Breed specific legislation (BSL) is a law that either bans or tightly regulates the ownership of certain dog breeds due to “public safety” concerns. These laws result in loving owners losing their furry family members, thousands of dogs being euthanized each year for the sole reason that they look a certain way, and for wide-spread fear and misunderstanding of particular dog breeds.
Not to say that dogs are humans, but I believe that dogs deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. As a dog owner, a dog rescuer, a dog foster mom, and a dog enthusiast in general, I interact with all sorts of dogs. Some are big. Some are small. Some are goofy. Some are scared. And some just really need some TLC and to know that people can be kind.
Breed specific legislation, while its intentions may be good, is (in my opinion) extremely problematic. Saying that these types of dogs (currently pit bulls, American Staffordshire terriers, etc – the “bully breeds”) are dangerous and need to either be stripped from their families and euthanized or muzzled while in public is not a whole lot different from legislation that discriminates against people due to race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
Just because one dog, one person, one cat, one whatever with a particular set of phenotypic characteristics does something bad, doesn’t mean that other dogs, people, cats, etc that look like that will react the same way. Thinking this way is stereotyping. It is no better than racism. It is what I would call “breedism.” My dog Riley is the biggest love bug in the world – I could put her in a room with 30 toddlers and would trust her without a second thought. But, she is a boxer-American Staffordshire terrier mix. And some people are afraid of her and will not approach her. I mean, I guess I see how that face could be deemed scary (cough cough).
So, the next time you see a dog that looks like Riley, don’t automatically be afraid. Next time you see someone who looks different than you, don’t automatically feel uncomfortable, threatened, or fearful. Let’s create a world and an environment where our differences are embraced, not stigmatized.