I remember the call like it was yesterday: my landlord's number flashing on my phone. I was away from home at the time, so my mind immediately started racing through terrible scenarios that could warrant a 7 p.m. call from the building manager.
"Hi, Brandon." Her tone wasn't grave enough for a fire or robbery. Good start.
"I have a question about your dog." My 1-year-old dog and best friend was happily gnawing on a toy a few feet to my right, so she definitely wasn't in danger.
"What breed is she?" Uh-oh.
My apartment building has a blanket ban on "dangerous breeds" of dogs. The lease agreement is very vague on the definition of a "dangerous breed," but when I came home one Saturday morning with my new half-pit bull puppy, I had a feeling she might be included. Fearing I wouldn't be able to keep the amazing dog I had fallen in love with at the shelter, I decided to only list her other (supposedly non-dangerous) mixed breeds on the new pet paperwork.
Bans on specific breeds of dogs happen all over the country: from private property to entire counties. They target dogs that people think of as particularly vicious -- pit bulls, Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers, to name a few. These dogs are often associated with vicious acts: pit bulls are fighting dogs, Dobermans guard Mr. Burns' mansion and rip apart intruders. While these bans on specific dog breeds may have some public support, they are expensive to enforce and ineffective.
In fact, studies conducted in areas with instituted breed-specific bans show no decrease in the number of dog attacks. In Prince George's County, Md., a 2003 study into the effectiveness of their ban on pit bulls concluded that "public safety is not improved as a result of (the ban)." The study went on to note "there is no transgression committed by owner or animal that is not covered by another, non-breed specific portion of the Animal Control Code (i.e., vicious animal, nuisance animal, leash laws)."
Breed-specific bans can actually have negative consequences on public safety. They lull people into a false sense of security, leading them to believe that any dog they come across is safe as "dangerous" dogs have been outlawed. The bans also encourage criminals to seek out the banned breeds, giving the dogs an underground reputation they may not have had otherwise. For these reasons and others, 12 U.S. states have banned the passage of breed-specific legislation altogether.
The sad truth is that the dogs giving their breeds a bad reputation are raised to be monsters by horrible owners. If you train a dog day in and day out to be a fighter or if you beat the dog within an inch of its life to toughen it up, of course that dog is going to be vicious. Fighting dogs are no more natural-born killers than other perceivably docile breeds. These vicious dogs have been conditioned that way, much like docile dogs have been conditioned to be that way through proper training.
According to the Don't Bully My Breed website, pit bulls in particular are of a better temperament than most breeds. In a canine temperament study, while 82 percent of all dogs surveyed received a passing score, 86 percent of all pit bulls surveyed received a passing score, well above average. Compare that with a breed many consider harmless, the Chihuahua, which received an overall pass rate of 68 percent.
Fortunately, my personal story on banning dog breeds has a happy ending. A neighbor had mentioned to the building manager that my dog was part pit, unintentionally revealing my rule violation. However, after admitting to the lie and dealing with a few awkward phone calls and in-person discussions, the manager decided to let me keep my dog. She is now 2 years old and doesn't have a vicious bone in her body.