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Obama Says Breed-Specific Bans Don't Reduce Dog Bite Injuries

When President Obama adopted a second White House dog recently -- Sunny, a Portuguese water dog like original First Dog Bo -- the press and public was mesmerized by her cuteness. There was a secondary purpose to the press conference introducing Sunny to the world, as well. In response to a petition on change.org that garnered more than 30,000 signatures, the Administration announced its official position opposing breed-specific legislation as ineffective and a waste of public resources.

For years, groups as varied as the San Diego County Bar Association, the Washington Humane Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have opposed such laws, arguing that there is no evidence they are effective in preventing dog bite injuries. The most famous of the recently blacklisted dog breeds is the pit bull, but over the years dogs such as German shepherds, Siberian huskies and Chow Chows have also been banned, either by local laws or by insurance companies.

The ABA’s position is that breed-specific bans actually harm families, the economy and due process of the law without advancing the public safety goal of preventing serious injuries from dog bites. The CDC agrees. After considering 20 years data about fatal dog attacks, the agency determined it wasn’t possible to calculate statistically different bite rates between blacklisted dog breeds and other breeds.

Moreover, the CDC found that the problem is clearly caused by irresponsible owners, not any particular breed of dog. When breed-specific bans are passed, antisocial dog owners simply seek out breeds that haven’t been banned and -- intentionally or negligently -- raise them to be aggressive. On the other hand, the U.S. military still bans certain dogs, including pit bulls, from military housing.

The president’s statement doesn’t have any official impact, although he could end the blacklisting of dogs in the military in his position as commander in chief.

That said, the fact that the president has taken an official position against breed bans -- backed up by research of their ineffectiveness -- may serve to reduce their popularity, which might eventually convince homeowners insurance companies to reverse their policy of refusing to cover dog bites by breeds of dogs they have blacklisted. If they do, many more dog bite victims could be able to access that coverage to obtain compensation for their injuries.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Obama Comes Out Against Dog Breed-Specific Legislation, Joins The Fight For Pit Bulls,” Arin Greenwood, Aug. 20, 2013

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