President Obama speaks out against dog breed specific legislation

Communities across the country have struggled in recent years to develop effective strategies to combat the incidence of dog bites. Not only are these sorts of accidents terrifying, they can also lead to debilitating and disfiguring injuries. What is worse, it is not uncommon for young children to be the victims of dog bites. Although some communities have attempted to prevent dog bites by passing breed specific bans, experts suggest that this does little to address the underlying issue.

Recently, President Obama announced that he supports efforts to move away from breed specific bans. Instead, the President supports a proposal by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop community based programs aimed at preventing dog bites and strengthening local communities of pets and pet owners. Other organizations, including the American Humane Association, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals and the American Kennel Club also oppose breed specific bans.

Critics of breed specific bans identify several specific problems with these measures. First, most of these bans are passed by communities in a highly emotional atmosphere, usually after a well publicized dog attack. This can lead to the passing of poorly drafted, far reaching laws that have many unintended consequences. Second, most of these laws identify dangerous breeds, usually pit bulls, by their appearance or official American Kennel Club description. Any dog that meets this description can be deemed dangerous per se, without any consideration of its actual behavior or the qualifications of its owner. These factors lead to a law that does little to prevent the ownership of dogs that are actually dangerous, which means that it is generally ineffective in preventing dog bites. In addition to being ineffective, studies also show that breed specific bans are particularly expensive to enforce.

Ohio is ahead of the national curve in crafting legislation intended to prevent dog bites. Up until relatively recently, Ohio had classified several breeds of dog, including pit bulls, as vicious. In early 2012, the state legislature passed a more general law using behavior as the measure of whether a particular dog should be deemed dangerous. Only time will tell whether other states will follow Ohio's lead.

Of course, despite laws specifically drafted to target dangerous dogs, dog bites still happen, often with devastating results. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a dog attack, a personal injury attorney can speak to you about your rights and can help you recover the damages caused by the dog bite.