Omaha City Council passed an ordinance that has garnered considerable national attention:
Some dogs are strong.
The AKC states that the American Staffordshire Terrier, a breed often associated with the designation “Pit Bull” “should give the impression of great strength for his size, [be] a well put-together dog, muscular…”
All dogs are good.
Dogs do not make moral decisions. Even dogs who bite have not thought through the consequences of their actions, nor have they planned them with malicious intent.
Dogs do not care about this ordinance.
Dogs do not mind properly fitted muzzles. Owners may have their dogs complete a behavior class and thereafter wear a “Breed Ambassador” vest instead of a muzzle. Dogs also do not mind vests.
Will owners have to do extra work? Yes. Will owners be self-conscious about having a muzzled dog? Maybe. Will Omaha judge Pit Bulls and their owners as we walk our scrawny, unmuzzled dogs next to their buff, muzzled dogs? Do you think Pit Bulls and their owners are not already judged in our community? This is an opportunity for owners of dogs who fall under the ordinance to speak up for their pets.
Yes, good owners will most likely follow the law, and bad owners will not. The ordinance empowers the city to do something about the unfit owners before their dog ends up on the news, or in trouble for acts of aggression, or most importantly, before another person is harmed. People on both sides of the issue seem to ignore this last point, which to me is obscene.
We can continue to argue with each other about the unfairness of Breed Specific Legislation or the evils of Pit Bulls. Meanwhile, good but powerful dogs are coming outside of the control of owners and hurting other dogs and people. Some of the dogs are covered in the ordinance. Some are not. The ordinance is not perfect. It is meant to cover most STRONG dogs, not most BAD dogs, because, as I have mentioned, dogs are not bad. But they can be dangerous.
If success is measured by the number of dog bites that occur in a community before and after an ordinance is passed, most Breed Specific Legislation, including that of Omaha, has failed.
However, success ought to be measured more inclusively. Have there been fewer bites resulting in serious injuries or fatalities? Do the laws adequately address the people involved? Have dogs been taken out of unfit situations and placed into ideal homes? Have we cracked down on crimes linked to unfit owners, including dog fighting and drug crimes?
Let us track dog bites, but let us also measure as best we can the well-being of the people and pets in our community, and adjust our legislation accordingly.