Some dog breeds get an unfair reputation for being particularly aggressive or vicious, and are the subject of bans in some areas. Pit bulls, in particular, have been the target of many of these breed-specific prohibitions.
But any dog lover will tell you it’s all about how a dog is treated and raised, not their breed, that defines who they are.
Now, one proposed new law in Florida will end breed-specific bans, and instead focus on a dog’s behavior.
The legislation under consideration, Senate Bill 614, would revise the state’s current “Dangerous Dog” laws that have been in place since 1990, according to WFLA. The current law defines a dangerous dog as one that has demonstrated previous violent behavior, like attacking or severely injuring a person or severely injuring or killing multiple pets.
But the law also allows two parts of Florida to have breed ordinances, meaning housing authorities and local governments can forbids dogs of certain breeds, whether or not they are considered “dangerous.”
For instance, Miami Dade County has a ban on “pit bull breeds,” according to WTSP.
The proposed revision to the law would change that, ending “any existing restrictions imposed by housing authorities pertaining to specific breeds of dogs,” according to a legal analysis.
Authorities can still put restrictions on dogs based on their previous behavior, but breed restrictions will be a thing of the past in Florida.
The bill would be a major win for local animal advocates, who say the breed ordinances are discriminatory and only cause more problems. Dahlia Canes, founder of the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation, told WTSP that many families have had to move into public housing, and have been forced to give up their pets due to the laws.
“They had to leave their dogs behind because they had no choice,” Canes said. “What would happen is they were thrown in the streets.”
“It’s been going on for much too long,” she said. “A dog is not born inherently dangerous because it’s born of a specific breed. That is canine profiling.”
Canes also said that these laws can be found nationwide and go well beyond pit bulls: “Last time I counted there were 75 targeted breeds, including Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas, Pugs, German Shepherds, and the list goes on and on,” she told CBS Miami. “All it takes is for a very important person to be bit by a breed of dog and within two or three days that breed is on the list.”
Even people who have been the victims of vicious dog behavior have voiced support for the change in Florida’s laws. Meagan Touchstone of North Port says her service dog Buddy was once attacked by a German Shepherd, but supports a shift in focus to behavior instead of breed.
“Ultimately I think it should be behavior before breed. Every dog is an individual,” she told NBC 2.
The legislation is currently being considered by Florida’s 2022 legislative session. It remains to be seen whether the law will pass.
But it seems most dog owners agree that this would be a logical step forward in revising Florida’s dog laws.
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