Heribert Proepper/AP

Are Some Dog Breeds Too Dangerous As Pets? Ecuador Says Yes

February 06, 2009 11:04 AM
by Josh Katz
Ecuador’s new ban on owning rottweilers and pit bulls comes as other places around the world debate similar measures.

Communities Debate Dog Breed Bans

Beginning in March, rottweilers and pit bull terriers will be banned as pets in Ecuador, Bloomberg reports. The rule will also include rottweiler-pit bull mixes, and apply to dogs in the police force and private security companies as well. The decision comes after two pit bulls killed a child in Quito four months ago. Pit bulls and rottweilers are often considered two of the more aggressive dog breeds.

In several American states, the issue of banning certain dog breeds is being debated. Hawaiian Senate President Colleen Hanabusa recently introduced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to “own or sell an American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or a Staffordshire bull terrier,” the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports. Angry pit bull owners and opponents of the bill responded to the news by holding a rally in Hilo consisting of about 75 people. Organizers have planned more protests across the state.

Stacie Mahoe has five children and nine pit bulls, according to the Star-Bulletin, which quoted her as saying, "I teach my children not to judge people by how they look, and the government would take away your dog because of how it looks. How do I explain that to my children?”

The matter has recently been discussed in Iowa, as well. On Monday night, the Castalia City Council decided not to pass a ban on pit bulls, according to the Decorah Journal. The ordinance was initiated because of an escaped pit bull that was running around the city. The dog’s owner pleaded with the council not to implement the ban, saying the city should not single out one breed; he also said that any animal, not just pit bulls, could turn violent.

In December 2006, New York City Council member Peter Vallone Jr. tried to overturn a state law preventing breed-specific legislation. Vallone, who owned a “Bichon Frise named Gus Gus,” according to The New York Sun, thought that pit bulls were too violent and city residents should be banned from owning them. His resolution also said that pit bulls are “often a weapon of choice of drug dealers and gangs seeking to intimidate and terrorize neighborhoods."

Internationally, the Netherlands experimented with a ban on pit bulls, but it did not work out as planned. In June, the country lifted its 25-year ban on the breed “because it did not lead to any decrease in bite incidents,” according to the Associated Press. Instead, the Dutch government decided to “focus on enforcing local leashing laws and owner education programs.” The Netherlands enacted the ban in 1993 after pit bulls killed three children.

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Background: Dog bite statistics and proposals for banning breeds

According the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American emergency rooms treated about 310,000 people suffering from dog bites in 2007, a substantial drop from the approximately 366,000 victims in 2001. But the numbers may be deceiving because dog-bite victims do not always go to the hospital or report what happened, The Boston Globe wrote at the end of last month.

In a 2000 study, the CDC and other health agencies claimed that pit bulls caused “more bite-related deaths than other breeds from 1979 to 1998.” The study authors also acknowledged that the data could mean that pit bulls are a very common dog breed, and not more dangerous than other breeds.

The American Kennel Club says there were 86 proposals to prohibit or restrict certain breeds of dogs in the United States “in the 2007-08 legislative season,” according to The Boston Globe, which notes that, “It is not clear how many passed.”

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