Going Dutch?

December 19, 2011  

Writing from Denmark, blogger Leo Scheltinga looks at what his country can learn from the Dutch breed-ban repeal

By Leo Scheltinga

Now that there is a chance the breed ban in Denmark might become abolished after the election of a new government, it would be interesting to look at other countries that repealed their breed bans in an attempt to learn from their experiences.

Like the Dutch, who repealed their breed ban in the start of 2009.


The Dutch implemented a “Dangerous Dog Act” in 1993 in the same knee-jerk response towards dog bites we have seen all over the world when breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL) is implemented: three dog bite incidents – one lethal – made the news in a short timespan. The aim of the act was to decrease the number of dog bites and to eradicate pit bull type dogs. In short, when you looked like a pit bull you were in trouble.

In 2009, when the Dutch found out the only statistic that was changing were the pit bull type dogs killed in the pound, they repented and concluded their breed-discriminatory legislation didn’t work and lifted their ban on pit bull type breeds. The act was replaced with a new one, in which it was not allowed anymore to discriminate on breed, but focus on the deed instead.


Now what did the Dutch do in their new act, “Regulation of Dangerous Animals”? The new act, in short, contains these items:

Education and prevention: website (in Dutch) was built on the subject of why dogs bite and how you can prevent being bitten AND how to socialize and train your dog to function properly in society.
Dangerous dogs: Any dog, regardless of breed, involved in an incident must undergo a behavior test. Depending the result of the test, it can be decided to return the dog to the owner with additional requirements – like wearing a muzzle at all times –
or when deemed necessary: euthanization.
Mandatory identification and registration: All dogs carry an ID – like a chip – and are registered in a national database together with ownership information.
Breeding: a mandatory “good behavior” test for breeds – American Staffordshire Terrier, Rottweiler, Dogo Argentino, Mastino Napolitano and the Fila Brasileiro – that should be part of the pedigree. It is only allowed to breed parents that have passed the behavior test.
Five-year evaluation cycles: in which the results of the act – the number of dog bites – are evaluated and possibly adapted.

Although a very decent list, in which the deed is punished and not the breed, one very important element is missing. When you want to decrease dog bites, you have to take the other end of the leash – the dog owner – into account. A missing element that will soon give the Dutch new headaches – but more about that later.

The new breeding regulations seem to be accepted and carried out by the Kennel Club. But why should we also not do this regardless of breed? I am not sure of the actual genetic effect, but what a great message to send to the general public that all dogs used in breeding are tested. It can stop the “fighting gene” discussion once and for all as well.


As of September 2011, the new law is in its second year. There is still no registration to enable a reliable dog bite statistic. Also the mandatory ID and registration has been postponed multiple times but should be in place before the end of this year. As always, implementing a law is a lot more difficult than getting it through parliament. But I don’t see any reliable statistics ready before the first evaluation cycle, which is a shame.

Where is the press in all of this? They always tend to play a dubious role when it is about dangerous dogs. Well, they waited only until May 2009 to make their first headlines. It is the story of Ruby, of which I will write in the next installment. But here is already a preview of how Ruby’s story started, in “Zembla,” the Dutch TV show equivalent of “60 Minutes,” in May 2009:

“The lobby for the pit bull and the new freedom of a notorious pet.”

They are known for their aggression, bite force and determination. Pitbulls are among the most dangerous dogs in the street. They caused serious injuries and there are a number of children mauled to death by pit bulls. For years there was special legislation that would prohibit keeping aggressive dogs. The pit bull lovers revolted and carried a sometimes aggressive campaign to reverse the ban of their dogs. With success, because from January 1, 2009 the law is off the table. Why? (Read the full version here.)

Haven’t we seen these headlines before? Sometimes I wonder if they wrote it in advance, and just opened a drawer and pressed publish when the time was right.

After the new act was put in place, a new “lobby” was created with like-minded people that just couldn’t cope with seeing the pit bull types back in the streets. They erected a number of “hate” websites, like gevaarlijkehonden.info (dangerous dogs) and tegenpitjes.info/ (against pit bulls). They are not harmless, and a simple Google test in Dutch will point to their sites instead of the ones supported by the government to provide education and prevention on dog bites.

Together with the press they form a poisonous cocktail. Can politicians keep their back straight in this storm? Does reason continue to prevail? Coming up in the next installment: the story of Ruby.

To read the story as it was originally posted, visit Leo’s blog here.

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One Response to “Going Dutch?”
  1. It’s all about education and owners owning up to their responsiblity