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

Pup links!

An epic greyhound. What a beautiful shot! Click for source.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

Why We Must Drop Our Obsession with Coat and Color in AKC Dogs. Insightful comments about how truly silly it is that we breed dogs (and subsequently reject others) based merely on their coat color and/or markings. (Ruffly Speaking)

Size Matters. Patricia McConnell reflects on a study about the way people treat and perceive big and small dogs. She also considers why small dogs are usually less well-behaved or, really, just less well-trained, than bigger ones. Interesting stuff. (The Other End of the Leash)

Live Like Royalty: The Many Health Benefits of Dogs, Man’s Best Friend. The Atlantic ran a short piece online this week about something we now all well know: Dogs are actually good for you! Dog people have longer lifespans, lower blood pressure, and less stress than dog-less ones. (The Atlantic Monthly)

Drafting Dog. A German shepherd attends a drafting event near our current town. Looks like a great event for a strong dog! Has anyone ever participated in a drafting before? (German Shepherd Mom)

Dog Vaccinations: What Not to Do. Jana Rade’s opinions on vaccinating your dog. What do you think? I know it’s a touchy issue and it seems that it’s often a divided war between veterinarians and dog owners. I confess that I’m not really sure about many of these issues; I feel like I have a lot of research to do. (That Mutt)

First Diabetic Alert Dog in Scotland. Meet this sweet-faced spaniel who can accurately predict this Scottish woman’s diabetic comas. Pretty amazing. I imagine diabetic service dogs will become increasingly interesting to Americans, where diabetes is something of a national epidemic. (Dog Days)

Lupine Tail Feathers Collars and Leads. Pretty peacock design on this collar and leash set. Zoe has a Lupine leash and it is quite comfortable in one’s hand. (Dog Milk)

Robin + Fiona. OK, here’s a game: Guess the puppy breed! These are such sweet photos of a litter of white puppies… Any guesses as to what breed they are? I confess I feel stumped myself. Some kind of terrier? Or am I totally off-base and it’s just a scruffy-looking litter of white golden retrievers? I bet one of you can help me out here. Trickier, since the photos are all in black-and-white. (Cramer Photo)

A Big Batch of Bean and Friends. This, clearly, is not a pup link, but I don’t have anywhere else to share this, and I’m just enamored with these photos of a beautiful mama cat and her precious kittens playing together. Yes, they are cats, but they are really warming my heart this morning. (The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee)

The Comment Section for Every Article Written about PETA. Also not really dog-related, but animal-related: This made me LOL. It is so true. (The Hairpin)