summary, Adelyn is stating that these beliefs stem from the initial purpose of breeding Pit bulls and the generalization of their breed has led to misconceptions.
The restriction of dog breeds shouldn’t be up for debate, if someone is able to prove they, as an owner, are capable of caring for a dog, and that their specific dog is capable of passing the AKC’s or an equivalent group’s program, then they should be able to own that dog. That’s what Wash. has accomplished and with this hopefully, it’ll pave the way for specific dog breeds to become more common.
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