The Great Debate: Is Breed Specific Legislation A Valid Solution?

dog trainingThe debate as to whether or not breed specific legislation will protect the public from “dangerous dog breeds” is both complex and troubling.

On one hand, it is hard to ignore that some breeds may have more aggressive tendencies than others. On the other hand, it can be argued that the problem is a lack of training or socialization on the dog owner’s part, and not necessarily the breed.

Rather than choose one side or the other, let’s take a closer look at both sides of the story.

The Pros of Breed Specific Legislation

Proponents of breed specific legislation claim that enacting breed specific laws will help to protect the general public from dangerous and unwarranted attacks, particularly against children. Even well-behaved dogs can be unpredictable. However, serious attacks go beyond unpredictable behavior and lack of dog training experience. It can be difficult to argue with a breed’s characteristics and behavioral instincts regardless of your own personal beliefs.

Every breed of dog has its own instincts. An English Pointer, for example, will instinctively point a bird. A fighting breed, on the other hand, can have a deep rooted history of aggression to others. It’s not easy to breed out these instincts, and it may be difficult to overcome them even with good dog training. No matter whether these breeds are put into the hands of experienced dog handlers or raised in a loving home, we are still hearing stories of unpredictable attacks.

Supporters of breed-specific laws feel that it’s hard to argue with genetics. Certain breeds like Pit Bulls have been bred for centuries to be aggressive and to fight on command. English Pointers have been bred to point a bird for centuries. Ultimately, no one will blink an eye at the English Pointer who instinctively points a bird in the park. However, a Pit Bull who acts instinctively may not exactly be welcomed with opened arms.

The Cons of Legislation

Those who are against breed specific legislation feel that the problem has little to do with the breed and more to do with public perception and lack of education. A recent study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Lincoln, UK found that those who have experience with dogs tend to hold an entirely different attitude towards “troubled breeds” than those who have had little to no experience with dogs.

Furthermore, evidence suggests that a dog’s visible characteristics help to create a strong attitude towards a specific breed. For example, dogs with short hair or dogs that are well-muscled are often viewed as dangerous by those who are inexperienced. The media’s portrayal of certain breeds can also influence a person’s opinion towards a particular breed. For instance, a person who is looking for an aggressive dog, either for home protection or for fighting purposes, may automatically be attracted to the Pit Bull Terrier or Rottweiler breed based on the breed’s stereotypes and how they are portrayed in television and film.

It can be hard to determine whether or not breed-specific laws will protect the public. There is some evidence to suggest that it may be a viable solution, but without owners learning how to properly train their dogs, the problem will still exist. Any dog, regardless of their breed, can attack another animal or person at any time. Educating owners about dog behavior and management may be the best approach to reducing the incidence of dog attacks in the community.

Author: Ashley Smith is a freelance writer for, busy mom of 2 and a dog owner. Ashley uses her love of writing to share articles on a variety of topics.