Why breed specific legislation does not protect the public from dangerous dogs

Dec 02, 2013
Why breed specific legislation does not protect the public from dangerous dogs

Research conducted by animal behaviour experts challenges the basis of breed specific legislation designed to protect the public from 'dangerous' dogs.

A team from the University of Lincoln, UK, concluded that rather than making people safer, current legislation could be lulling them into a false sense of security.

Dr Tracey Clarke and Professors Daniel Mills and Jonathan Cooper from Lincoln's School of Life Sciences set out to discover the source of people's perceptions about 'typical behaviours' associated with different breeds of dog. Their findings were recently published in the journal Human Animal Interaction Bulletin published by the American Psychological Association, in a freely available paper "Acculturation – Perceptions of breed differences in behavior of the dog (Canis familiaris)".

Professor Mills said: "This work provides good scientific evidence to explain why the pursuit by governments of breed specific legislation to reduce the risk of harm to citizens is not only doomed to failure, but also giving people a false sense of security, which may actually be making the situation worse."

The researchers applied a theory known as the 'contact hypothesis' - used by sociologists to understand the origin of racial stereotyping and other forms of prejudice.

They surveyed more than 160 people to examine if their contact with dogs influenced their tendency to believe populist and negative breed stereotypes.

They found significant variations in attitudes between people who owned dogs or had regular contact with them, and those who did not. More than half (54%) of respondents who identified themselves as "experienced or knowledgeable" of dogs disagreed with the statement that some breeds are more aggressive than others. Only 15% of respondents who said they had little or no experience of dogs held the same view.

Similarly, more than half of the "experienced" respondents felt there was no valid reason for breed specific legislation, whereas less than 1 in 10 of the inexperienced respondents felt the same.

The results were consistent with the prediction that not just the level but also the quality of contact with dogs are major influences on the tendency to believe populist breed stereotypes, despite scientific evidence which challenges the validity of such generalisations.

The variability within a breed is nearly always greater than the variability between breeds for behavioural traits, meaning while there may be differences on average, when it comes to assessing the likelihood that a particular individual will behave in a certain way generalisations are often unsound. The type of person attracted towards certain breeds and encouraging certain behaviours may be a much better predictor.

It was discovered that a dog's visible characteristics informed strong attitudes, resulting in over-generalisation. Not only bull-breeds but also those with much more superficial characteristics such as being well-muscled, or even short-haired, were stigmatised more often as dangerous by those with less experience or knowledge of .

Attraction to certain types on the basis of their appearance, can then lead to these being preferred for use as a weapon or status dog, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy about their behaviour through environmental rather than genetic effects.

The team suggest that further scientific research is needed to improve understanding of the origins and basis of negative breed stereotypes, and that this in turn should be used to inform future legislation.

Explore further: Running robots of future may learn from world's best two-legged runners—birds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

See spot see

Mar 02, 2013

(HealthDay)—It's a dog-see-dog world. With no sniffing involved, dogs can recognize the faces of other dogs among the faces of humans and other animal species, according to a new study.

New insight into dogs' fear responses to noise

Feb 19, 2013

A study has gained new insight into domestic dogs' fear responses to noises. The behavioural response by dogs to noises can be extreme in nature, distressing for owners and a welfare issue for dogs.

Recommended for you

Scientist creates automatic birdsong recognition app

1 hour ago

Dr Dan Stowell, an EPSRC Research Fellow in QMUL's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has used a grant from Queen Mary Innovation to develop a prototype for an app that turns his research ...

New research reveals fish are smarter than we thought

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study from researchers in our Department of Psychology with colleagues at Queen Mary University of London has reported the first evidence that fish are able to process multiple objects ...

User comments : 12

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Moebius
1 / 5 (5) Dec 02, 2013
If a certain breed(s) is responsible for 70% of mauling deaths and you eliminate that breed, you eliminate 70% of the deaths. If there is a flaw in that logic point it out please.
freeiam
1 / 5 (4) Dec 02, 2013
When you allow dogs being bred to fight lions you're asking for trouble.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (4) Dec 02, 2013
In Los Angeles owners may soon be forced to insure their dogs. The strategy is to make dangerous dogs unaffordable
APBTA
5 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2013
Pit Bulls are in the top 5 most popular breeds in 33 of 50 states in the US, and in the top 10 in 46 (Source: Vet Street). In Kansas City, for example, they outnumber German Shepherds by more than 5 to 1 (source: K C Pet Project).

30 years ago the Cincinnati Law Review published a list of dogs that had killed people in one year. Worst offenders: mixed breeds. Next: Rottweilers and German Shepherds. Pit Bulls level-pegged with Golden Retrievers at 17 while Sydney Silkies had killed 7.

By the sort of logic expressed by some here, Mixes, GSDs and Rotties should have been killed off. The reason mixed breeds are still the top offenders is simply because they are most numerous. That is the same reason GSDs and Rotts looked so bad because 30 years ago they were in the top most popular breeds.

Today, the term 'Pit Bull' is applied to several breeds which are then compared to just one pure breed. They are also commonly mis-identified.

That is why breed specific approaches are flawed.
JoHT
5 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2013
Moebius, the flaw in your "you eliminate 70% of the deaths" is obvious if you break it down. Your argument is that if a certain breed of dog is responsible for 70% of the reported attacks, eliminating all dogs of that breed would cause a 70% decline in the deaths. But that is not necessarily true. Look at it this way, if there was only 1 dog attack reported and the breed of dog responsible for that 1 attack (100% of the attacks) was eliminated, does that mean there would never be another dog attack (100% reduction)? Most likely not, unless there were no dogs in existance. This is in essence the major flaw in BSL arguments that the breed of dog responsible for the majority of attacks should be eliminated. If something is ranked, eliminating the number 1 spot pushes the number 2 to number 1 constantly. Essentially this argues that all dogs should be eliminated as eventually all breeds would fall into the number 1 spot...
Jonseer
1 / 5 (6) Dec 03, 2013
It's not just looks, the ongoing legacy of dog fighting has left its mark on the breeds in question.

To pretend intensive efforts to breed fighting dogs that are quick to bite, clamp down and go for the juggler canNOT be ignored.

Yet this study attempts to pretend the real problem is our preferences.

While there is NO doubt many people prefer those breeds due to looks, most people have NO idea what the pedigree of those dogs are.

It's centuries of effort to breed the best fighting dogs that makes these breeds dangerous.

Finally enough of this whole idiotic false equivalency regarding dog breeds.

Sure chihuahuas can be more aggressive than pit bulls and attack you.

The difference is I WILL live to tell the tale of the chihuahua attack.

Size matters.

The lower jaw of a pit is bigger than most chihuahuas, and Rots are one of the largest breeds.

The problem will be solved when fans of these breeds stop pretending those factors don't matter and take off their blinders.
Sinister1811
5 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2013
I don't think the breed matters too much. It's more how they've been raised. Dogs raised for fighting (which is banned and illegal) or for pig hunting can sometimes be dangerous.
spiffy12
1 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2013
It has been found, that the law has not worked; there has been no decrease in the number of biting incidents during the fifteen years under BSL. Also pit bulls were bred for DOG FIGHTING making them DOG aggressive. Yes they are larger than chihuahuas but so are mastiffs
And people don't wanna ban them. Also the misidentification makes the statistics faulty. The stats reflect the appearance of the dog not the actual breed, show me DNA tests proving every dog of that 70% was an American Pit Bull Terrier.
Moebius
1 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2013
Moebius, the flaw in your "you eliminate 70% of the deaths" is obvious if you break it down. Your argument is that if a certain breed of dog is responsible for 70% of the reported attacks, eliminating all dogs of that breed would cause a 70% decline in the deaths. But that is not necessarily true. Look at it this way, if there was only 1 dog attack reported and the breed of dog responsible for that 1 attack (100% of the attacks) was eliminated, does that mean there would never be another dog attack (100% reduction)? Most likely not, unless there were no dogs in existance. This is in essence the major flaw in BSL arguments that the breed of dog responsible for the majority of attacks should be eliminated. If something is ranked, eliminating the number 1 spot pushes the number 2 to number 1 constantly..........


So you're saying if you kill all grizzly bears it won't stop grizzly attacks? Amazing, I never would have figured that out without seeing your logic.
JoHT
5 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2013
So you're saying if you kill all grizzly bears it won't stop grizzly attacks? Amazing, I never would have figured that out without seeing your logic.


Ok, sorry Moebius, I was working off the assumption that your argument did NOT want to eliminate all dogs off the face of the planet... Now that I know that is actually a viable strategy in your mind I will say that yes... your 'logic' works. Silly me...(that's sarcasm in case you missed it in typed form).

The argument still fails, however. Whenever you record/rank something, the total will always be 100%. So if you eliminate the breed that accounts for "70%" of the attacks, that doesn't mean there will only be 30% of the attacks, there will still be 100%, just a different breed at the top. If you were actually arguing that if a breed crosses some sort of 'acceptable threshold' on the percent of the 100% they make up and therefore all dogs of that breed should be guilty by association, please argue that clearly.
Humpty
1 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2013
People get friendly and hunt with wolves.

Wolves move in.

Derate their mega hunter status into "nice doggy".

Dog brain = Kiddy Cutlets and Mummy and Daddy Meatballs on the menu today.

"Arrrrroooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo" - the Call of the Mild.
Moebius
1 / 5 (1) Dec 08, 2013
Ok, sorry Moebius, I was working off the assumption that your argument did NOT want to eliminate all dogs off the face of the planet... Now that I know that is actually a viable strategy in your mind I will say that yes... your 'logic' works. Silly me(that's sarcasm in case you missed it in typed form).

The argument still fails, however. Whenever you record/rank something, the total will always be 100%. So if you eliminate the breed that accounts for "70%" of the attacks, that doesn't mean there will only be 30% of the attacks, there will still be 100%, just a different breed at the top. If you were actually arguing that if a breed crosses some sort of 'acceptable threshold' on the percent of the 100% they make up and therefore all dogs of that breed should be guilty by association, please argue that clearly


That's ridiculous. You're saying that someone a pit bull kills was destined to die and if there were no pit bulls the neighbors cockapoo would have killed her. LOL

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.