Breed-Specific Legislation: What You Need to Know
By Karin Krisher
Mark Buerhrle loves his dogs. And he loves baseball. But when Buerhrle switched teams from the Miami Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays, the two came at odds—because Ontario has a pit bull ban.
Rather than leave Slater, one of four pups, behind, Buerhrle and his wife are splitting their time between homes, leaving their children in a state of questioning Ontario’s legal choices on a much more personal level: Why do we have to give up dad or Slater? Why can’t we all stay together?
That’s not an easy question to answer. Because the answer is never satisfactory.
Pit bulls are just one of many so-called “bully breeds” to come under fire for their perceived potential to be aggressive. In the past, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Boxers and Rottweilers have all been targets of breed-specific legislation; today, the focus has shifted, and the main target of these measures is the pit bull—or any dog that even resembles one, despite its actual genetics.
The BSL (breed-specific legislation) can be anything from an all-out ban to a muzzle ordinance, from a liability insurance form to a dangerous dog sign. These measures aren’t unreasonable, and it’s certainly understandable that government officials want to ensure protection for the members of their communities.
But what’s scary about BSLs is that they necessarily categorize and label animals as if all that look alike are the same animal. They disregard the responsibility of the owner, instead placing onus on an animal that obeys its human almost by default. Breed-specific legislation also disregards individual potential, thereby re-enforcing stereotypes that perpetuate themselves: Because pit bulls are seen as dangerous dogs, dangerous people choose to own pit bulls.
Breed-Specific Legislation: Final Thoughts
So, what can Buerhle do? What can you do? First, don’t move to a city with breed-specific bans with a dog that fits those specifications. As difficult as that might be, it’s the only choice you have right now. If you do live in a place with breed-specific legislation, be sure your dog is compliant to protect you both from losing one another.
Second, though you shouldn’t have to prove this, do your best to prove that your bully breed pup actually has a heart of gold. Teach him (or her!) well, and educate people you know and the community through leading by example. Through proper training and socialization, you and your bully breed can take on the breed discrimination and stigma that surrounds their genetics.
Love your dogs with all your heart, and encourage your friends to do the same with a pup in need. Together, we can make a difference.