More Cities Considering Bans on Dangerous Dog Breeds



Though the number of people treated in emergency rooms for dog bites has been falling since the beginning of the decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 300,000 were treated in 2007. Just over 30 people died as a result of their injuries that year. This is still a large enough of a group to warrant many communities willing to ban, or try to ban, what they consider dangerous breeds of dogs.

Though pit bulls are consistently at the top of the most dangerous breeds, and often at the center of the most contentious fights in cities across America, other breeds some might consider “family friendly” is also on the list. The Boxer and Dalmatian are not high on the list, but are known to be aggressive, especially when children are around. And though Rottweilers are known to be excellent companions for their family’s children, their territorial aggression makes them almost as dangerous as the pit bull. However, the extremely large and vicious Presa Canario, characterized as lacking fear and bred to guard as well as fight cattle, seems to have only made the news since the well-publicized death of Diane Whipple of San Francisco in 2001 and Shawna Willey of Florida in 2006.

The controversy really comes in when it’s time to point the blame. Animal activists claim that most of these animals, and especially the pit bull breeds, have irresponsible owners who have not trained their dogs. They point to breeders who have been able to “breed out” the aggression of dogs like Doberman Pincers. Though Dobermans are still listed as a dangerous breed, they are not necessarily considered the number one choice in guard dogs like they once were. However, pit bulls are usually targets since they lead the pack (so to speak) when it comes to fatal maulings.

Many cities, and twelve states, have created ordinances that ban dangerous breeds from their communities. Fines are imposed on owners, and dogs considered vicious are frequently euthanized. In 1987, Ohio began requiring owners of dangerous breeds to purchase $100,000 of liability insurance.

What this comes down to is the struggle between people who want to own these kinds of dogs, either as companions or guard animals and city authorities who want to maintain safety. So, while the number of dog bites has gone down since 2001, Oshkosh, Wisconsin saw a jump in dog bites from 97 to 125. The problem here is that even the most popular breed in America, the Labrador, will seem vicious if it is poorly trained, sick, or left on its own for long periods of time.

So, is it right to fault the owner, or is it the fault of the breed? And who should regulate what kinds of breeds are “safe” and which ones are “dangerous”?