Obama Supports Pit Bulls

The last few weeks have been pretty hectic for the policy makers within the Obama administration.  As if trying to decide how to respond to Edward Snowden or chemical weapons in Syria wasn’t enough for these pundits, the President also got involved in the controversy associated with Breed Specific Legislation!  We at Pet Camp are big believers in the First Amendment, (though Mark is a bigger supporter of the 21st), and we got some thoughts on our federal government espousing on this issue.  Let us know what you think and if you’ve got a favorite amendment you’d like Pet Camp to support.

Last month the White House released a statement opposing Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). We’ve included the text of the statement below. BSL is usually thought of as a ban on a specific type of dog breed or mix of that breed within a specific city or town. Denver’s ban on Pit Bulls is an example of this type of BSL. Let me start by saying that Pet Camp does not discriminate based on breed, we welcome all breeds for both day and overnight care fun at Pet Camp. We modify our behavior and activities based on the individual dog. We know that just like every dog of a particular breed is not “bad” all dogs of another breed are not “good”. That said, we think painting a picture about a topic as complex as BSL requires the use of a brush, not a roller and that a total ban on BSL is not necessarily a good thing. As an aside, we’re also not sure that this is an issue for the federal government to be opining upon (if the President wants a list of issues we think he should focus on he’s welcome to give us a call).

It appears, however, that we might be one of the few in San Francisco voicing concern over this issue. In fact, San Francisco’s Department of Animal Care and Control came out in support of the ban on BSL on their Facebook page. Frankly, this surprised us as it was only a few years ago that this same department successfully fought for a change in California state law so that San Francisco could impose BSL! Now granted the BSL in San Francisco does not ban Pit Bulls or Pit Bulls mixes, it does however require that all Pit Bulls be spayed or neutered unless the guardian (it is San Francisco after all) has a $100 breeding permit or establishes that the dog is a “show dog.” The San Francisco BSL defines “Pit Bulls” as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and any dog displaying the physical traits of these breeds. Fines for failing to comply range from $100 to $1,000 and can, on the second offense, include six months in county jail.

San Francisco argued to the State that it needed BSL less as a matter of public safety and more because its shelter was being overrun by Pit Bull mixes.  Frankly, San Francisco’s BSL has been remarkably successful. Now if you go to our local shelter rather than seeing countless Pit Bull mixes you see countless Chihuahua variations. There are so many of these dogs that San Francisco Animal Care & Control has been sending them to New York City (where there is apparently a lack of Chihuahuas). Our other main adoption center, the San Francisco SPCA, has billboards around town (in Spanish we might add – which raises an entire other set of questions) waiving the adoption fee for Chihuahuas. Based on the Pit Bull success story, perhaps rather than simply supporting the President (but, wait, once again this is San Francisco and we all need to support the President if from a certain party) San Francisco might want to take the more nuanced position that BSL is something worthy of local, rather than federal, discussion and the sometimes BSL is a good thing. More importantly, if San Francisco really wants to enhance the discussion of BSL, perhaps it should pass BSL requiring the spaying and neutering of all Chihuahua and Chihuahua mixes under the same logic that lead to our first BSL addressing Pit Bulls.

So what do you think? Should there be a federal ban on all BSL? Should some BSL be allowed but not a complete ban on any specific breed? Should Virginia and Mark jet off the White House to help President Obama develop his BSL policy?

Here’s the text of the White House Statement:

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.

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at twenty years of data about dog bites and human fatalities in the United States. They found that fatal attacks represent a very small proportion of dog bite injuries to people and that it’s virtually impossible to calculate bite rates for specific breeds.

The CDC also noted that the types of people who look to exploit dogs aren’t deterred by breed regulations — when their communities establish a ban, these people just seek out new, unregulated breeds. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they’re intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive.
For all those reasons, the CDC officially recommends against breed-specific legislation — which they call inappropriate. You can read more from them here.

As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends 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.

Thanks for reading!