When Denver residents vote to replace the outdated breed-specific legislation this October & November, that will likely mean the end of BSL in the few other cities who still have it in place; Aurora, Commerce City, Lone tree, Louisville, Fort Lupton, and La Junta will be the only ones left with these antiquated and dangerous laws.
While we have the data to prove that Breed-Specific Legislation is bad policy, there are always opponents to the idea, and that opposition is often based on the misconception that there are only two “sides” to this issue. Replacing breed-specific legislation is not about wanting to own the 17+ breeds considered “pit bull”, it is about wanting modern legislation for dog ordinance that actually works and encourages responsibility.
Every person that supports ending BSL also supports responsible dog ownership. No one enjoys seeing trend breeds be scapegoated or demonized as somehow worse than others, and this scapegoating has been happening for decades. Let’s look at the last 80 years:
The 50s and 60s
After WWII, the German Shepherd became synonymous with guard dogs and those bred towards aggression. Featured prominently in iconic moments of US history such as the Birmingham Riots of 1963 and other iconic moments in the Civil Rights Era.
In the 70s. the pop-culture breed of choice to promote as guard dogs became the Doberman. Various television shows, movies (and some horror films) started to portray the Doberman as more aggressive.
The 1980s saw Rottweiler ‘s becoming the scapegoat breed, and the idea of Breed-Specific legislation starting to take off in some cites, many banning several breeds such as Doberman, Rottweiler, Staffordshire Terrier’s along with others often used as “guard dogs” by irresponsible owners. Horror movies started to also portray Rottweilers as the preferred “guard dog” along with some mainstream television shows.
“Pit Bulls” in the 90s
With the mainstream availability of the Internet and the burgeoning dominance of video games in the 90s, the media shift from Rottweilers to “pit bulls” started to gain steam. Portrayed in Rap video’s, video games, and other pop-culture reference, typically stereotyped as being the preferred breed of people of color, the “pit bull” quickly dominated the decade, ushering in an era of BSL regulations in cities across the country.
In fact, on the subject of discriminatory origins of BSL, the University of Denver Study referenced above also quotes:
“An assessment of the social impacts of BSL determined that the removal of a single breed of dog is inconsistent with the documented benefits of increasing opportunities for pet-keeping in community. Furthermore, the disproportionate enforcement of BSL in underserved communities and communities of color perpetuates historic trends of discrimination and marginalization in the U.S. and negatively impacts social cohesion of these communities.”
So breed legislation is expensive to maintain, susceptible to changes in bloodline and breeding changes, produces “no discernible increase” in public safety, and is based in systemic discrimination. These elements would be factors to consider if there was any indication that breed was an issue over responsible ownership, but that is not the case. The number one predictor of dog aggression is not breed. It is whether they are an intact (unneutered) male.
And even if people felt that there was still reason to restrict a specific breed, wouldn’t they agree that the most responsible way to control them was to allow for the registration, training, socialization, veterinary care, and insurance? What would be the argument against that, specifically?