Assuming Restricted Dog Breeds are Inherently Dangerous Causes More Harm than Good

Specific breeds of dogs are not inherently dangerous.

That’s not just some opinion being bandied around by a few select people who want to let their six Rottweilers lose in your local playground every evening – it’s a fact. It’s been proven. Countless different studies conducted in countless different countries over the years have shown that any dog has the potential to become aggressive, but that that particular breed of dog is by no means aggressive by nature.

One such study was carried out by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2001. A task force drafted to examine the link between human interaction and canine aggression concluded that while it is possible for any kind of dog to be involved in an attack, this does not mean that any kind of dog will be. Rather, things like early development and training, home environment, and whether the dog has been neutered or not can all contribute to that individual animal’s pattern of aggression.

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This means that if a dog has been neglected or continuously abused by a human, that dog is more likely to bite a human, or be involved in an attack of some sort – an act that is too often blamed on that dog’s entire breed, rather than the person who was a questionable pet owner in the first place.

Things like early development and training, home environment, and whether the dog has been neutered or not can all contribute to that individual animal’s pattern of aggression.

Unfortunately, Meath county council member Alan Tobin has some other ideas about what constitutes a ‘dangerous’ pet. These include simply belonging to a restricted breed of dog. According to Tobin – and the public safety posters he so smugly gloated about all over social media on Sunday – dogs like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, English Bull Terriers, and all crosses or strains of these breeds are inherently dangerous by nature, and should not be kept as households pets at all.

The laws concerning restricted dogs in Ireland are quite simple: keep them muzzled in public, have them on a strong lead, and ensure that they are wearing a collar with the name and address of their owner at all times. These laws have existed for 30 years now, and while vast numbers of dog owners all over the country do find the legislation unjust and unnecessary, it’s probably not unfair to say that most people are at least aware of the law, and the implications it incites.

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Picture of the pubic safety notice posted on Tobin’s Facebook page

Tobin is essentially scolding anybody who chooses to give a restricted strain of dog the love that can and should be reserved for all dogs, regardless of their breed.

Thousands of people did not take issue with Tobin’s posters and subsequent Facebook post because he was reminding them of the law. They took issue because he was reminding them of a law that assumes only certain types of dogs will bite, because he prides himself on being a dog owner who has little or no education on the subject matter he is trying to promote, and because he is essentially scolding anybody who chooses to give a restricted strain of dog the love that can and should be reserved for all dogs, regardless of their breed.

In less than 48 hours, Tobin’s post had gotten over 250,000 comments and was shared 160,000 times. While it’s probable that a small, select group of people have commended Tobin for his efforts, such comments would be nigh on impossible to seek out amid the throes of people adding their voices to the thread to tell Tobin just how wrong he is. People who have actual real life experience with restricted dogs – either as pet owners, trainers, and even researchers – took to the post to share their personal stories, pictures, and videos in a bid to prove that there is nothing dangerous about one kind of dog.

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PhD researcher in dog bites Páraic Ó Súilleabháin spoke yesterday about his own repudiation of Tobin’s claims that restricted breeds should not be kept as pets, citing them as “outrageous and damaging.” Speaking to thejournal.ie, he stated that all dog breeds are as dangerous as each other, and that discriminating against certain breeds does not prevent risk at all.

All peer-reviewed academic research in this area shows that targeting breeds in this manner is a method at least 20 years out of date (…) To identify a breed as dangerous is akin to testing drivers for drink driving by checking their eye colour rather than their alcohol levels.

Similar findings were published by the AVMA 15 years ago when the task force reported that labelling specific dog breeds as ‘dangerous’ was actually more harmful to individuals than the breed of dog itself. Discriminatory laws and signs like Tobin’s result in a “false sense of accomplishment” for communities as they suggest that some dogs are ‘safe’ and others are ‘unsafe.’ In reality, every dog has the potential to bite, but every dog also has the potential to be the gentlest, most loveable creature in the whole entire world.

Discriminatory laws and signs like Tobin’s result in a “false sense of accomplishment” for communities as they suggest that some dogs are ‘safe’ and others are ‘unsafe.’

Back in 2008, dog bite research conducted by the School of Veterinary Medicine in the University of Pennsylvania seemed to refute all claims that had previously been made about so-called ‘dangerous’ dogs. The team’s findings suggested that smaller breeds of dogs like Dachshunds and Chihuahuas were actually more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour towards strangers and other dogs. However, as with assumptions made about restricted dogs, these claims were rejected by dog trainers and owners alike who spoke of their personal experiences with these breeds and the lack of hostility they encountered.

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In the 1970s, Dobermans were considered to be one of the most dangerous dogs in America, only to be replaced by Pit Bulls in the 80s, and Rottweilers in the 90s. Coincidentally, each of these breeds was also among the most popular during its respective time period. It would make sense that now, in the twenty-first century, smaller dogs are being heralded as the most likely to bite – the more dogs there are, the more dog attacks there will be reported.

It would make sense that now, smaller dogs are being heralded as the most likely to bite – the more dogs there are, the more dog attacks there will be reported.

An online poll conducted yesterday suggests that almost 40% of people don’t believe restricted dogs should be kept as pets, meaning that despite the outrage, the Meath county councillor’s views are still being supported by a lot of people.

Regardless, Alan Tobin’s post didn’t prove that restricted dogs ought to be feared. It proved that restricted dogs should be loved and cared for the same as any other dog. And thanks to the plethora of genuinely heart-warming photos and stories that found themselves posted beneath that public safety poster, it proved that thousands of people around the country are already doing just that.

For more expert info on all things dog visit insidedogsworld.com

For more information on popular dog breeds, see here. 

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