Dog breed discrimination is an archaic answer to a misguided question. The belief that some dog breeds are inherently more dangerous than others is based on misinformation and gut reactions instead of sound data. We think “man’s best friend” deserves better.
Fact: Visual identification of dog breeds is inaccurate most of the time. We know this thanks to a study by Dr. Julie Levy of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at UF. 5,000 people who work with dogs on a regular basis failed to correctly identify the dominant breeds for most dogs in the study. When it comes to attacks, another study (see below) found that nearly half of media and animal control reports misidentified the breed responsible for the attack; the breed was accurately identified for only 18% of dogs involved in fatal bites.
Fact: Breed is not a determinant of dangerous behavior. A recent Journal of the Association of Veterinary Medicine article found that dog bites co-occurred with several controllable factors, but that breed was not one of them. The most common co-occurring factors were the absence of an able-bodied person to intervene and the victim’s unfamiliarity with dogs in general. Importantly, out of 45 cases where the dog’s breed could be identified, researchers identified 20 different breeds. Can all of these breeds really be considered “dangerous?”
Conclusion: Breed discrimination is unfounded and breed-specific legislation is ineffective. Victims, medical responders, law enforcement, and the media cannot accurately identify the breeds of dogs involved in attacks. With breed misidentification being so common, the arguments for any type of breed discrimination quickly fall apart. The best evidence shows that a dog’s breed is unrelated to her or his likelihood of injuring someone. Advocates can use these facts to repeal or stop the creation of new breed-specific legislation.
Guest blogger Ivy Collier takes a closer look at these issues, with a focus on research methods, in her new article, “Dog Bite Data Collection, Interpretation and Misidentification.” Ivy also provides links to effective bite prevention resources.
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