Friday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that, in response to two high-profile pit bull attacks against children, Minnesota DFL State Rep. John Lesch will sponsor a bill during next year’s legislative session to ban five popular dog breeds in the state: akitas, chows, pit bulls, Rottweilers and wolf hybrids. Currently, state law prohibits cities from banning dogs according to their breed. The Tribune says some municipalities have made attempts to enforce laws against certain breeds, but those laws often have been challenged.
No doubt there will be plenty of opposition to such a wide-sweeping legislative proposal. Opponents to breed-specific banning laws argue that such laws are unfairly based solely on the breed of a particular dog, as opposed to a dog’s conduct. Mike Fry is the executive director of a no-kill shelter in Hastings, Minn. According to the Tribune, Fry says the number of reported dog bites has actually decreased in recent years. Further, Fry said, a pit bull does not belong to a specific breed. He said the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier all have physical characteristics of the so-called pit bull, and are often identified as pit bulls.
The term “pit bull” originally was a name given to dogs that had been bred for fighting and killing other animals. Their physical characteristics generally consisted of exaggerated jaw muscles, heavy or thick necks and shoulders, and a large physical mass.
In the United States, there has been a great deal of negative publicity with regard to both Rottweilers and pit bulls. However, wolf hybrids, akitas and chows have drawn much less attention in terms of aggressive behavior.
Interestingly, the pit bull has been banned in the Netherlands since 1994. In order to identify the pit bull from breeds with similar physical characteristics, the owner of a “legal” dog is required to have a dog passport and the dog’s pedigree with them whenever out in public with their dog. The dog also has to have an implanted transmitter so authorities can confirm the dog and the pedigree match. If a non-pedigreed dog is determined to be a pit bull, the dog is euthanized, and the owner may face felony charges. The Tribune says if Rep. Lesch’s proposed legislation eventually becomes law, anyone who owns one of the banned breeds could be subject to as much as 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
Unlike Rep. Lesch’s proposed legislation to ban five breeds, the Netherlands’ ban is limited to pit bulls. However, most experts agree that single-breed bans usually fail because people who are motivated by a desire to own aggressive dogs will simply find another breed to accomplish their purpose. Rep. Lesch has not said why he will propose banning the four other breeds.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, Bill would ban five dog breeds in state, http://www.startribune.com/587/story/1249499.html
Dog Bite Law (www.dogbitelaw.com)