Breed Specific Legislation – Part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post on Breed Specific Legislation in Australia, as part of my final Course Assessment for the ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology/Behaviour.

Breed-specific legislation

Breed-specific legislation generally refers to laws that target specific breeds of dogs. In Australia there are currently two types of breed-specific legislation:

  1.  Under the Commonwealth customs legislation there is a ban on the importation of several specific breeds of dogs; Japanese Tosa, fila Brasiliero, dogo Argentino, perrode presa Canario, and American Pit Bull Terrier. Importantly, this is a ban on importation and not a prohibition on ownership.
  2.  Most state and territory jurisdictions have placed restrictions upon the ownership of these breeds such as muzzling in public, desexing, and fence and enclosure requirements. Some states and even some local councils have taken the further step of banning the prescribed breeds of dogs completely.

Throughout history, there’s always been a breed of dog that gets demonized, a scapegoat for society to hang the blame on whenever someone gets bitten by a dog. Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dobermanns all had their turn. Now the short straw has been drawn by the Pit Bull Terrier. Which is ironic, because there isn’t a DNA test that can conclusively confirm if a dog is indeed a Pit Bull, because Pit Bulls are a mixture of one or more of these breeds – the English Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and the Bull Terrier. Which is good AND bad. Good, because the law cannot prove conclusively that your dog is indeed a Pit Bull and therefore subject it to restrictions reserved for Pit Bulls. Bad, because you cannot prove conclusively that your dog is NOT a Pit Bull.

Basically, any dog that bears a passing resemblance to a Pit Bull, or behaves like one, can be deemed to be a Pit Bull.

The ‘pit bulls’ you meet may be shelter dogs of indeterminate origin or they may have pedigree as American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers (APBT) or more recently, American Bullies – See more at:

What are the characteristics of a Pit Bull? Here’s a demonstration of how ridiculous the law can get:

The Queensland government (Australia) has a 22-point identification system that consists of 22 descriptions of a Pit Bull and a rating system of one to three. So, for example, Point Nine is The dog’s eyes are round. If you think the dog’s eyes are round you rate the dog at three and if not, you rate the dog at one. Endangered Dog Breeds Australia (EDBA) demonstrated the flaw in the ID system when they applied it to Pat the Chihuahua. Out of a possible score of 66, Pat scored a total of 50 and, according to Queensland Animal Control Officers, Pat the Chihuahua “substantially meets the description of an American Pit Bull Terrier type”.


The tide may be changing, however. Recently on 23rd March 2016, the Herald Sun in Victoria state, Australia reported:

CONTROVERSIAL dangerous dog laws forcing councils to confiscate and kill pit bulls could be overhauled in Victoria, according to a long-awaited Parliamentary report.

The inquiry into the legislative and regulatory framework relating to restricted-breed dogs made 31 recommendations including calling for the government to scrap 2012 legislation which resulted in scores of dogs being put on death row.

The recommendations included:

— Allowing pitbulls to be registered but place other restrictions on owners of restricted breeds.

— Greater penalties for owners of restricted-breed dogs who do not register their dogs.

— Ending the requirement for non-racing greyhounds to be muzzled in public.

— Improved data collection about dog attacks.

Committee chair Joshua Morris said the probe was thorough and urged changes to be implemented as soon as possible.

“What is clear is that a change is required to reduce the number of dog attacks and the injuries resulting from them,’’ he said.

“We heard differing and conflicting viewpoints and we have sought to be objective and balanced in our findings and recommendations.

“The Government should consider the changes recommended by the committee and look at implementing those changes as quickly as possible.”

More than 450 submissions spoke against the laws during the nine month investigation into the issue.

The Australian Veterinary Association told the parliamentary panel DNA profiling was difficult and said animals should be judges on behaviour.

“Assessing whether or not a dog is a restricted breed according to the standard is impossible,’’ said the submission.

“Dogs should be assessed by their behaviour in an incident in which they have been involved — deed not breed.’’

The legislation ordering the death of restricted breeds was rushed through Parliament in 2012 following the death of four-year-old Ayen Chol.

She died after a neighbour’s pit bull-mastiff mauled her as she clung to her mother’s leg at their St Albans home in 2011.

Scores of animals were rounded up by Melbourne councils following the changes.

However, dog owners fought to save their animals prompting three Supreme Court trials and 19 VCAT hearings, costing local councils hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills.
(I’ve copied and pasted the contents of the webpage, as when you try to go to the above weblink a second time, it requests that you subscribe to the Herald Sun first instead).

Needless to say, this news has caused quite a backlash amongst the unenlightened public, who choose to believe whatever stories the media has fed them the last few years, since breed specific legislation was introduced in 2012.


Bully breeds(Image source: Google Images)

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