OP Ed: End Breed Discrimination in Michigan

Many communities have enacted breed specific legislation (BSL) that places unfair restrictions or bans on certain breeds of dogs with the misguided attempt to keep communities safe from dog bites. Not only does BSL tear dogs from loving homes, it does not create safer communities. It actually has the opposite effect.

First, banning a particular breed just makes that breed of dog more attractive to the bad actors. Second, people who have a banned breed will hide their dogs away in fear of their beloved companions being seized and killed. This creates a situation where the community has dogs that are not socialized and may inflict damage when they near people or other animals.

There is zero evidence to support a breed of dog being more “dangerous” than another breed of dog. Dogs all roughly have about the amount of bite pressure. Dogs are individuals with individual temperaments and behaviors that are not based on what they look like. In fact, a study by the American Temperament Testing Society gives pit bulls a high passing rate (87.4 percent) that was better than English springer spaniels (85.2 percent), beagles (79.7 percent) and collies (80.8 percent) just to name a few.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior says, “Any dog may bite, regardless of the dog’s size or sex, or reported breed or mix of breeds. The AVSAB’s position is that such legislation—often called breed-specific legislation (BSL)—is ineffective, and can lead to a false sense of community safety as well as welfare concerns for dogs identified (often incorrectly) as belonging to specific breeds.”

The federal government’s Center of Disease Control, The Humane Society of the United States, the American Bar Association, the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Association, National Animal Control Association, and the ASPCA oppose BSL.

What You Can Do:

The Michigan Legislature introduced House Bill 4035 that would ban BSL in Michigan. We need to urge our state representatives to support the bill. Take action, here.

The legislation almost passed the last legislative session, but Speaker of the House Tom Leonard would not allow the bill to come for a vote of the whole House floor. The bill currently sits in the House committee on local government and municipal finance, of which Representative James Lower chairs. One of the committee members, Representative Alex Garza, opposes the bill.

Do you have breed discrimination laws in your local municipality? Learn how to repeal the breed discrimination ordinance.

William McMullin has a Master of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School and a BBA from Western Michigan University.  He is executive director of Humane Voters of Michigan. William’s activism work focuses on animal, environmental, and consumer protection issues.

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