(Note: “Pit Bull” is not actually a breed. In North America, the term Pit Bull often refers to the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and any mixes thereof. However, in Australia – or the United Kingdom – people tend to separate Staffordshire Bull Terriers from the Pit Bull classification, even though they’re all descended from the same Bulldogs-Terriers that fought in “pits” in the 1800s.)
In 2011, a young child was mauled to death by a neighbor’s dog in Melbourne, Australia. As a result, a citywide ban was placed on Pit Bull-type dogs. Now, a recently released parliamentary report has a committee reconsidering the ban.
The report found that the ban has not been effective since a dog’s breed cannot be accurately determined by sight alone. This issue was best highlighted by the 2012 case of a dog named Mylo who was seized from his home when council officers determined that he was a Pit Bull based solely on his appearance.
Mylo’s family fought the determination, and were eventually able to have him returned to them when a DNA test proved him to be a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Mylo was held on the council pound’s death row for nearly 2 years before the decision was reversed.
Patrick Walsh, President of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of Victoria, is encouraged by the parliamentary report. Staffies have long been wrongly classified as Pits, and have faced discrimination because of it. Cases like Mylo’s are forcing more and more areas of the world to evaluate each dog accused of aggression individually, rather than simply condemning them based on their breed or appearance.
Walsh told The Age Victoria:
No dog is dangerous in the right hands. I’ve met Pit Bulls before and never had a problem with them, but the owners were responsible. It’s like kids – if the parents don’t bring them up right, they cause a problem.
The committee has also been influenced to reconsider the Melbourne ban based on the fact that studies have failed to conclusively prove that Pit Bulls are more aggressive or dangerous than other dogs. Submissions on behalf of repealing the ban cited inaccurate and sensationalistic reporting on “Pit Bull attacks” by the media, as well as “moral panic” from the public.
While many major authorities on these issues support the removal of the ban, including the RSPCA, Animals Australia and the Australian Veterinary Association, there are still those who are not sure. The family of the child whose tragic death sparked the 2011 decision to impose the ban has stated their desire to see stronger penalties for owners of dogs who commit violent attacks.
Jaala Pulford is the Minister for Agriculture in Melbourne. She has asked for an extension of the current halt to compulsory euthanasia of Pit Bulls while she considers the report, and what is best for all sides. For the time being, no dogs will be sentenced to death in Melbourne simply for having characteristics similar to a Pit Bull.
We must keep the community safe and to do that our laws need to be effective – that’s why we asked the Parliament to review these laws so that we can get them right.
The committee has also set forth the following recommendations based on the parliamentary report, which may serve as a compromise for all sides of the debate:
-Doing away with the requirement to muzzle non-racing greyhounds
-Building a database of all dog registrations and attacks
-Greater penalties for owners of restricted-breed dogs who do not register them correctly or keep them securely
Let’s hope that the temporary stay of execution for Melbourne’s Pit Bull-type dogs becomes a permanent decision. If so, we can count them as the next city in a growing trend of world municipalities that are doing away with unfair Breed Discriminatory Legislation.
H/T to The Age Victoria
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