What does breed discrimination accomplish?

During a recent visit to Barley Cove, a beach in southwest Ireland, I was surprised and dismayed to see this sign posted at the boardwalk to the beach:

Breed discrimination

I have heard about such blatant breed discrimination before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it myself. As you can see, German shepherds are on the list, along with many breeds that have acquired a negative public perception, thanks to decades of media hype and stereotyping.

Obviously, if you have a people- or dog-aggressive dog, you shouldn’t bring her to a public beach and let her off leash, regardless of breed. Which is why this ruling is so irritating to me. Dogs of ALL breeds can be dangerous. Yes, an aggressive chihuahua is going to do less damage to you than an aggressive akita, but the presumption that particular breeds are, by intrinsic nature, dangerous, could not be further from the truth. Dogs are individuals. A fear-reactive golden retriever could be much more dangerous to the public welfare than a well-socialized pit bull. By passing legislation like this, towns only further reinforce negative stereotypes about certain types of dogs.

To me, the irony of this ruling (breeds on this poster have to be leashed and muzzled) is that a dog who was on a beach like this, watching every other dog run around off leash, would be likely to be more reactive if he was the only dog leashed and muzzled. I know my dogs, who are on this list of banned breeds, would be immensely frustrated and probably act out if an off-leash dog ran up to them while they were constrained by a leash and muzzle.

Also, the crossbreeds addendum (the ruling applies to all dogs on the poster and their crossbreeds) is ludicrous to me. People, myself included, are notoriously bad at guessing breeds. Even shelter workers are just as bad at guessing which dogs are “pit bulls” and which aren’t. You simply can’t conclusively know a dog’s heritage by looking at him, and even if you could, the breed background wouldn’t tell you anything certain about the dog’s temperament. Our dog pal Howie is a great example:

Play date with Howie
Full German shepherd on the left, half German shepherd on the right. Would you have correctly guessed Howie’s “dangerous” parentage? (I wouldn’t have!)

Howie is half-lab, half-German shepherd. His mother was a purebred German shepherd who came into the rescue, but he bears hardly any resemblance to his mother’s breed. This sweet, shy pup would qualify as a “dangerous crossbreed” according to this legislation. But anyone who looked at him would think he was just a slightly leaner, leggier labrador.

Again, dogs are individuals. Our two purebred German shepherds are as different from each other, personality wise, as night and day.

Barley Cove
Barley Cove.

It makes me sad to think we haven’t moved past this in the 21st century, and especially in a country thought to be as progressive as Ireland.

And a related/recent update on this issue: The Battersea Dogs & Cats home in the UK just published a damning report of the breed discrimination law, including photos of dogs they euthanized because the dogs had a “pit bull” appearance.

What do you think about it? Do you think such bans are a good idea? Are there any breed discrimination laws in your area?

Read on

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7 thoughts on “What does breed discrimination accomplish?

  1. Wow. How many of those ‘pit bulls’ look like pure Staffies, and how many others are clearly Staffy crosses with no APBT in them?! So, so sad 😦

    I’m also really shocked to see the sign at the beach. I wasn’t sure things like that still even existed, and some of the breeds on there really shock me…and they had to be muzzled?!

  2. There is a growing body of evidence that BSL doesn’t work and organisations such as the Best Friends Animal Society based in Utah have an active advocacy wing to fight against these laws and to have them repealed. New Zealand has BSL and every time there is a dog attack, it is called a pit bull in the media….We have a long way to go to prove to some people that if there is a problem, it is the people who are the problem and not the dogs.

  3. It’s so frustrating to see these types of bans. It not only discriminates against dogs based on looks alone, it also keeps the stigma surrounding them going. It’s a terrible “solution” to dog bites that’s been proven not to work at all. Hopefully one day we’ll learn to pay more attention to dog behavior instead of looks.

  4. So, by the numbers here in Colorado, the most frequent dog bite comes from, not a pit-bull, not a german shepherd, not an akita, but a lab (probably because it also is one of the most common breeds here). Breed bans are ridiculous. Created to make us feel safe(r), but nonsense nonetheless.

  5. Wow I’ve never seen/heard of such a sign! Obviously I agree with all of your points. The only discrimination we’ve constantly come across is restrictions for renters. Of course the place we live now is really lenient about said restrictions, but I know a lot of places make you do an interview with your dog before they accept your application. This is also ridiculous. I mean ,Rufus is a perfect angel inside of his own home (non-destructive, never barks, etc.) but meeting a stranger in an “interview??” Umm….yeah. That’d be a little dicey.

  6. We have both a “dangerous breed” German Shepherd and a mixed terrier (Boston and Yorkie) and the terrier is the one I worry about going after other dogs and humans. He’s the one I have to watch out for. The Shepherd looks intimidating but she is harmless. A big baby. So sad how these breeds are discriminated against.

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