BSL – yes or no

Today, Friday 30 September 2011, is a critical day in the dog owning world of Victoria, Australia. Today the amnesty on restricted breed dog ownership ends as council officers now embark on the government mission of hunting down the unregistered pit bulls, putting a loop pole around their necks and taking them away for a shot of the permanent sleep medicine.

You could well imagine the outcry, the planned protests, the unplanned protests – and the smiles on the faces of those whose life it is is to not live next door to a dog, especially a dangerous one.

The legislation here is five tiered – dogs that are registered as pets and do nothing but eat, chase a ball and wag their tail; nuisance dogs, which are pets that create a nuisance by doing what dogs do, i.e. bark; menacing dogs, which are those that continue to be a nuisance or decide to chase more than a ball; dangerous dogs, which are menacing dogs but some are trained to attack and protect while others just do that without being trained; and then we have the restricted breed, which by definition are classified as being dangerous even if all they do is the same as the first class of dog.

There are five restricted breed dogs – the same five that are restricted in a lot more than just Australia. No-one takes much notice of which dogs are restricted breeds because all they need to know is that the government has declared the pit bull (and derivatives thereof clearly detailed in the breed standards).

But is it the government that has declared the pit bull or is it the media?

Did you know that if you read the media in Australia that the only dogs who bite people are pit bulls and pit bull crosses. Shame the doctors and research don’t necessarily agree. But then, maybe the percentage of pit bulls that bite compared to the number of pit bulls there are is higher than the number of german shepherds or cattle dogs that bite compared to their numbers. (Cattle dogs – gotta love ’em. One the few breeds that has taken a liking to my leg over the years – little sniper he was too, never even saw it coming.)

Does anyone really care about those percentages? Does anyone really care about the stereotype that owns a pit bull? What is the percentage of these stereotypical males that own other dogs compared to those that own pit bulls and those that own cats from hell?

And let’s not forget about the people who have a pit bull because they can love you right back just like that first class of pet. A well raised, trained and socialised pit bull can still be a loyal and loving pet. Pity their name doesn’t allow that to happen.

Pity that from today the only pit bulls in Victoria will be registered, desexed and microchipped – all others will be treated like Taylor in Planet of the Apes. Maybe that’s what the government is fearful of – that through survival of the fittest (thanks Charles Darwin) the pit bulls will take over, they will hunt us down and they will kill everything until there is nothing left.

But don’t get me wrong here. No dog should be allowed to bite and if it does then it needs careful training, management and control. And if it does more than just a bite then even the best dog lover should concede that a dog like that has given up its right to live.

We had this legislation before, we had restricted dog breed legislation before as well. We just never used it properly – councils are under-resourced, legislation on training is not worth having, and if you never registered your dog it only became a problem if it was found wandering at large (love those old legal terms).

If you want to save your pit bull from imminent death and destruction then simple, get it registered and comply with the very strict restrictions or give it to someone who can. If you are one of the thousands who owns what they classify as a cross breed of the pit bull – then go and get someone to certify as to what it is or mainly is because if you don’t then it too will be taken away in the middle of the night and a red cross will be painted on your door.

But registration still does nothing for the untrained, poorly raised and under-socialized dog – the government’s own code of practice on pet ownership recognises that all dogs need this. Pity they don’t do anything about recognising it – and recognising more than just a handful of dog training organisations that primarily practice only a quarter or half of the four quadrants of dog training. Nothing wrong with that type of training but the government has to realise there are more than just “positive” trainers out there – we need to recognise those that call themselves the “balanced” trainers, the ones who will take on a dangerous dog and give it the training and control it needs (and folks, this does not necessarily mean positive punishment as you don’t need this to train a dog but you do know how to apply it when and if required because folks, the only choice left for many dogs after that is the march to death).

We have nothing to fear from the pit bulls taking over – we’re not talking Animal Farm here. But we need to ensure our legislation is sound and not based on what everyone else does or what the media says we need to do. We don’t need unmanaged dangerous dogs – we need pets, whether they be labradors, maltese, cattle dogs, rottweillors or even pit bulls. We need management and control, we need responsible pet ownership. We don’t need a category of dog bred underground because the law won’t allow it in the open.

If we don’t want pit bulls then so be it – but will that prevent further dog bites? Maybe, maybe not – but it will keep the majority of the population happy – and that is why the dog owner and lover will never win. We can fight the fight and good luck to those who are trying but we also need to control and manage what we do have and what we can influence.

Tougher penalties for owners of dogs that do cause serious injury or death are welcome but we need more than just reactive legislation, we need to be proactive – get it before it gets you. Woof.

All the men were gone except one. Back in the yard Boxer was pawing with his hoof at the stable-lad who lay face down in the mud, trying to turn him over. The boy did not stir.

‘He is dead,’ said Boxer sorrowfully. ‘I had no intention of doing that. I forgot that I was wearing iron shoes. Who will believe that I did not do this on purpose?’

‘No sentimentality, comrade!’ cried Snowball, from whose wounds the blood was still dripping. ‘War is war. The only good human being is a dead one.’

‘I have no wish to take life, not even human life,’ repeated Boxer, and his eyes were full of tears.

[George Orwell – Animal Farm]

One thought on “BSL – yes or no

  1. Trish Harris says:

    Very well written blog Jim….love that you feel exactly the same way I do about this law. Whilst we don’t necesarily agree with it, it’s here now. So how about we now lobby the Govt to think about giving consideration to training and education.

    Did you know that I sent out 5 proposals to 5 different Councils about a proposed “Pre-Pet Ownership Information program” earlier this year that would cover off on things like breeds, creating safe members of society, what to look for when purchasing a dog , BYB and pet shop dogs and everything Mr and Mrs Citizen would need to know before they bought their bundle of fur or even those new to the game…?? Anyway out of the 5 sent, only 2 Councils contacted me about costings etc and I have not heard anything further from them since March this year!

    That’s it….that’s how much emphasis they put into education…our dog registration dollar goes to implement stupid laws and providing yummy lunches to the Councellors.

    Pretty sad isn’t it!

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