On April 26, we had the pleasure of hosting a booth at the SPCA of Texas‘s Strut Your Mutt event. It was an incredible opportunity to speak with many dog lovers in Dallas and promote our organization.

One nice lady stopped by and asked us what could be done about backyard dog breeders. She commented that she wished we could pass laws to protect Pit Bulls by passing mandatory spay/neuter for Pit Bull type dogs or even outlawing the breed.

Despite what some well-meaning legislators and animal lovers might think, drafting Breed Specific Ordinances with this goal in mind actually does more harm than good.

All breeds should be protected from the type of cruelty these dogs are facing, not just Pit Bull type dogs. Abuse and cruelty isn’t solely a Pit Bull problem. We should draft breed neutral ordinances to address tethering, lack of shelter, food and water, lack of veterinary care, irresponsible breeding and the like. Singling out Pit Bulls does a disservice to dogs of other breeds that face the same kinds of cruelty and neglect.

One challenge we face in DFW is the lack of consistency of the animal care laws across the cities. We are working to identify the cities with lax animal care ordinances and hope to mobilize residents to encourage strengthening these laws. When this approach was suggested, our new friend mentioned that we don’t enforce the laws already on the books. BINGO! We need stronger BREED NEUTRAL animal cruelty ordinances, and better enforcement. More laws that aren’t enforced will still be ineffective.

Mandatory spay/neuter laws are great in theory, but only if coupled with resources to provide free and low-cost spay/neuter. Mandatory spay/neuter laws adversely affect low-income owners who cannot afford to comply with the laws, and actually ends up INCREASING the shelter population as responsible owners fear being out of compliance. Research shows that voluntary spay/neuter programs are much more effective at reducing the homeless pet population.

Singling out Pit Bull type dogs, even with the intention of protecting them, reinforces the incorrect belief that there is something inherently different about these types of dogs. The fact is, they are just dogs. It’s the OWNERS who bear the responsibility for the behavior and management of their animals.

Passing laws restricting or banning Pit Bulls is only going to affect the owners who follow the laws. Criminals and those who don’t care about the welfare of their pets will either continue flouting the law, or move on to another breed. In fact, some believe that passing Breed Specific laws actually encourages ownership by people who may find owning a banned breed alluring.

We believe that the right approach is ensuring cities have strong animal welfare ordinances and have the resources and interest to enforce of those laws. Passing Breed Specific ordinances isn’t the right answer (and is actually prohibited (hooray!) by state law.