During the late ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s a number of dog breeds got a bad rap as news outlets trumpeted headlines inciting fear in people everywhere. As you can imagine, pit bulls were chief among them, followed by Rottweilers and a handful of other breeds. The mania that followed led to millions of dog owners being denied homeowner insurance here in the U.S. and a whole host of “dangerous dog” laws cropped up around the globe. Now, some states are beginning to review those laws.
Rethinking the Dangerous Dog Concept
A lot of this has to do with shifting attitudes with the public. Where once the prevailing attitude was to blindly buy into the stereotype, gradually people have come to see that it isn’t the breeds as much as it is the individual dog and the owners that keep them. Even actor Patrick Stewart recently admitted that he used to have the same misinformed outlook on pit bulls, and now he’s foster parenting one and can’t sing her praises long enough or loud enough.
Animal Welfare Advisory Council
Yesterday, Maine’s statewide Animal Welfare Advisory Council (AWAC) gathered for the purpose of discussing their plan to rework the dangerous dog laws currently on the books in that state. The plan is to reconvene regularly over the course of a year to review the language of the laws with an eye towards shifting the onus from the dogs to the owners. In the past, dogs have been confiscated and often put down while the owners received a slap on the wrist.
Accountability in Pet Ownership
Besides requiring more accountability from dog owners for their pet’s actions, the AWAC is looking into developing a statewide database in conjunction with complaints, bites and attacks involving canines. As it stands, the laws don’t always fit the circumstances surrounding a situation where far more should be done but the hands of law enforcement and animal control are tied. The point is to get a handle on cases where the punishment might not fit the crime, and that holds for either end of the scale.
Virginia’s Dangerous Dog Laws
Liam Hughes, director of the AWAC in Maine, is planning on contacting other states and their animal control programs with a view toward seeing what they’re doing with their laws. The feedback he’ll be seeking includes what’s working for them and what’s not and even what may be causing more problems than it solves. The state of Virginia overhauled their dog laws some weeks past in an effort to get up to speed with the age we live in as well.
What do you think of the laws in your state pertaining to dangerous animals? Do you think they overstep their bounds or they need to be stronger? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to know your thoughts on the matter.