The End of BSL

Part I of a series of 2018 animal news in review.

Me in Austin, TX, which has made headlines of its own this year. In 2009, 7% of dogs were killed in the Austin municipal shelter ostensibly for “aggression.” In 2015, it was 1%. In 2018, it is 1/20th of 1%. Early in the new year, I’ll be doing a radio interview highlighting the biggest shelter animal stories and trends of 2018 and what the future holds for 2019. I’ll be talking about pitty parties, Austin’s push to end the killing of animals for “behavior” reasons, and a whole lot more. Details coming soon:

If 2018 stood for anything in animal sheltering, it marked a tipping point when it comes to dogs we classify as “pit bulls”: the era of breed discrimination is coming to an end. Cities across the U.S. repealed their breed discriminatory laws including Rocky River, OH, Lakewood, OH, Castle Rock, CO, Eudora, KS, Anamosa, IA, Yakima, WA, Marceline City, MO, and others. The incoming governor of the country’s biggest state declared his total opposition to BSL, after supporting it in the past. And several states passed laws prohibiting it within their borders. And we’re not the only ones.

After Montreal’s former Mayor succeeded in passing BSL, the City of Montreal sent a letter to as many as 500 families who live with pit bulls telling them they have four weeks “to find their dogs new homes in towns where the breed isn’t outlawed or surrender the dogs to animal shelters” where they would be killed. But instead of getting rid of their dogs, Montreal dog lovers got rid of their Mayor. He lost his job to a candidate who promised to repeal the discriminatory bylaw. Making good on that promise, she did just that.

And across the pond, a U.K. Parliament Committee took the first steps to doing the same, calling for the immediate repeal of Britain’s breed-specific ban, calling it and the automatic killing of pit bulls “utterly indefensible,” “cruel, illogical, and unnecessary.”

But some cities don’t just prohibit breed discrimination, they proactively protect and promote these and other dogs. In Muncie, IN, “80 to 90 percent” of the dogs received are described as pit or pit-mixes. But instead of making excuses like “no one will adopt them,” Muncie Animal Care & Services held a month-long celebration they called a “Pitty Party” to showcase them for adoption and to end discrimination. How did they do?

Muncie has a 99% placement rate for dogs, making it part of the most exclusive club in the movement—those placing 99%+ of the animals. And that’s not just for one month; that’s all year long. Muncie also recently passed an ordinance that not only makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of “breed,” but makes it illegal to kill healthy and treatable pitties (and other dogs) in the shelter. In other words, the Pitty Party never ends.

Post script: After I posted the above article on Facebook, one of the commenters disagreed using a personal anecdote she claims involved a “pit bull.” I replied that her example isn’t an argument for killing thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of other (innocent) dogs.

This is how one website describes using a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a sound argument or compelling evidence: “It’s often much easier for people to believe someone’s testimony as opposed to understanding complex data and variation across a continuum. Quantitative scientific measures are almost always more accurate than personal perceptions and experiences, but our inclination is to believe that which is tangible to us, and/or the word of someone we trust over a more ‘abstract’ statistical reality.”

The truth is that banning dogs based on how they look is immoral. It is also ineffective. That’s not my opinion; it’s science:

– 50% of dogs labeled as pit bulls lacked DNA breed signatures of breeds commonly classified as pit bulls:

– Dogs targeted for breed discriminatory laws are not more likely to bite, do not bite harder, and such bans do not result in fewer dog bites or bite-related hospitalization rates:

And the latest study which found “Despite using more credible and sound methods, this study supports previous studies showing that breed-specific legislation seems to have no effect on dog bite injuries. In order to minimise dog bite injuries in the future, it would seem that other interventions or non-breed-specific legislation should be considered as the primary option.” That study is here:

Moreover, while “public safety” is the excuse, the real motivation appears to have less to do with dogs and more to do with people: “proxies by which uneasy majorities can register their suspicions about the race, class and ethnicity of the people who own those dogs.” In short, they are motivated by racism:


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