Breed specific legislation affecting military pet owners can have serious consequences for dogs targeted by these laws. While stray or unruly dogs are serious issues in many communities, the solution of breed banning creates more problems than it solves.
Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), more commonly known as breed bans, have the effect of outlawing certain types of dogs.
Origins of Breed Specific Legislation
BSL originated in the 1980s; Pit Bulls were the primary target. Communities felt compelled to regulate ownership of entire categories of dogs perceived to be dangerous.
These decisions were often made with little or no factual basis.
More recently, BSL is affecting military families – and Pit Bulls are not the only type of dog landing on the “not wanted” list. It is not unusual to see German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Huskies and other breeds banned from on-base housing.
But it is the Pit Bull that is most associated with breed bans.
What is a Pit Bull?
There is no single breed known as a Pit Bull. It is an inexact term used to describe several dog breeds, including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, as well as other bully breed dogs.
In 2009, the Department of the Army detailed a new policy for military families living on base. The memo aimed to create uniform rules across Army bases and make moving for military families easier.
Breeds deemed aggressive or potentially aggressive were forbidden, and the list extended beyond Pit Bulls.
Off-base housing became one of the only solutions for military families with a banned dog breed. Those living on-base with a banned breed may be grandfathered in, but they cannot take their pet with them if they relocate to another base that bans the breed.
While some military families chose to live off-base to avoid the ban, municipalities are increasingly enacting BSL. Because military personnel have limited options about where they can live, BSL forces many to surrender their dogs. And these animals are often relinquished to shelters that are already overflowing with pets with little chance of adoption.
MLB pitcher Mark Buehrle moved his family from Miami-Dade county rather than surrender his dog, Slater, who was subject to the county’s breed ban. Of course, most people cannot just pick up and move quite so easily. But the loss of a resident with a $58M, four-year contract no doubt caught the attention of Miami-Dade authorities.
Bully breed life
Animal and anti-cruelty advocates claim that BSL is often an impulsive reaction by politicians to show that they are doing something after a dog attack occurs in their community.
But the problem begins with people – not the pet.
Most aggressive dogs are a product of their owners irresponsible and, sometimes, criminal behavior.
A dog who is bred illegally can lack proper training and socialization, increasing the chance that it will bite someone out of fear or anxiety. The offending dog is often confiscated and put to death.
Reckless breeding is not the only issue, however. Dog fighting remains a disgraceful ‘sport’ in spite of being illegal in all 50 states.
Animals raised to fight, including those used as bait dogs, are innocent victims of criminal behavior. Yet, they are the ones to suffer horrific abuse. Many are seriously wounded through fighting and left to die; others are killed outright by their handlers.
Dogs who are fortunate enough to survive, get rescued and rehabilitated have lifelong emotional scars. Many suffer physical ailments or disabilities as a result of the cruelty inflicted upon them.
In addition, banned breeds are not the only animals involved in dog biting incidents or attacks. This suggests that Breed Specific Legislation is actually too focused on breed and not on behavior.
According to the American Humane Association, no less than 25 dog breeds were involved in most of the bite-related fatalities in the United States.
Deed, not breed
Many proponents of BSL believe laws should focus less on breed and more on behavior.
The ASPCA advocates for breed-neutral laws, and cities like Toledo, Ohio and Calgary, Canada implemented legislation that holds the owner accountable on an incident-by-incident basis. In addition, the American Kennel Club (AKC) is working to enforce non-breed specific dangerous dog ordinances.
Animals impacted by Breed Specific Legislation are being persecuted due to preconceived notions and stereotypes that are not accurate traits of the breed as a collective whole. These laws are, by definition, discriminatory.
And as the saying goes – it is the deed, not the breed.
Military families with banned dogs are feeling the effect of BSL two-fold: unable to live on-base due to military pet regulations, and unable to live off-base because of various municipal breed bans.
The issue is further complicated when service members deploy and seek to foster their pets, since BSL limits where these pets can be cared for while awaiting their guardians’ return.
The implications of BSL go beyond those in active duty. Recent stories highlight disabled veterans with banned-breed service dogs running afoul of local breed-discrimination laws.
At Pets for Patriots, we believe that every dog deserves a loving home, regardless of its pedigree.
Is your dog labeled as dangerous? Find out if your branch of service or military base has put out the “not wanted” sign for your dog’s breed.