Crime & Justice

White House opposes legislation that targets specific dog breeds (poll)

A Pit bull held in the SPA (Society for the Protection of Animals) dog pound looks at the photographer 13 June 2006 in Gennevilliers, France.
A Pit bull held in the SPA (Society for the Protection of Animals) dog pound looks at the photographer 13 June 2006 in Gennevilliers, France.
Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

The White House has come out against legislation that singles out dogs based solely on their breed  in response to an online petition seeking to ban such existing laws. 

So-called 'breed-specific laws' (BSL) target a particular type or types of dog breeds — such as pit bulls or Rottweilers  — for ownership bans or mandatory spay/neuter programs. The aim is to cut down on the number of dog attacks and curb the amount of unwanted animals euthanized at shelters. 

"We don't support breed-specific legislation—research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources," the statement reads

President Obama's administration has not specifically said whether it would seek to outlaw breed-specific legislation, but instead defers to the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on a "community-based approach to prevent dog bites."

The petition has gathered more than 30,000 signatures since it was posted in December 2012.

In May, three pit bulls and one mixed dog fatally mauled a 63-year old jogger in the Antelope Valley. The dogs' owner was charged with murder. More recently, two pit bulls attacked a woman in Riverside leaving her with severe injuries to her face and arm.

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There are currently some 630 cities in the U.S. that have breed-specific laws in the books, including Ventura and San Bernardino counties, according to After the Riverside attacks, advocates in Riverside County said they plan to launch an effort for mandatory spay/neutering of pit bulls in the fall.

Riverside County Department of Animal Services spokesman John Welsh told KPCC the legislation's aim would be to prevent unsustainable breeding, not necessarily attacks.

"Our organization is not pro-pit bull or anti-pit bull," he said. "We just want to stop having to euthanize all these pit bulls, when a lot of them are actually pretty adoptable."

Although different than "dangerous dogs" laws — which target dogs of any breed that are known to bite or are deemed vicious — BSLs have drawn controversy among animal-rights groups who argue that those laws are discriminatory and don't work.

Animal researcher Dr. David Haworth said breed-specific legislation is not an effective way to stop dog attacks on people.

"While dog attacks certainly happen, simplistic solutions to complex problems are usually not effective," Haworth wrote KPCC. "Banning a specific breed or body type are just such simplistic solutions and can have huge unintended consequences on great dogs and loving families.  It is great to see the White House lending its authority to the side of reason and science.”

At a recent event in KPCC's Crawford Family Forum, Haworth said part of the problem with breed-specific legislation is that it is very difficult to identify a breed.

"Phenotypically, once you have a mixed breed, it is extremely difficult to determine whether that is a pit bull mix, a labrador mix or a boxer mix," he says.

This story has been updated.

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