Last week, a bill was introduced in Michigan that sought to end "pit bull" ownership across the state. The good news is that Rep. Hugh Crawford, chair of the House Regulatory Reform Committee, said he has no intention of taking up the legislation. Rep. Crawford accurately stated: "I don't think it's a dog problem, I think it's a people problem."
The bad news is that this is not the first nor the last we've seen of breed specific legislation. The Michigan bill can still be resurrected, and policies that target pit bulls are being proposed, discussed, passed or repealed in cities across the country.
Pit Bull Rescue Central is opposed to all breed-specific legislation. Below is the letter sent from PBRC's President to Rep. Tim Bledsoe, who introduced the Michigan pit bull ban, urging him to research the issue further and seek alternatives that judge a dog based on behavior rather than appearance.
There are few things as emotional as the prospect of losing your dog. But if BSL comes to your neighborhood, remember to always remain polite and professional. The facts are on our side.
Feel free to use the talking points below. For more resources, including the latest news and tools to fight BSL, check out Understand-a-Bull.com and PBRC's website.
Dear Rep. Bledsoe,
I was dismayed to read the text of HB 4714, “the pit bull regulation and prohibition act,” introduced last week. While Rep. Hugh Crawford has indicated that he will not be hearing the bill in the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee, I wanted to reach out to you to provide information on the issue and to encourage you to seek more effective alternatives to protect Michigan citizens.
In recent months, Dearborn, Lincoln Park, Rochester Hills, Southfield, and Sterling Heights all opted not to pursue breed-specific measures after researching the issue. While HB 4714 was introduced in Michigan, Ohio, the only state that currently regulates dogs based on breed, was hearing testimony on a bill that would overturn its breed-specific law. In addition to being constitutionally challenged, Ohio’s law has proven ineffective and expensive.
The media has reported that you introduced this bill in response to a constituent who had been injured in a dog attack, based on the belief that some breeds of dog are a greater threat to public safety than others. This belief, while unfortunately common, is not supported by facts. Consider the following:
- Dog bite statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are often cited as support that some breeds of dog pose a greater threat than others. However, the CDC and the authors of that study have stated that its purpose was to show that it is not one breed that is responsible for dog bites. They have also admitted that the data is inaccurate because media reports were a major source of the information.
- There is no statistical evidence that some dog breeds are more dangerous than others. The CDC dog bite fact sheet states: “There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.” In fact, the CDC stopped tracking dog bites by breed years ago.
- The lack of information on how many pets or what breeds are owned is exaggerated when you consider that dog breeds in bite reports are identified by the victim, police officers, or reporters -- none of whom are trained in dog breed identification. A study by Dr. Victoria Voith found that, when compared with DNA tests, visual identification by animal shelter workers (who are experienced in dog breed identification) was only correct in 25% of the cases.
- Dog bite studies that rely on media reports (e.g. The Clifton Study, Dogsbite.org) are particularly inaccurate. In addition to the reasons cited above, the media is inconsistent in reporting bites by other breeds, or may initially report that a “pit bull” was responsible for a dog bite when it is later discovered that the dog involved was not, in fact, a pit bull breed.
- I understand that you are the owner of a Golden Retriever, a breed which has a great reputation as a family dog. According to the American Temperament Testing Society (http://atts.org/), which administers standardized temperament tests, 84.9% of Golden Retrievers tested passed their temperament evaluation. Yet 86.4% of American Pit Bull Terriers, 84.2% of American Staffordshire Terriers, and 89.7% of Staffordshire Bull Terriers also passed the test, disproving claims that they are less stable than other dogs.
The fact is that dogs do not bite because they look a certain way. Banning breeds will only punish responsible owners and innocent dogs, while those whose recklessness endangers others will ignore the law or simply switch to a different breed. Successful dangerous dog legislation, in states like Illinois, focuses on the responsibility of the owner and on the dog’s behavior, rather than its appearance.
As a pit bull owner and a Michigan taxpayer, I would be happy to work with you on alternative legislation that can achieve our common goal of enhancing public safety based on a deeper understanding of the issue.
Resident of Ypsilanti, Michigan
Pit Bull Rescue Central President