International Evidence that Breed Discrimination is Ineffective

October 14, 2013  

Angel City Pit Bulls www.angelcitypits.orgThe United States is not the only place that has attempted, and failed, to solve its dangerous dog problems through breed discriminatory laws. Evidence that these policies do not make communities safer abounds throughout the world.

A 1996 study in the United Kingdom examining the pattern of injuries at an Emergency Department before and after the implementation of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act banning pit bull type dogs concluded that the Act had not had an impact on the rate of injuries caused by dog bites.[1]

In 2000, the government of Lower Saxony, Germany ruled certain breeds of dogs especially dangerous and placed restrictions on their ownership.  The breeds included Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Pit Bull Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, among others.  Interesting to note is that the law did allow for an exception from the restrictions if the owner and dog passed a temperament test. Over 400 dogs of the targeted breeds were given temperament tests, along with 70 Golden Retrievers who were volunteered by their owners for comparison.  Researchers found no significant difference between the Golden Retrievers and the dogs from the targeted breeds in showing inappropriate aggression.  This study led to the repeal of the breed discriminatory law in Lower Saxony.[2]  The researchers concluded that a scientific basis for breed discriminatory policies simply does not exist.[3]

A report published in the Netherlands in 2010 at the behest of the government eventually led to the abolition of the country’s breed discriminatory law.  The researchers for this report concluded that the view that aggressive potential is linked to dog breed is of “serious concern,” as experience, socialization, training, health, and victim behavior all play roles in a dog’s potential for aggression.[4]

A study on the effectiveness of Spain’s breed discriminatory law published in 2011 concluded that their pit bull and other breed bans had no effect on stopping dog attacks.  The study found that breeds designated as “dangerous” under Spanish law were no more likely to behave aggressively than other breeds.[5]

contest runner up 5

A closer neighbor, Ontario, Canada, has had a ban on pit bull type dogs since 2005 and has also not seen any reduction in dog bites.  The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, in a letter to government officials dated May 28, 2012, stated:

“Veterinarians, by the nature and training, take a science-based approach to any issue, including aggressive behavior in dogs.  Based on an extensive review of available research on the subject, OVMA has concluded that BSL is not an effective method of reducing the number of dog bites in humans, and that it has resulted in significant negative consequences for both people and dogs in Ontario.”[6]

The letter goes on to describe how recent statistics show no decrease in dog bites after the ban and that other breeds are responsible for more bites overall than pit bull type dogs were prior to the ban.  The letter then offers a solution:

“There is a better way: Research clearly shows that a more effective approach to dealing with dangerous dogs includes improving bite prevention education and implementing non-breed-specific dangerous dog laws, enacted to place the primary responsibility for a dog’s behavior on the owner, regardless of dog’s breed.”[7]

This is indeed the better way.

[1] B. Klaassen, J.R. Buckley & A. Esmail, Does the Dangerous Dog Act Protect Against Animal Attacks: A Prospective Study of Mammalian Bites in the Accident and Emergency Department, 27(2) Injury 89-91 (1996).

[2] Bradley, Janis. “The Relevance of Breed in Selecting a Companion Dog,” supra.

[3] S. Ott, et al. (2008). Is There a Difference? Comparison of Golden Retrievers and Dogs Affected by Breed-Specific Legislation Regarding Aggressive Behavior. Journal of Veterinary Behavior.  3, 134-140.

[4] Cornelissen, Jessica M.R. and Hans Hopster. Dog bites in The Netherlands: A study of victims, injuries, circumstances and aggressors to support evaluation of breed specific legislation. The Veterinary Journal, 186.3 (Dec. 2010): p292.

[5] Martinez, A.G., Pernas, G.S., Casalta, J.D., Rey, M.L.S., Palomino, L.F.DlC, “Risk Factors Associated with Behavioral Problems in Dogs,” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, July 2011, Vol. 6, Issue 4: Pages 225-231.

[6] Letter from Ontario Veterinary Medical Association to the Honorable Dalton Mcguinty, Mr. Tim Hudak, and Ms. Andrea Horwath, dated May 28, 2012.  Available at

[7] Id.

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3 Responses to “International Evidence that Breed Discrimination is Ineffective”
  1. Allie says:

    Finally people with brains!

  2. Elaine Cope says:

    At last someone is looking at the whole picture! !!! People need to be educated about the so called dangerous dogs ….it’s a people problem not a dog problem. .

  3. BOB GLOVIK says:

    Why is this not a FRONT PAGE/top leading story?
    PIT BULLS are no more responsible than any other breed, its a fact, proven by unbiased science!