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Are There Alternatives to BSL Laws that Are not Effective?

← DB 3 ReplyFrom the Journal of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark →

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In recent years, many states have expressed concern with the increase in dog bites. While many agree that dog bites have increased to high levels, the question arises how to control the problem. One recent “fix” to this problem has brought upon BSL laws, or breed-specific legislation laws. Several attempts have been made to reach out to responsible adults to take action with knowledge of how to protect our dogs fairly.

Are there Alternatives to BSL laws that are not Effective?

Throughout the years, many states have noticed an increase in dog bites, many now consider an epidemic. Many states have enacted BSL laws, or breed-specific legislation laws. These laws are brought into the states in order to control dogs. Many questions have arose due to these laws. This literature review considers whether the use of these laws is effective and what alternatives could be used in order to be fairly executed by responding to the following questions:

Are BSL laws effective?

How are breeds labeled?

Which dog breeds attack more?

What alternatives could be placed for BSL laws?

Understanding the unfairness and failures to BSL laws in the past underscores the need for communities to search for other alternatives to alleviate the problems.

Are BSL laws effective?

Breed-specific laws are shown to be non-effective due to the issues of enforcement, labor, and cost. First, looking at enforcing these laws to ban breeds becomes fuzzy when deciding who will determine when a dog is dangerous (Kory, 2005). Lack of adequate experts who can determine the features or the behaviors shown by dangerous dogs make it hard to implement the BSL laws. If the laws are to be effectively implemented the various governments, have to invest heavily in the field of animal health and employ the required experts to help deal with the current crisis of dog bites (Straka, 2005). According to Straka (2005) enforcement is not possible unless adequate personnel is available both from the office of the state law and the animal health. For effective enforcement to take place coordination between various relevant departments that are directly affected by the legislations. Poor coordination has been blamed for slow implementation of various laws. This problem has to be fully dealt with by coming with a team is drawn from all the concerned government agencies and be mandated with coming up with framework of ensuring the BSL laws are fully enforced.

Kory (2005) argues that the high labor cost associated with putting into force these laws has been another major challenge. For instance, to enforce the laws there is a need to have highly qualified animal experts, law enforcement agencies and other important experts (Kory, 2005). This means that the government will be forced to invest heavily in the labor of ensuring that the dogs’ laws are fully put into action. Given the current economic crisis in most states the governments cannot afford to allocate adequate funds to the concerned departments to acquire the required expertise to implement the legislation in question (Karp, 2004). This has in turn slowed the effectiveness of the laws in a number of states. On the other hand, studies have shown that the cost of implementing the laws across various federal states is very high. For instance, the cost of setting up agencies mandated with overseeing the enforcement of the law is very high if the laws are to be fully implemented. Because to this, costs most of the states have not been able to set up strong agencies that can be able used to oversee effective and efficient implementation of BSL laws (Benthall, 2007). As result, the laws have not been effective in many of states across United States of America. Some places, such as North Salt Lake, Utah, the city manager has sole authority to make that call (Campbell). Why would we use workers who are not trained to make these decisions? Campbell has shown that a veterinarian would have more input, and that these issues need to be brought publicly. The one instance of examining the effectiveness in the United States was in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  The task force concluded that the public’s safety had not improved because of the ban… (Campbell). This shows the laws as being ineffective. What are other ways that could be more effective to keep our public safe?

How are Breeds Labeled?

Dogs are labeled by their looks, which is an injustice (Karp, 2004). Many dogs are labeled under a pit-bull without actual DNA testing. Animal health officers have been blamed of using outdated methods for labeling dog breeds. This therefore, leaves many loopholes on determining the type of dog breed that is dangerous. With all the crossbreeding in the states, we wonder how dogs are put into breed categories. It is not logical to put dogs under categories without good basis for doing so. Mixed breed dogs have different genes to make them react differently. Different studies have shown that a number of dogs tend to behave differently depending on the conditions under which they are put. For instance, one of the breed may be weird while another breed may be very cool. It would be unfair to use generalization rather scientific facts to determine the type of mixed breed dogs that are likely to be dangerous (Karp, 2004). This said it is needed to have DNA testing to guarantee a dog falls into these groups. Through carrying the test, accurate results will be drawn on the type of drugs that are dangerous and those that are not dangerous. In this article Campbell has shown that breed labeling is not accurate, therefore another ineffective tactic. This shows that “lumping" dogs into categories is like try to lump people into categories.

Which dogs attack more?

In addition to the problems of classifying dog breeds, many studies have been done to find which breed will bite more often. The author notes that the data in the report cannot be used to infer any breed-specific risk for dog bite fatalities, because to obtain such risk information it would be necessary to know the total numbers of each breed currently residing in the United States, and that information is unavailable (Campbell). This will enable the authorities to have accurate information on all the type of dog breeds that are available in the country. It will enable the relevant agencies to put in place in place measures aimed regulating the breed that is being reared in various parts of the nation. Proper records will discourage the agencies from making uninformed decisions in relation to the type of breed that is more dangerous than the other. This once again strengthens the inaccuracies in our profiling of these dogs. We cannot accurately explain a certain breed to be dangerous, and enacting these laws.

The media classifies dogs into dangerous breeds and feed off them causing more pandemonium. They pick and choose which breeds to post which shows that a certain breed has been causing bites more often. One year it is German Shephards, then Rottweilers, and continuing down the chain to Pitbulls. They need to look at what is causing these animals to be aggressive and what will put a stop to them. If the states take away a certain breed, many people are just going to continue to find another breed. In the article, Campbell is looking for alternatives to keeping the public safe, yet eliminating cruelty to animals. 

What are alternatives to BSL?

Finally, in order to disable BSL laws there needs to be alternatives in place to reduce the dog bites. We have many useful laws in place already. We need to enhance them and hold the dog owners accountable. Campbell tries to stop adding more laws we cannot enforce, but to enforce the ones in place already. Dog leash laws have been in effect for years. Therefore, the concerned agencies should be developing ways of implementing the laws for them to reduce the cases of dog bites. For any form of implementation to be effective, the affected community should be involved in the process if the laws will bear positive fruits. If the communities would, work to enforce them with penalties it would help to fund animal control. Members of the communities have the power to see the laws in place fully implemented and at the same time they can defeat any efforts to implement them. Cooperation between the relevant agencies and members of the society is crucial in making the laws in place work. Dangerous dog laws that are breed neutral and focus on the behavior of the individual dog, with mandated sterilization and microchipping of dogs deemed dangerous….(Campbell). Enforcing laws to ban chaining or tethering of dogs can help keep children from approaching them. These are only a few of the laws that could be enacted taking away the bullies that are the owners. Why should a dog be killed for their looks or because someone treated them improperly?

 It is unreasonable to mistreat an animal because of its look and this act is violation of animal’s right and should not be encourage at all (Department of Public Health (2012). Instead of killing dogs on unfounded basis, the Department of Public Health provides guidelines that can help minimize case of dog bite. The regulations require adults to accompany a child who is going with a dog for a walk. In addition, adults ought to provide basic education on dog safety to their children. Indeed, if parents are more caring and responsible, this will minimize violations of animal rights (Department of Public Health, 2012). Hefty fines to those who have dogs that cause harm will help communities with funding and control animal abuse.

Harding makes a strong case for reducing cases by ensuring that irresponsible and violent people do not acquire dogs. The dogs sometimes meet the functional needs of their owners. If a violent person desired to cause harm on others to achieve a certain objective, then he will likely train his dogs to be aggressive. According to Harding, if such people are not allowed to own dogs, then it will minimize cases of harm to the animals and people at large. This will encourage individuals to take personal initiatives aimed at reducing the cases of dog bites.

Another method is to ensure that owners understand the aggressive behavior of their dogs (O’Heare, 2007). According to O’Heare (2007), dog owners should have a high level of socialization with people as well as their dogs. In addition, the author argues people should create a favorable environment for their dogs so that they do not see any need of being aggressive. If a dog starts misbehaving, the owner should take a quick initiative to move it away to avoid harm to others. Heare agrees with Campbell that penalties for irresponsible owners should be strictly applied. These create a high level of responsibility among those who keep dogs (O’Heare, 2007). Further, O’Heare posits that the future of relationship between human beings and dogs largely depend on the individual responsibility taken by the owners (O’Heare, 2007).

After reading the relevant literature on this topic and compiling the evidence, it shows that there are alternatives to BSL laws. Campbell has appealed to responsible dog-lovers everywhere with alternatives of these laws and how to get the statistics we need. These alternatives will be breed friendly, cost effective, and show respect to those who care for their dogs properly, and as if, they are a part of the family. O’Heare and the others advocate for more responsible owners, who can be held accountable if their dogs become aggressive and harm people.

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