Australia’s Dangerous Dog List, Denver’s Folly

by Mary Haight on October 27, 2009

Maltese (dog)
Image via Wikipedia

Here’s something to laugh about, scratch your head over, and then maybe come to a realization about these dangerous dog lists, used as a way to report which breeds are the worst biters.  And it will never give any city, state, or country a definitive answer, either.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

According to Ryan O’Meara‘s report (K9 Magazine), the Australian register of top 20 attacking dogs list had a surprise entry–the Maltese, with 20 bite reports to its breed.  Barbara Perry, the Minister for local government, said “This is obviously a surprising outcome, but nonetheless a reminder that any dog has the potential to attack, regardless of breed.”  The Labrador Retriever was also in the top 20 with 20 bite reports. Dogs will be dogs. So where’s the value in these lists and labels?

Dangerous dog lists are nothing more than snapshots in time of which dogs are most popular, as well as a list of owners (assuming they keep a record of them too) who lost control of their dogs. Does this mean that eventually all dogs will have their turn at extra insurance payments, muzzles in public, etc.?

Lists don’t provide specifics. They have provided fodder for those who happily misrepresent these raw numbers, using them to foster fear and as a rationale for multibreed banning when town councils and police find themselves unable to enforce current laws.  It does sound wacky, but then wacky in dog law is apparently in vogue.  Why is it so hard to hold dog owners accountable for their dog’s actions?

Just look at Denver and their breed specific ban.  They’ve had nearly 20 years of killing people’s pets, dogs who never bit anyone or caused any trouble, killing in total an estimated 3,000 dog that “looked like” pit bull types, and they admit to being clueless about this ban’s impact on the bite statistics that drove the ban into existence according to a report by Peter Marcus:

The Denver Daily News  has repeatedly asked city officials if the ban has made the city safer. But because pit bull bites remain relatively stagnant and it is unknown whether there is any less of the breed in the city since the ban took effect, officials are unable to say that the ordinance is working. 

It seems the Council knows it has no basis whatever for it’s breed ban. And more via  Denver Daily News, animal control folks don’t know a boxer from a pit bull:

The law has come under intense scrutiny lately after an administrative judge ruled that animal control officers wrongly labeled a boxer-mix as a pit bull. Three so-called experts with Denver Animal Care and Control had labeled Kevin O’Connell’s dog Dexter a pit bull. But O’Connell’s own experts, American Kennel Club judges, and professional dog handlers testified that Dexter was in no way a pit bull.

Advocates are now wondering how many innocent dogs the city has killed by wrongly labeling a dog believed to be a pit bull.

In the emotional aftermath of a vicious or fatal dog attack, it looks like vengence was misdirected.  Of course you must destroy any dog that attacks without cause. But to damn an entire breed?  Talk about dangerous–lists and statistics can be lethal in the wrong hands. 

I know dangerous dog lists and ordinances are far preferable to outright breed bans, at least it seems so. Why folks don’t see that they have a moving target in these lists, I don’t know.  What’s happening in your town? Are neighbors shunning or running from your dog?

One more thing…

Gina Spadafori and Dr Marty Becker have an article in the Sacramento Bee on house training an adult dog–just in time for all new adopting dog families out there!

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