Updated: Feb 25, 2019
On August 7, 2018, Springfield, MO, overwhelmingly voted “no” on Question 1 (68% no, 32% yes). This wasn’t necessarily a big surprise, as leading up to the vote you could see those orange “vote no” signs all over the city. The Citizens Against BSL local group did an amazing job of raising awareness and got over 7,800 petition signatures within a month (Springfield News-Leader, 2018). However, it still must have been a nerve-wracking time of uncertainty for the pit bull owners in Springfield city limits. I live just outside of city limits, but I do have two pit bulls, and I know I was nervous. This week we will be exploring what breeds are called pit bulls and why Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is wrong.
So, lets start with a fact that many people might not know: pit bull is not a dog breed. Pit bull is a “term used to describe the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier”
(Dogtime). Pit bulls are widely misunderstood. Quite frankly, many people have the wrong perception about these breeds. They have a reputation for being dangerous. This just isn’t true.
Did you know that pit bulls were once considered “nanny dogs” due to their loving nature and gentleness with children? Pit bulls are very affectionate and loyal to their people. They are very intelligent, strong, and need lots of exercise. True, a pit bull is not for everyone. You need to be there for them, giving them lots of love and attention, exercise, and training. However, and I can tell you from personal experience, having pit bulls in your life can be one of the most rewarding experiences. I would encourage those of you that are interested in learning more about the bull breeds to read about their history and traits at: https://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/american-pit-bull-terrier#/slide/1. How did these dogs once known as loving protectors get this reputation?
Due to bad people using pit bull’s greatest physical features for dog fighting, widespread misinformation, and fear-mongering regarding “the actions of a minority of dogs kept by criminally negligent people,” many cities have developed BSL (Dogtime). BSL “is the blanket term for laws that either regulate or ban certain dog breeds in an effort to decrease dog attacks on humans and other animals” (ASPCA). However, as the ASPCA points out, a better term for BSL is “BDL” – breed discriminatory legislation.
BSL is not the answer. BSL is not the answer. Say it with me. B. S. L. IS. NOT. THE. ANSWER! And I do want to clarify – this issue is not only affecting the pit bull breeds. There are many regulated breeds in certain areas, including Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Bulldogs, and Dalmatians, to name a few. Over 700 cities in the United States, including Springfield, have BSL (ASPCA), including 75 banned or restricted breeds (American Kennel Club). There is no evidence to suggest that BSL makes communities safer (for humans or animals). BSL has far-reaching implications and is largely ineffective.
BSL not only affects dogs, but dog owners AND public safety, too. The effect BSL has on dogs is rather obvious. The most severe consequences can include abandonment and euthanization. But consider if a dog’s owner might be too scared to take their dog into public due to BSL and public perception. That dog could miss out on proper medical care, socialization, exercise, etc. Difficulties that can arise for owners include housing, registration fees, costs associated with other requirements (such as the cost to buy a muzzle), and in some cases even harassment. Furthermore, BSL actually tends to make communities LESS safe. When animal control resources are being used to enforce BSL, those resources are not being used in ways that have actually been proven effective in enhancing public safety. (ASPCA)
The American Kennel Club provides a very sound argument for why BSL is ineffective and often fails at its core goal:
It is time consuming and difficult to enforce fairly. How are the breed determinations being made?
It takes a lot of money to enforce these programs, increase costs for shelters as surrender rates increase, and many animals are euthanized.
It provides a false sense of security, because….
Instead of animal control resources being used for alternatives that can actually make communities safer, they are being used on ineffective BSL. These resources could better be used on things such as leash laws, community education, spay/neuter services, fighting animal cruelty, breed-neutral behavioral training, holding reckless owners accountable…should I go on? I’ll just end this by saying, “and SO much more.”
Despite the voters’ voices being heard in August regarding Question 1, Springfield DOES continue to have the decade-old BSL targeting pit bulls since 2006. Per the city’s government website, the following requirements remain in place:
Register your pit bull or pit mix annually
Keep pit bull or pit mix safe at all times
Post a sign on your property
Keep the dog in a secured, six-sided enclosure while on your property
Keep your pit bull or pit mix leashed and muzzled while not on your property
Notify Animal Control within 5 days if the pit bull is lost, stolen, dies or has puppies
Additionally, while those bringing pit bulls inside city limits, but live outside city limits, are not required to register, they are expected to muzzle. The penalties for violating this BSL is severe, with a MINIMUM of “$500 fine or one year of probation and 100 hours of community service. Jail time is possible.” If you have any questions, please visit the government’s webpage or call 417-833-3592.
You may be wondering…“these ordinances have been in place since 2006, so what can I actually do?” Easy. Spread the word! Share your newfound knowledge of pit bulls and BSL with those that are not aware. Positive change won’t happen without a change in perception. Additionally, get involved in the community! The Citizens Against BSL showed that a group of determined citizens can make a big impact for the dogs in southwest Missouri. If you’re still unsure or would like to give a pit bull breed a loving home, come see for yourself how sweet and loving these dogs can be at our Adoption Center at 1328 W Sunshine and meet our adoptable pit bulls!