When I heard that Great Bend was considering a ban on pit bulls, I felt a deep sense of frustration. You see, I am a pit bull owner. My four and a half year old American Pit Bull Terrier, Rosie, has been my beloved companion since she was eight weeks old. She sleeps next to my bed, waits patiently at the door for me to get home from work, and is even featured in my wedding photos. She has never harmed anyone in her entire life. I am exactly the kind of responsible dog owner who would be punished by a breed ban. I keep my dog indoors, on a leash, or in my backyard. She has been spayed and vaccinated. She has been well socialized with all kinds of people. She is well trained and well behaved. But under a pit bull ban, my loving, gentle dog would be labeled a vicious animal.
As noted in a press release from Best Friends Animal Society, studies done in countries with breed-discriminatory laws, such as the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany, found that these laws didnt reduce the number of dog bites or improve public safety. Based on these studies, and concerns about due process and property rights infringement, the American Bar Association, the National Animal Control Association, and the American Veterinary Medical Association don’t support breed discrimination. They support laws that go after the real problem -- the behavior of the individual dog and the behavior of the reckless owner.
For this reason, states and towns that have tried breed bans are changing their minds. Ohio has recently begun repealing its breed specific legislation. Nevada passed a law banning dog breed discrimination, making it the 14th state to enact legislation preventing breed discrimination. When a third of the United States has figured out that a certain kind of law doesn’t work, why would a town enact that sort of legislation?
In addition, breed bans are incredibly expensive. A breed ban can cost a city anywhere from $150,000 to $786,000 every year. Great Bend can put that kind of money to much better use than enacting ineffective ordinances.
It is not only pit bulls that will be targeted by a breed ban. Any dog with short fur, a muscular build, and perky ears is at risk to be picked up and labeled a pit bull no matter its actual breed. Without expensive genetic testing, it is often impossible to judge whether a dog is part pit bull based on looks alone. Why not judge dogs based on its behavior, rather than on its appearance?
Does Great Bend want to protect its citizens and their dogs? Or do we want to enact knee-jerk ordinances that have been proven ineffective, expensive, and possibly even unconstitutional?
Animal welfare societies such as Best Friends Animal Society encourage municipal governments to adopt breed-neutral laws that focus on dealing with individual dangerous dogs and the actions of reckless owners failure to spay or neuter their dogs, failure to train and socialize their dogs, and the abuse and neglect of dogs forced to live out their lives alone on chains.
While I vehemently disagree with the proposal of banning pit bulls in Great Bend, I am very glad to see the topic arise. Thanks to the wise decision of our city council, the people of Great Bend and the dog safety committee will be able to engage in thoughtful, open dialogue on the best ways to make our city a safe, humane place for its citizens and their dogs.