Tag Archives: bsl

Labels

I’ve been thinking about labels a lot this week.

You already know my feelings about breed specific legislation (BSL) and the labeling of dogs as ‘dangerous’ simply because of their breed.  (In short, the labeling is unfair and unjustified – backed up by actual data.)

We also use labels for people and that is what has happened here recently with a greyhound group on Facebook.  From what I can tell, earlier this week one of the moderators of the group didn’t like a person sharing their views against greyhound racing – the moderator is involved in the greyhound racing industry.  So the moderator disconnected the person from the group.

This upset others in the group who expected the site to be an open forum for lovers of greyhounds.  (We need a lesson in Facebook groups, I think.  There are groups all over Facebook and posts get deleted and people disconnected from groups by moderators regularly.  There is no such thing as democracy in Facebook groups!)

And so a new group on Facebook has been formed and we have been encouraged to join that group to post about our greyhounds.

So if you are labeled ‘anti-racing’ by the first site, it seems another will gladly accept you.

We humans label all the time.   If you read the headline news over the last few years, what does the term ‘immigrant’ mean to you, for example?

So going back to the issue of dogs – which are both my passion and also my profession – what label applies to me?

Pro-Dog

Yup, if someone is mistreating a dog, hurting them, not taking responsibility for their care, treating them as disposable, using them for fighting…

…then please label me Pro-Dog.  I will be disagreeing with you.  And I will use this blog and my own company Facebook page for speaking about it.

Izzy the greyhound

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Diggy the dog – a BSL success story

Imagine falling in love with a dog at a shelter, bringing him home, and then because he’s a Facebook success having authorities deem him unacceptable because of his breed.

That’s what happened to Diggy and his adoptive owner, Dan Tillery from Waterford Township in Michigan.

detroit-dog-rescue-photo

Diggy was labelled a pit bull and Dan was charged with a code violation for owning a banned breed.

But Diggy wasn’t a pit bull and Dan had veterinarians willing to testify to his breed.  In the intervening time, bills were introduced so local communities couldn’t introduce BSL ordinances and 100,000 people signed petitions on Diggy’s behalf.

The court dropped the charges once the signed affidavits of the veterinarians were entered into evidence.

Breed specific legislation doesn’t work.  And in Diggy’s case, he was identified solely based on appearance – which is fraught with difficulties since so many dogs can appear to be one breed but are, in fact, a mixed breed or a different breed altogether.

I’m just glad that Diggy and Dan are allowed to remain a family.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Source:  Boston.com

Now Paw-tucket can live up to its name

The city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island had a 10-year old ordinance banning the ownership of pit bulls until earlier this week.  A judge ruled that a 2013 state law banning breed-specific legislation meant that the city’s law was now illegal.

This is a win for the fight against breed specific laws and restrictions.

Pit bull owners in Pawtucket celebrated on Sunday with a parade.  There was also a free dog training class offered afterwards.  A local group, Pit Bulls for PTSD, also participated in the parade.  The group trains pit bulls to become service dogs for autistic children and veterans suffering from PTSD.

Please remember:  punish the deed and not the breed!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Life lessons from the Vicktory dogs

I do not support breed specific legislation.  One of the agencies leading the way in changing the perception of pit bulls, and breed specific legislation more generally, is Best Friends Animal Society.

In this TEDx talk filmed in Salt Lake City, Julie Castle, the Chief Marketing and Development Officer for Best Friends Animal Society, talks about the 22 pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s fighting kennels that were sent to the Best Friends sanctuary.  Alongside their journey of recovery, Castle discusses how Best Friends built a coalition to change perceptions about pit bulls and to advocate for saving rather than killing pit bull dogs.

I hope you find this story as inspirational as I do.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Is that dog a pit bull?

A recently published Open Access article “Is That Dog a Pit Bull? A Cross-Country Comparison of Perceptions of Shelter Workers Regarding Breed Identification” asserts that shelter workers operating in areas restricted by breed-specific legislation (BSL) are more likely to consciously mislabel a dog’s breed if they felt it were to increase the dog’s chances of being adopted and/or avoid being euthanized.

The study, published in Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, compares the breed identification process between workers in the United States and the United Kingdom, noting that often the process relies on the individual worker’s intuition and prior experiences with other dogs. A survey with photos of the same twenty dogs were sent to shelters in the US and UK. American shelter workers were more likely to consider a dog a pit bull than their counterparts in the UK.

These are the photos that the research subjects were shown:

Pit bull identification photos

The pit bull terrier is banned or restricted by BSL in parts of the United States and throughout the United Kingdom. Shelters in both countries are often tasked with accepting unwanted animals and finding new homes for them; many of these animals are pit bulls or other bull breeds. BSL restrictions may include a total breed ban, or some lesser rules such as (but not limited to): higher licensing fees, registering the dog as dangerous with local governments, liability insurance coverage, mandatory sterilization, muzzling on public property, placement of warning signage on private property, and standardized caging requirements.

Shelter workers in areas affected by BSL know that a dog’s identification can influence micro-level trends such as adoption rates, but also macro-level trends such as breed perception nationally and even globally. The study highlights the fact that there exists a lack of consensus on what exactly a pit bull is, and calls to question the validity of determining breeds based on visual assessment.

Source:  Taylor & Francis media release

No correlation between breed and aggression

Researchers from the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences have investigated the occurrence of dog aggression towards people with a survey of UK dog owners.

The 4,000 responses revealed:

  • aggression towards unfamiliar people was reported more commonly by owners than aggression to family members
  • 7 per cent of owners responded that their dog barked, lunged, growled or actually bit when people came to the house
  • 5 per cent of owners said that these things happened when out on walks
  • 3 per cent of owners reported aggression towards family members

Dog bearing teeth

The study highlighted that the majority of dogs showing aggression do so in just one type of situation. This indicates that the tendency to categorise dogs as either generally ‘safe’ or ‘vicious’ is a misconception, and that most dogs show aggression as a learnt response to particular situations.  (A lot of trainers working in animal shelters probably already knew this.)

The research also highlighted that although general characteristics, such as breed type, are significant risk factors across large populations they explain only a small amount of the overall difference between aggressive and non-aggressive dogs.   Therefore, it is not appropriate to evaluate the risk of aggressive behaviour in an individual dog using characteristics such as breed type.

That’s another black mark for supporters of breed specific legislation!

The results of this research have been published in the journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Source:  University of Bristol media release

Why breed specific legislation does not protect the public from dangerous dogs

Photo courtesy of University of Lincoln (UK)

Photo courtesy of University of Lincoln (UK)

The latest research on breed specific legislation formalises a lot of the information that I already suspected or knew from other sources:  that BSL doesn’t work and is a flawed concept.    Read more below:

Research conducted by animal behaviour experts challenges the basis of breed specific legislation designed to protect the public from ‘dangerous’ dogs.

A team from the University of Lincoln, UK, concluded that rather than making people safer, current legislation could be lulling them into a false sense of security. Their findings were recently published in the journal Human Animal Interaction Bulletin published by the American Psychological Association, in a freely available paper “Acculturation – Perceptions of breed differences in behavior of the dog (Canis familiaris)”.

Dr Tracey Clarke and Professors Daniel Mills and Jonathan Cooper from Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences set out to discover the source of people’s perceptions about ‘typical behaviours’ associated with different breeds of dog.

Professor Mills said: “This work provides good scientific evidence to explain why the pursuit by governments of breed specific legislation to reduce the risk of harm to citizens is not only doomed to failure, but also giving people a false sense of security, which may actually be making the situation worse.”

The researchers applied a theory known as the ‘contact hypothesis’ – used by sociologists to understand the origin of racial stereotyping and other forms of prejudice.

They surveyed more than 160 people to examine if their contact with dogs influenced their tendency to believe populist and negative breed stereotypes.

They found significant variations in attitudes between people who owned dogs or had regular contact with them, and those who did not. More than half (54%) of respondents who identified themselves as “experienced or knowledgeable” of dogs disagreed with the statement that some breeds are more aggressive than others. Only 15% of respondents who said they had little or no experience of dogs held the same view.

Similarly, more than half of the “experienced” respondents felt there was no valid reason for breed specific legislation, whereas less than 1 in 10 of the inexperienced respondents felt the same.

The results were consistent with the prediction that not just the level but also the quality of contact with dogs are major influences on the tendency to believe populist breed stereotypes, despite scientific evidence which challenges the validity of such generalisations.

The variability within a breed is nearly always greater than the variability between breeds for behavioural traits, meaning while there may be differences on average, when it comes to assessing the likelihood that a particular individual will behave in a certain way generalisations are often unsound. The type of person attracted towards certain breeds and encouraging certain behaviours may be a much better predictor.

It was discovered that a dog’s visible characteristics informed strong attitudes, resulting in over-generalisation. Not only bull-breeds but also those with much more superficial characteristics such as being well-muscled, or even short-haired, were stigmatised more often as dangerous by those with less experience or knowledge of dogs.

Attraction to certain types on the basis of their appearance, can then lead to these being preferred for use as a weapon or status dog, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy about their behaviour through environmental rather than genetic effects.

The team suggest that further scientific research is needed to improve understanding of the origins and basis of negative breed stereotypes, and that this in turn should be used to inform future legislation.

Source:  University of Lincoln media statement