Last updated: 8 Oct, 2021
Published on: 12 Feb, 2013
Dangerous dogs - solutions beyond the hype
PetRescue are opposed to laws that ban or discriminate against specific dog breeds or breed mixes, based on how they look. We believe that all breeds of dogs have the potential to be loving and safe family members and that laws that ban or restrict dogs based on physical criteria like size, the colour of their coat, the shape of their ears, or the colour of their noses, are deeply flawed and desperately unreliable.
“I once challenged some owners that their dog was a pit bull. They showed me the parents with the paperwork. It was a cross between a boxer and a Labrador. I could have sworn it was a pit bull.”
Samantha Tarling, WA Rangers Association President
Recently, the Project aired a feature on the 'dangerous dog' laws in Victoria, including the story of Chevy, a dog taken from his family and held at an RSPCA pound for several months. He was later released after his owner took their fight to the supreme court - but he could just have easily been found to be a ‘pit bull type’ and killed. His temperament, or even his actual breed DNA, was never taken into account. The breed-specific laws in Victoria, are 100% visual.
"Why do we even have such legislation? Presumably, it was put in place to make things safer for people. But there is no evidence that these breed banning laws have actually worked, anywhere in the world. While they have caused a lot of dissension and argument, there is no evidence they have reduced the number of dog bites."
Dr. Ian Dunbar, Veterinarian, animal behaviourist, and author
PetRescue recognizes that dangerous dogs pose a community problem requiring serious attention, however, we believe breed specific approaches are unfair and inhumane and because of their ineffectiveness, that they should be abandoned.
Protecting people from dog bites
As there are no official incident reporting procedures in place in Australia, it’s impossible to obtain accurate injury statistics. What we do know is that the vast majority of dog bites take place within the family home, involving familiar family pets and children under the age of 10 years. Therefore, a strategy to prevent the number of dog bite incidents will only be successful when effective measures are taken to help reduce the risk of incidents in the home.
“We’re never going to be able to prevent every incident, but a really good way to help prevent bites and attack is through socialisation of puppies with people and other dogs at a young age, and teaching our children how to be safe around animals."
Kersti Seksel, Australian Veterinary Association (AVA)
The best way to prevent attacks involving children is to educate parents on safe interactions with their own pets, and the dogs of friends and family members, and working to ensure the public is aware of the importance of socialisation and training.
A safe future for pets and the community
Breedism is the dog equivalent of racism and breed specific laws fail to make the community safer. Breed bans instill fear in people’s minds and turn them against perfectly normal dogs.
“A 'breed' doesn’t do these things, an individual dog does. The hysteria of banning breeds isn’t the answer. It’s hard to generalise about a breed of dog — the type of owner, the behaviour of the victim is also pertinent to the incident. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the owner to keep the dog safe from scary situations and keep people safe from a dog that might be reactive.”
Dr Katrina Ward – Tasmanian Veterinary Behaviourist
With the overwhelming lack of evidence to the efficacy of breed-specific laws and the targeting of responsible pet owners and their dogs that inevitably results when these laws are enacted, PetRescue favours breed-neutral laws that hold reckless dog guardians accountable for their dogs’ unacceptable behaviour.
“Knee-jerk reactions by governments do not tend to create good public policy. We do not need any more laws or restrictions that are doomed to failure from the onset. We need a strategy based on the best research evidence that we have to hand. Breed bans simply do not address other recurrent patterns associated with dog attacks such as irresponsible or uneducated dog ownership.”
Linda Watson (Research Fellow at Monash University)
PetRescue advocates the implementation of a community dog bite prevention education programs focussing on pet owners and families. We also support the vigorous enforcement of breed-neutral laws that focus on the irresponsible and dangerous behaviour of individual owners and the targeting of problematic dogs in the community - regardless of breed. This is, we believe the path to a safe future for both people and pets.