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Prohibiting Dog Breed Specific Laws: Fair or Turning a Blind Eye?

A new law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick would prevent cities and towns from instituting breed specific dog rules.

Is it common sense to allow cities and towns to pass rules specific to certain dog breeds, such as pit bulls, in the name of public safety? Or do they unfairly target certain dogs?

Last week, Gov. Deval Patrick signed an animal rights bill that takes effect Nov. 1 and includes a stipulation prohibiting cities and towns from creating breed specific rules at the local level.

The move has angered some Boston officials, the Boston Herald reports, as the new state law would negate the city's "Responsible Pit Bull Ownership" ordinance that, among other rules, requires pit bull owners to keep their dogs muzzled when off the owner's private property. Boston adopted the ordinance in 2004 after several pit bull attacks in the city captured officials' attention.

Other cities have also wrangled over how to deal with a perceived issue regarding pit bulls and public safety. In Malden, the city council approved a bill this spring that would have , but Mayor Gary Christenson later and suggested amendments to the law.

After his veto in April, Christenson wrote to the council, "The ordinance should be centered on how a dog behaves and not how a dog looks as I believe this legislation suggests."

The Best Friends Animal Society says that about half of the dogs killed in shelters today are pit bulls or pit bull mixes, and that there are 20 different species of dogs that are commonly confused with pit bulls, thus making breed-discriminatory rules hard to enforce. The Humane Society of the United States says that in media-reported animal cruelty cases, dogs and in particular pit bulls are the most common victims of animal cruelty.

On the other hand, DogsBite.org, a national dog bite victims' group, says that from 2006 to 2008, pit bulls accounted for 59 percent of all fatal dog attacks in the U.S. The next highest breed, rottweilers, accounted for 14 percent of those deaths.

Is the new state law prohibiting breed specific local ordinances turning a blind eye to a problem? Or do those types of rules unfairly target a specific breed and punish dogs for having bad owners? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

(Editor's note: This article is published to several Patch sites north of Boston.) 

Daniel DeMaina (Editor) August 29, 2012 at 01:55 AM
A comment on this article was deleted for violating Patch's Terms of Use, which state in part, "We ask that the e-mail address you provide when you register be a valid e-mail address for you." The Terms of Use can be read here: http://reading-northreading.patch.com/terms
Beth August 29, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I have to say that I am glad this was passed and more states should. I have been afraid of dogs my entire life, when I met my bf I was introduced to his pitty. I now own 2 pitbulls and they are the sweetest dogs on the world. Is it the guns fault it shot someone? No. It is also not the dogs fault. There are several small dogs out there that are vicious but they are small so people don't care how poorly trained they are. People need to know their facts before they judge, they don't report on the news about all the great pit bulls only the attacks
Jen August 30, 2012 at 02:59 AM
All animals are dangerous. The State should make muzzles mandatory for all dogs in public areas. Then we can reduce biting injuries.
Ed E August 30, 2012 at 10:55 AM
Make muzzles mandatory?? That's not the answer at all. Good behavior is taught and rewarded. Badly behaved dogs are sometimes reflective of their raising.
Kevin Mac August 30, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Kevin, can you put together some paperwork to ban all pets please in your spare time?
Fran August 30, 2012 at 07:02 PM
A well trained dog can easliy turn vicious at anytime. You never know.
Fran August 30, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Agreed!
Joe Bill August 31, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Yeah, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a real vicious animal...scary. Jen maybe you need a muzzle.
John Carpenter September 02, 2012 at 11:44 PM
All - If you think that dog breed restrictions aren't already an accomplished fact, ask your insurance agent for a list of prohibited breeds. Don't take my word for it - ask someone you already know. The list is long, and includes some surprises. And if you have a dog of any of those breeds, you put your property insurance at risk for being canceled. If you want to put pressure somewhere regarding specific dog breeds, direct that pressure to the property insurance companies.
mplo September 03, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I have to disagree, Tina DeSelm. I also think that it's also the dog itself. The fact that pitbulls not only have a super-combative temperament, but the physical apparatus as well (Their jaws are extremely strong, and, unlike most dogs when they bite, they clamp down, don't let go, and go right for the musculature of their prey.) I've talked to several pitt-bull owners and former pit-bull owners who've either said that when their pitt-bulls die, they will not get another dog like that, or, who've gotten rid of their pitt-bulls, because they're much too difficult to work with for the above-mentioned reasons. Any dog can snap and go bad, and inflict damage when they bite, but pitt-bulls inflict even more extensive damage.
mplo September 03, 2012 at 05:48 PM
One must also bear in mind, Jeanne Hill, that pitt-bulls have been bred exclusively for fighting. They're a cross between the regular bull-dog (which was originally bred exclusively as a work dog and is not to be confused with the pitt-bull.) and a terrier, which provides the DNA of the pitt-bull's fighting instincts.
mplo September 03, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Stop. yelling!
mplo September 03, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Sometimes the media gets it right, and you can't blame people for wanting to take risks by owning a dog that inflicts such extensive damage as a pit-bull does. Even if they're no more likely to bite than other dogs, pitbulls do inflict much more extensive damage to their victim with their bites, because, unlike most dogs who bite and then let go, pitbulls do clamp down and don't let go and shake their victim, going for the musculature, which is what causes the horrifying damage. It's also in their DNA (a cross between the regular bull-dog, which was bred as a work dog and is not to be confused with a pit-bull), and a terrier, which gives the pittbull its aggressive, combative temperament. The fact that pittbulls not only have the temperament but the physical apparatus for doing really extensive damage to their prey is what makes these dogs as dangerous as they are.
mplo September 03, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Not everybody who owns pitt-bulls are drug addicts, criminals or tough guys, but their super-combative temperament and strong jaw that inflicts extremely horrific damage when they bite is what makes these dogs the choice of such people. Yet, there are ordinary people who own pitbulls as well, and, in either case, one has to really wonder about the mentality of people who'd take it into their heads to own such a dog. I also might add that pitbulls can be especially dangerous if they're kept in densely populated urban and/or suburban areas.
mplo September 03, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Good point, NP. I agree with you 100%.
mplo September 03, 2012 at 06:14 PM
That's a laugh and a half, John! Anybody, man or woman, who walks around with a sack of dog dung obviously has a screw or two loose upstairs.
mplo September 03, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Pitbulls aren't meant to have as pets...period. In fact, I've known people who've decided to either not get any more pitbulls after their dog(s) die, or who are former pitbull owners who've gotten rid of their dogs because they're much tougher to train and to work with. Sometimes the media gets it right. One can't really blame people for not wanting to own a dog that presents the kind of serious risk that pitbulls do.
mplo September 03, 2012 at 06:25 PM
The fact that many insurance companies are reluctant to insure dog owners who have pit-bulls says something right there. I don't think that owners should have their dogs taken away from them, but there should be a law that pitt-bull owners muzzle and leash their dogs in public, and to warn guests, clients, meter-readers, mailmen, etc, about the presence of pit-bulls in their households. I do think that the breeding of these pitbulls should be halted, however. As for German Shephards, they're extremely intelligent dogs and are often used as rescue, police and firedogs, as well as for seeing-eye dogs.
mplo September 05, 2012 at 05:49 AM
SHUT UP, MARY! (There...now you know what it's like to be yelled at!)
mplo September 08, 2012 at 12:18 AM
That's very true, Fran, but unlike pitbulls, most dogs don't have the capacity to break or crush bones, or go right for the musculature when they bite, clamp down and not let go. Also, speaking of dogs turning vicious at the drop of a hat, many leading pitbull educators are warning pitbull owners: "Never trust your pitbull not to fight." The following link might be of interest to you and everybody else on here: http://www.dogsbite.org/dangerous-dogs-pit-bull-faq.php
mplo September 08, 2012 at 12:33 AM
At least chihuahuas and cocker spaniels don't inflict the kind of extensive damage that pitbulls do when they bite.
Meggle September 08, 2012 at 12:53 AM
mplo, german shepherds are on that list of dangerous dogs... because they are very dangerous dogs, as well. I don't see why pit bulls should be muzzled and not german shepherds?
Lorraine Jackson September 08, 2012 at 11:45 AM
I have two german shepards and they are like big teddy bears!!!!! It's all about the owners. I'm more scared of those little yippers than any other dog! Because the owners think they are so little and cute that they won't hurt anyone. YA right! I have had more little dogs snap at my kids than big dogs!! It's all in the training!!!
mplo September 10, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Irresponsible dog owners definitely don't help, but, whether or not a pitbull is any more likely to bite than most other dogs, the extensive damage that pitbulls do inflict when they bite is unquestionably real, and people's fear of these dogs are not irrational...they do have some real basis to them. Unlike pitbulls, most dogs don't have the capacity to break or crunch bones, nor do most dogs really go for the musculature and clamp down on their victims without letting go. People, both adults and children alike, have been killed or permanently maimed by pitbulls, and that's no kidding.
mplo September 10, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Whether you're the proud owner of an American Pit Bull Terrier or not, Joe, I have to disagree with both you and Mike G. The fact that many insurance won't insure people's homes where these dogs are present, and the fact that pitbulls have been either banned outright or declared too dangerous in a lot of places says a great deal about these dogs...and not positively.
mplo September 10, 2012 at 06:32 PM
German Shepards don't have the capacity to inflict the kind of extensive damage that pitbulls do when they bite, because, unlike pitbulls, they don't go for the musculature of their victim, nor do they clamp down and not let go. They're much more unpredictable than German Shepards, who are intelligent enough so that they're frequently used as seeing-eye dogs, fire and police dogs, and even rescue dogs.
mplo September 12, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Pekinese dogs may be tenacious, but they don't have the ability to inflict the extensive damage that pitbulls inflict when they bite. While bulldogs were bred for bull-baiting, not all of them were. The regular American bulldog, more often than not, was originally bred as a work dog. Breeding for bull-baiting came later, and then some terriers do have aggression in them, and the British bulldog, which later developed a stronger, tougher jaw, was crossbred with a terrier to breed a pitbull. The Stafford Terrier is an example, as is the American PItbull Terrier.
mplo September 12, 2012 at 04:09 PM
In one website on pitbulls, it was pointed out that even leading pitbull educators have warned pitbull owners that they shouldn't trust their pitbulls NOT to fight.
Ms. Stella November 01, 2012 at 06:46 PM
MPLO: Let me share some facts with you and help get you educated before you spread anymore stereotypes about these dogs. 1. German Shepards have a higher PSI for their jaws than Pit Bulls do. It means they have a stronger bite. German Shepards, Rottweilers, any sizable dog has the capacity to do damage. 2.Pit Bulls are also used as therapy dogs. There are thousands around the country. 3. American Temperamental Society Tests: average breed 83%. Pitbulls have the average pass rate of 85%, MORE than most dog breeds. 4. No dog, not even pit bulls, have lock jaws. 5. Pit bulls do not have "mean genes" or aggressive genes. They are not inherently dangerous because of their DNA. 6. Raised as "Nanny Dogs" for babysitting children on the frontier. Unfortunately, disgusting people like Michael Vick have used them for dog fighting. You think pit bulls are the only ones? What about cock-fighting? Should we ban roosters and chickens too? What about bears? What about tigers? Should we ban every animal because SOMEONE used them for fighting? In fact, let's ban every human who fights to. Or let's ban every child who fights from school. Your discrimination against these dogs is unfair and it's people like you and the media who make the situation worse. Why don't you go on a parade against chihuahas and Pomeranians? They have killed infants too.
edmund ross December 17, 2012 at 03:55 PM
i am sick of people who don"t know squat about dogs makeing laws favering insurance co"s, and alowing them to extort hight rates just because of the breed of the dog it is somutch bs

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