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Breed specific legislation a disservice to everyone

Laura Van Dyne

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens signed HB1279 on April 22, 2004. This bill says that dog owners may be held liable for dog bites caused by (a) negligence, (b) violation of a leash law or a law prohibiting dogs from “running at large,” (c) ownership of a dog that seriously injures a person, and (d) ownership of a dog with the knowledge that the dog has a history of injuring people by biting them or doing anything else that is dangerous.

Further, this bill states that Colorado is no longer a “one-bite” state. A “one-bite” rule assumes that an owner may not have knowledge of the animal’s dangerous propensity until after the first bite, so the first bite is “free” and no criminal charges can be placed.

The bill also prevents local jurisdictions from banning specific breeds of

dogs.

As a professional dog-training instructor, I believe this law is clear, fair and nondiscriminatory. It places responsibility on the dog owner for the dog’s behavior.

The appearance of the dog – its hair, bone structure and size – does not predict a dangerous dog. A dangerous dog is the product of a combination of individual genetics, upbringing, socialization, management and training.

The city of Glenwood Springs is considering a breed ban on wolf-hybrids due to an incident that occurred in early May, in which a 7-year-old girl suffered facial injuries when she was attached by a wolf-hybrid. The city of Denver has breed-specific legislation (BSL) against pit bull and pit bull-type dogs. While this type of legislation is easy to pass due to the fact that certain dogs elicit a fear reaction from the public, it does not address the problem.

As stated by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers regarding BSL, “Singling out and publicly demonizing certain breeds as dangerous is unfair, discriminatory, and does an immense disservice to those breeds and the people who care about them. Even more chilling, breed-specific legislation encourages the faulty public perception of other breeds as being inherently safe. This can lead misguided individuals to engage in unsafe conduct with other breeds that can result in injury or death by individual representatives of those breeds mistakenly perceived as safe.

“Also, designating certain breeds as inherently dangerous implies to the public that behavior is not effectively influenced, positively or negatively, by training. This misconception will likely produce a growing number of dangerous dogs as misinformed, complacent dog owners fail to practice responsible aggression-prevention measures.”

Any dog can bite, any dog can maim and any dog can kill. I would ask that if the recent incident in Glenwood Springs had involved a golden retriever, would there be a move afoot to ban goldens?

Please do not misunderstand my intent, as I am not arguing for the presence of wolf-hybrids. Rather, I am arguing for holding owners responsible for the action of their animals and against breed-specific legislation.

Laura Van Dyne, CPDT, is a dog-training instructor doing business in

Carbondale as The Canine Consultant LLC. She is also on the board of

directors of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, an international

association with 5,000-plus members.


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