Breed-specific legislation, commonly referred to as pit bull bans, exists at many levels. They are enacted at the level of local municipalities – in fact, your own city or town could have one and you might not know it – all the way up to a province like Ontario, or an entire country like the United Kingdom. These bans sometimes include a variety of breeds, but there is one breed that is always present. Pit bulls.
The problem for advocates of such a law is that we now have 25 years of evidence in the U.K. and over a decade of evidence in the province of Ontario. The result appears to be that dog attacks, since those bans were put in place, have not gone down, but up.
At any point in modern American history, there has been some dog breed that is consistently blamed for any dog attack. Doberman pinschers and rottweilers have carried this distinction in the past, and are often still included in older pit bull ban legislation. Even German shepherds were once considered a dangerous and vicious breed until they were given a unique and fitting purpose as the K-9 symbol of police bravery.
Today, it's the pit bull, which actually highlights one of the confusing aspects of this kind of legislation. "Pit bull" is not a breed, but rather a breed grouping. In general, it includes these four main breeds: American pit bull terrier (APBT), American Staffordshire terrier, American bully, and Staffordshire bull terrier. However, due to difficulties in breed identification, there are up to 30 or more breeds that have received the pit bull designation at some point, which gets even muddier when mixed breeds are added.
Pit bull bans are generally justified with a collection of statistics showing pit bulls to be more involved in attacks than other dogs. The problem with these statistics is that they do not come from any official organization, but instead come from websites that have compiled them based on media reports. In other words, the very foundation of breed-specific legislation is based of flawed data.
Because pit bulls are a breed grouping and not a single breed, this immediately puts them at a disadvantage. Instead of comparing each of the individual pit bull breeds with other breeds, these statistics tend to combine all of the noted pit bull breeds, possibly with a few more thrown in by media outlets or witnesses that are not qualified to identify a dog by breed, and labels them as if they are this single breed called the pit bull. That breed is then compared as a group against other individual breeds.
Even if these statistics were able to break down the pit bull breed grouping and compare apples to apples, the statistics themselves are skewed by other factors as well, including the viral capabilities of any story that involves an attack by a pit bull.
Many well-known animal organizations, including the ASPCA and AVMA, do not support breed-specific legislation, and do not see any evidence that pit bulls are inherently more dangerous than any other dog. Instead, they support a community-based approach that focuses on individual dogs and owners, instead of focusing solely on one type of dog.