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An Argument Against Breed Specific Legislation Essay

2732 words - 11 pages

The term “breed-specific legislation” is not one that comes up often in day-to-day discussion for most people. Breed-specific legislation refers to all laws that seek to restrict or eliminate ownership of certain animal breeds, most often dog breeds. It was first conceived as a method of controlling and reducing animal cruelty, as well as mitigating the occurrence of dog-related human injuries and the illegal activities of dog-fighting and related crimes. Breed-specific legislation is distinct from animal control laws that restrict ownership of wild or demonstrably dangerous (those with a past history of unacceptable, aggressive behavior) animals, because breed-specific legislation makes a blanket restriction on all animals of a certain breed regardless of individual history. This means that breed-specific legislation is often promulgated on the basis of breed reputation. In recent years it is the pit bull which has come under the scrutiny of legislative bodies, as their reputation becomes more and more sullied by street crime.
To say “pit bull,” however, is a vague reference to several pit bull types, which are considered separate breeds by registries like the American Kennel Club (AKC). Each type has a slightly different breeding history; many began with the breeding of bulldogs with terriers to produce a loyal, compact and tenacious breed (“American Pit Bull Terrier”). The standard three pit bull types most often mentioned by name in breed-specific legislation include the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. That is not the extent of the legislation, however, which also includes dogs that “substantially conform to the breed standards established by the American Kennel Club” (Melvindale). To “conform” means that the dog in question shows certain traits that the AKC has established as typical or desirable in a pit bull type. This means that even dogs with no specific heritage (“mutts” or mixed breed dogs), if they exhibit these conformations, could be subject to breed-specific legislation based on the definition of what is considered “substantial.” Some pit bull owners directly affected by breed-specific legislation have had to give up lifelong companions in order to protect themselves from legal action. This should be worrisome for all pet owners, and especially owners of the larger domestic animals like dogs; once it is decided that the ability to own a domestic animal can be curtailed based on evidence that can be misinterpreted and misrepresented, the “watch-dogs” of public safety could as easily turn their gaze upon the next breed to be singled out for legislation.
But do these laws actually live up to their goal in the long-term? Eliminating a breed of animal will certainly reduce cruelty associated with it; there are very few reported cases of cruelty toward or injuries due to the Braque du Puy today. Of course, Braque du Puys, as such, are an extinct breed. But animal...

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