4 min read

Pit Bull Bans Are On Their Way Out

<p><a class="checked-link" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/bastique/2599310868/sizes/m/" style="text-decoration: none;">Cary Bass-Deschenes/Flickr/CC BY 2.0</a></p>

Bans on pit bulls - like the prohibition in Denver, Colo., that makes it unlawful to own a dog who "displays the majority of physical traits" of a pit bull - are progressively looking like a thing of the past. Since 2012, more than 100 communities have rejected breed-specific laws and other measures that would prevent owning pit bulls.

"It's becoming more and more obvious that breed-specific legislation doesn't improve public safety," the National Canine Research Council's Janis Bradley told USA Today. There's no evidence in any state or municipality, according to Bradley, that such laws have decreased the number of dog bite injuries.

The National Canine Research Council may be at the forefront of the anti-BSL pack, but it's certainly not the only organization that has adopted this stance. After undertaking a study of dog bites in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended against laws that target specific breeds. More recently, in August 2013, the Obama administration echoed the CDC's findings: "We don't support breed-specific legislation - research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources."

There are more than 4.5 million dog bites in the United States each year, according to the CDC - it's understandable that organizations would like to shrink that number. But some argue that those who advocate a pit bull ban rely too much on broad generalizations. (One reason for these generalizations - and the murky language of BSL that refers to characteristics or pit bull types - is that it can be difficult to identify a pit bull by sight; one of the only ways to get an unambiguous id of a pit bull is through genetic testing.) A 2005 article in Municipal Lawyer, for example, argues that "Pit bull dogs, unlike other dogs, often give no warning signals before they attack." A study in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, on the other hand, found that pit bulls were as likely to display aggression toward other dogs as Akitas and Jack Russell terriers. The authors added that pit bull aggression directed at strangers was "relatively average" and "inconsistent with their universal reputation" as dangerous dogs.

Based on the CDC recommendations, the White House supports "a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think that's a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners."