Prohibiting Dog Breed Specific Laws: Fair or Turning a Blind Eye?

A new law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick would prevent cities and towns from instituting breed specific dog rules.

Is it common sense to allow cities and towns to pass rules specific to certain dog breeds, such as pit bulls, in the name of public safety? Or do they unfairly target certain dogs? 

Earlier this month, Gov. Deval Patrick signed an animal rights bill that takes effect Nov. 1 and includes a stipulation prohibiting cities and towns from creating breed specific rules at the local level.

The move has angered some Boston officials, the Boston Herald reports, as the new state law would negate the city's "Responsible Pit Bull Ownership" ordinance that, among other rules, requires pit bull owners to keep their dogs muzzled when off the owner's private property. Boston adopted the ordinance in 2004 after several pit bull attacks in the city captured officials' attention.

Other cities have also wrangled over how to deal with a perceived issue regarding pit bulls and public safety. In Malden, the city council approved a bill this spring that would have , but Mayor Gary Christenson later and suggested amendments to the law.

After his veto in April, Christenson wrote to the council, "The ordinance should be centered on how a dog behaves and not how a dog looks as I believe this legislation suggests."

The Best Friends Animal Society says that about half of the dogs killed in shelters today are pit bulls or pit bull mixes, and that there are 20 different species of dogs that are commonly confused with pit bulls, thus making breed-discriminatory rules hard to enforce. The Humane Society of the United States says that in media-reported animal cruelty cases, dogs and in particular pit bulls are the most common victims of animal cruelty.

On the other hand, DogsBite.org, a national dog bite victims' group, says that from 2006 to 2008, pit bulls accounted for 59 percent of all fatal dog attacks in the U.S. The next highest breed, rottweilers, accounted for 14 percent of those deaths.

Is the new state law prohibiting breed specific local ordinances turning a blind eye to a problem? Or do those types of rules unfairly target a specific breed and punish dogs for having bad owners? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

(Editor's note: This article is published to several Patch sites south of Boston.) 

Jeffrey Pickette (Editor) August 25, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Team Leader Christopher D'Arpino, a member of the South Shore Disaster Animal Rescue Team, weighed in on this issue earlier this month. See what he had to say here: http://stoughton.patch.com/blog_posts/a-great-day-for-animals-governor-signs-animal-bill-15-years-in-the-making
Catherine Webber August 25, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Breed specific legislation is definitely unfair. As mentioned in the article above there are many different breeds that get confused with pit bulls. I worked at a boarding kennel when I was in High School and college and never had a bad experience with a Pit Bull, but had several with Chows, Rottweilers and mixed breed dogs. Then within every breed there are many different types of animals. For example, I own a Border Collie. This is a high energy breed and not recommended for people who can not exercise them a great deal. Some will say Border Collies are not great with kids or small animals, but mine is awesome with both, just not so much with other dogs. He usually does quite well with regular leash walking. It is definetly important to take the dogs temperment, training, and well being in mind before looking at the breed specifically. Pit Bulls, like all breeds, should be bred, owned and handled responsibly.
Kathy August 25, 2012 at 06:47 PM
These laws are definitely unfair. It's all in how you treat these breeds. Growing up my neighbor had a Rottweiler and he was the biggest baby, with out a mean bone in him. But I do see a lot of dogs unleashed. That's what causes the trouble. Regardless of the breed of dog, people need to make sure they are leashed. It's irresponsible dog owners that are the problem not the dogs themselves.
Russell Archambault August 25, 2012 at 08:09 PM
HEY WOONSOCKET GET INTO THIS. what a jerk off this governor is
Just Me! August 25, 2012 at 09:20 PM
I was always under the impression that the dog is what it"s owner makes it as a puppy...Yes a Rotti can be a mush head if that's what it's trained to be....It can also be one vicious attack dog...once again...if that's what it's trained to be as a pup.... Unfortunately we now live in a society where the S*it has to hit the fan before either someone can say "I told you so"....or the law changed. Bottom line is that the Dog owner should be held responsible and accountable for it's Dogs actions. That would bring up an interesting question. If a dog attacks someone...child or adult, and it kills the person, Would the dog owner be facing murder or manslaughter charges?
Dale F. Appel August 26, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Many homeowners' insurance companies will not be issue insurance policies or will charge an additional premium if the homeowner has certain types of dogs such as pit bills. These business decisions are based upon statistics. When 59% of all fatal dog attacks are pit bulls, that is an alarming statistic. That begs the question though, what percentage of pit bulls are actually known to be biters? Is there any reliable information on this? My neighbor was attacked by her family pet, a pet bull. She only survived because her husband and son were home to peel the dog off of her. When I saw her, her entire body, including her face, was covered with stitches. What is important to note is that until that incident one would have thought of that dog as "sweet" and not at all as an attack dog. While murdering an entire breed seems to be extreme, there seems to be a need to have some safety restrictions. One may choose to own a pet that is currently deemed a "dangerous breed," in fairness to neighbors and mail delivery persons, and other innocent passersby, some preventative measures should be taken. Using a muzzle on a biting breed when out in public does not seem extreme to me.
Sandra Stecher August 26, 2012 at 06:03 PM
#1. DogsBite.org NOT a good source, and #2, if there is going to be dog legislation it must be applied to ALL dogs across the board. If I need to muzzle my pit, my neighbors need to muzzle their labs and their Poodles. No discrimination.
Mike Delaney August 26, 2012 at 07:25 PM
"Using a muzzle on a biting breed when out in public" that is ridiculous. First off there is no 'biting breed'; every dog is a biting breed if not raised correctly to the specific breed characteristics. I know plenty of little dogs who bite it's just brushed off because they are too cute to be displicined in the proper matter. So then technically every dog should have to be muzzled in your theory correct? Second making every owner of 'biting breed dogs' wear muzzles only feeds the discrimation to these awesome dogs, causes people to think "Oh this dog is aggressive I'm going to stay far away.". Owners of Pitbulls, like myself a 75 pound Blue Nose Pitbull, who raise and love our dogs not only find this ridiculous, but more importantly denies us the chance to show people that it is truly all how a person raises each specific dog not the dog it self. With those muzzles denies the great ambassadors of each breed a chance show people what a well raised well loved dog has the potential to be.
Just Me! August 27, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Gimme a freakin' Break...Animal discrimination?????!!!.....remember..they are ANIMALS...they have no clue.....If an owner muzzles an animal...just like a vet might...it behoves the owner to do so ...like preventive maintenance. But please...don't throw human aspects and pull the "Animal rights" card when it comes to protecting a Human....
Gary Krofta August 27, 2012 at 06:08 AM
Dogs are dogs. Any dog can "snap" and become a "biting dog". A bite from most dogs can cause a painful puncture wound. Seldomly does it result in a severe mauling. No other dog has the jaw strength of American bull terriers. They are a hybridized breed specifically created for dog-pit fighting. Besides their powerful, locking jaws, the thick flesh on their neck and shoulders protects them from another dog's bite, or from a person attempting to fend off an attack. These dogs are inherently more potent than pretty much any other breed. As is often mentioned, it's the responsibility of the owner to raise and train the dog properly, and to especially address any issues peculiar to a particular breed. Too often, it is not a responsible dog owner, or knowledgeable trainer, who decides to get a "pit bull". The breed attracts people impressed by the power, reputation and "awesomeness" of the breed, and who are convinced they, as owner, are themselves so awesome that they can completely, and always, control such a dog.
Julia Tasker August 27, 2012 at 11:31 AM
I agree that there are no inherently bad dogs. I have had dogs since I was in a crib and I can tell you the only dog the bite me in whole life was a cocker spaniel. I myself love the 'bully' breds as I have found them to be loving funny clowns.
Cate Zielinski August 28, 2012 at 02:51 AM
The locked jaw theory is a Load crap. I have a 75 pound blue nose pitbull and I have no problem opening his jaw to take out something he isn't supposed to have like table food. I can stick my fingers in his mouth and have no fear whatsoever. Owners should be held responsible not the dogs. Dogs may not be human but they are affectionate animals who want nothing but to please their owner and feel loved. My pitbull is like my child and I would never out a muzzle in my child would you?
Ike M September 01, 2012 at 12:09 PM
I believe that any breed of dog can be vicious - it mostly depends on the owner and the dog's personality. As such, I support this new law, because it looks at the actual behavior of the dog and not just its appearance. Especially once you throw mutts into the equation, you really never know what is in the dog's DNA. A recent study showed that roughly half of shelter dogs identified as "pitbull mixes" had no DNA matches with the three main breeds considered to be pitbulls. And out of all the shelter dogs in the study, another 20% were not identified as pitbull mixes but actually did have some pitbull DNA. Also, the myth that pitbulls have the most bite pressure of all dogs is untrue. In a study of a pitbull, a German Shepherd, and a Rottweiler, the pitbull was found to have the lowest bite pressure of the three. Bite pressure is also not easy to measure because it depends on bite inhibition and dog size, among other things. As the owner of a fully grown 35-lb pitbull mix, there is basically no way that my dog could have the jaw strength of a black lab more than twice her size. It's also often the case that pitbulls are adopted by shelter workers, volunteers, and other people in animal rescue because they see how much discrimination there is against these dogs. Cracking down on animal abuse, dog fighting, and leash laws would do more to help prevent dog bites than a law targeting a certain look of dog.
Maureen Sullivan September 23, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Breed specific laws must go. They do not prevent dangerous dogs or penalize irresponsible owners. I would rather see irresponsible owners of any dog getting held responsible for their actions or lack of actions towards their dog get penalized over a dog that is well trained and taken care of. Currently, by Bostons bsl puppies must also be muzzled. Some city government officials want to keep the bsl, but I would contend that they are encouraging the cruel owners of dog fightingrings to pick another breed. In talking to someone who used to have the job of taking care of the fighting dogs the treatment of the animals to get them viscious is inhumane. They are locked away from each other and people and just thrown meat for food. Any of us would not know how to act or behave around others if this was done to us. In fact if you were to study the lives of many notorious criminals who have harmed others you would find patterns of abuse in their childhood for the majority of them.
Christopher D’Arpino September 24, 2012 at 03:48 PM
First and foremost we need to dispell the myths from the facts. #1 lockjaw- does not exist anatomically,medically or otherwise.There is no such mechanism by which a dogs jaw can"lock".Not a pitbull,labrador or Lhasa Apso.. #2Their nature is to be vicious- Not true. Pitbull type dogs are extememly loyal and intelligent and are highly trainable.The do not come out of the womb with a predisposition to bite.This is like saying irish people have a predisposition to alcoholism,or any other stereotype. #3 judging by breed is the same as judging by race. Saying a sapecific breed is goingt odo something based on its appearance is the same as saying a certain race of people will act a certain way based on the way they look...it is racism and baseless. #4The pitbull use to be the "american dog" for its nurturing nature,more commonly known as the "nanny dog" for its natureof working with families and infants. Spot, on the lil rascals was a pitbull, and many other companies used the pitbull,including the governemnt to show strength and compassion as a symbol. #5 Pitbulls feel less pain than other dogs. Dogs like people have varying degrees of pain tolerance. a pitbulltype dog is no less feeling than anyother living being. #7 a dog under normal circumstances and normal medical history is subject to his environment,like humans, learns appropriate responses and is taught through training. Facts are where the converstaion needs to start not myths and misconceptions based on headlines.
Just Me! September 25, 2012 at 03:47 PM
No..I would never treat my child like an animal...nor would I treat my animal as a human...That's the reality of it all....a dog may be part of the family...but it is still an animal and should be treated as such
Just Me! September 25, 2012 at 03:50 PM
What needs to happen is that the dogs owners need to be held responsible for it's animals actions...pure and simple....
Christopher D’Arpino September 25, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Correct the deed not the breed needs to be dealt with and the owners need to be held responsible..
Christopher D’Arpino September 25, 2012 at 03:55 PM
And to the comment that animals are animals and humans are humans...might I remind you we are part of the animal kingdom and in fact are ourselves animals...mammals in fact...Oh and african americans were considered animals and not worthy of humnane treatment during slavery also....


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