A "Canine Innocence Project"?


This article from the animal rights section of the Change.org ring of websites has been making the rounds on dog-related blogs and Twitter feeds. Arguing that many dogs are mistaken for pit bulls in jurisdictions that have banned the much-maligned "breed," the author calls for state officials to DNA test dogs before euthanizing them.

The argument is that city officials shouldn't be able to euthanize a dog simply because it "looks like a pit bull," whatever that means. But the real aim is to undermine breed-specific legislation altogether by imposing what would sound to most like a common-sense requirement that most cities can't afford to follow.

It's a cute idea, and I support the ultimate goal, but the scheme requires too much concession to the misguided thinking behind put bull prohibitions. I've written about breed-specific bans before, so I'll save some time with a cut-and-paste:

Bad owners create bad dogs, regardless of the dog's lineage. Bans on pit bulls don't prevent dog fighting, nor do they prevent people from raising vicious dogs. They just ensure that dogs fitting the pit bull description will be vicious, because the well-bred lines will be discontinued and good owners will stop raising them. Meanwhile, people who raise dogs for fighting will simply move on to another breed.

Moreover, the term pit bull isn't really a breed at all. It's a generic term that can and has been applied to just about any dog with bulldog and/or terrier traits (take the pit bull test here). The American Kennel Club-recognized breed that's generally associated with the term is the American Staffordshire Terrier. And the vast, vast majority of staffies are harmless (they're actually considered a child-friendly breed).

In fact, most fighting dogs commonly called pit bulls aren't bloodlined staffies. Fighting dogs are bred for attributes conducive to fighting, not for pedigree.

Better to impose strict liability on dog owners for any damage their pets do to others or their property.