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Dog Profiling Has Pet Parents Growling

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

I’ve written about how some insurance companies charge pet parents of breed specific dogs more money than owners of smaller “friendlier” looking dogs. It strikes me as odd what we consider “dangerous” versus “friendly.” What may look “dangerous” to me may seem “friendly” to you.

The list of “dangerous” dogs, mostly dubbed that way by the media, include: Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Presa Canarios, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers and Siberian Huskies.

Does she look scary to you?

It’s What We Know
I took care of a neighbor’s Pit Bull Terrier while she was away. I got some comments ahead of time from people that never met this dog that I must be extra careful. I think if this dog didn’t know me and I entered the house, he would have shared his toys with me. 

And while I was living in New York City, my next door neighbor lived with a Doberman Pinscher named Lex. He was quite regal looking. My first encounter with Lex was getting off an elevator—the kind where you can’t see who is on the other side of the door. I had a bagel in my hand, and Lex gently snatched it. I was a bit shocked, but he didn’t grab any skin—just the bagel. I was fine, and Lex and I got to be buddies.

Looking at an individual dog and deciding if it is dangerous makes sense. Looking at an entire breed and making that same decision is wrong. Unfortunately, a number of insurance agencies and now some small towns are profiling.

Dog Discrimination
The resort town of Elephant Butte, NM, has made headlines because its local city council is requiring owners of Pit Bulls, Rotweillers, and German Shepherds to buy special liability insurance. Owners of these dogs are required to insure their dogs for $100,000 worth of personal property liability.

“These are the top three breeds according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) that are more likely to attack people,” says Alan Briley, City Manager of Elephant Butte. “I know our council wanted to be proactive and make sure if something like this happens, that our public is protected.”

Chasity Cervantes, a resident of Elephant Butte and an owner of three Blue Nose American Pit Bull Terriers, has called every insurance company from Elephant Butte to El Paso. Finding affordable insurance has been so difficult that she fears she will have to move or put her dogs down. She recently found one company that may cover her dogs, but she said the cost would be more than double of what she pays for her annual home insurance now.

Why Towns are Getting Involved
The reason towns are creating and enforcing liability laws is to make sure the victim of a serious dog related incident is compensated. “Unfortunately, profiling an entire breed doesn’t work,” says Ledy VanKavage, senior attorney for Best Friends Animal Society and owner of three Pit Bull Terrier rescues.

“Today 12 states prohibit canine profiling because it doesn’t work,” says VanKavage. “Ohio is the latest state to abolish canine profiling.”

That’s welcome news for Julie Lyle, Chief Dog Warden of Lucas County in Ohio. “Now all dogs will be treated equally based on their behavior and not how they look,” she says.

Paul Johnson, Vice President of Brooks Insurance in Ohio thinks differently. “Insurance companies are going to continue to look at it from a breed standpoint rather than an individual dog,” he says.

Some confusion with this new law exists. According to my lawyer friend, Laura Allen who writes the blog Animal Law Coalition, “Ohio allows home rule, which means some cities and towns can pass their own laws on this issue as long as they don’t violate the state and federal constitutions. Many simply followed the old state law or at least the discriminatory spirit of it, and I would expect with the new law that many if not all of these will be changed to follow the new law.”

Stopping Towns from Imposing these Laws

“Here in Omaha, NE, the city council was seriously considering a ban on bully breed,” says LeAnn Nussrallah, who works as a groomer at Nebraska Humane Society. “We all were freaking out on the number of dogs we would be getting into the shelter that would have to be PTS (Put to Sleep) simply for the way they look. Our lawyer and shelter administrative staff came up with a compromise. Omaha bully-breed owners must have their dogs muzzled (the wire basket type) and harnessed when outside their securely-fenced yard. They also must have 100K in homeowners insurance. The dogs can pass a Breed Ambassador test and the muzzle is waived and the dog wears a vest instead.” (A Breed Ambassador test is to prove that a dog is well trained.)

States Prohibiting BSL
The following states have passed laws prohibiting the passage of Breed Specific Legislation are: Florida and Pennsylvania (although bills are currently pending to repeal this prohibition in both states), California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia.

What You Can Do If Your Town Proposes BSL
Best Friends Animal Society put together a comprehensive action plan. Click here to see what type of action you can take.

36 comments to Dog Profiling Has Pet Parents Growling

  • Carla

    Great post. I own a sweet doberman and many people stay far away. My dog would not hurt a fly. These BSL laws are wrong.

  • Hal Frankel

    Good job reporting. We don’t see much of this online. I own a German Shepherd who also is very friendly. Thanks for the link to Best Friends. They have some really smart tips.

  • Josie

    BSL is wrong, and it doesn’t work. Why would anyone prosecute an entire breed or breeds instead of an individual dog?

  • Sam

    Great reporting. BSL doesn’t work. It works for the insurance companies, which are greedy.

  • Roger

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. BSL should be banned. Thanks for these tips.

  • Hilliary

    I don’t see why towns should get involved. They aren’t making money on this, and it makes people not want to register their dogs. I know a lot of people who don’t get licenses for their Pit Bull Terriers because they are afraid their insurance company will find out. And many of these people just don’t tell their insurance agents they have a dog that is dubbed “dangerous.”

  • Luce

    Breed Discrimination doesn’t work for all of the reason you wrote about. However, if people are making money, it will continue. It is wrong.

  • Anne

    I have a Pit/Shepherd mix. Thankfully, I live in a state that doesn’t allow profiling.

  • MaryAlice

    Thanks Michele. Good article & I am a Pit Bull Terrier advocate. I have 3 rescues. All are great dogs.

  • Carol

    My Pit/Boxer mix sometimes scares the neighbors because of her size. Once people get to know her, she is well loved. Appearances are deceiving.

  • Jackie

    I’m in PA, and I hope those laws are not changed. Thanks for the info from Best Friends. It’s very helpful.

  • Sandra Cho

    I have a Chihuahua. When I dress her up, kids want to play with her. Other times, people are afraid of this little peanut. They believe that all Chihuahuas bite. Thanks for shedding light on this topic.

  • Maeve

    It is a shame that people like Briley don’t know what they are talking about. I read the news story about the proposal in Elephant Butte, NM. It seems they are imposing these laws because a child was mauled by a Pit Bull Terrier in a neighboring town. So far the neighboring town has not imposed BSL. I hope they don’t because we know it doesn’t work. The dog in the neighboring town should be muzzled, and that homeowner should pay for liability insurance. I agree that if a dog bites or has a history of biting then the owner should pay for liability insurance. This way they can help the victims with recovery and medical bills, which add up. However, to state that an entire breed is at fault just doesn’t make any sense.

  • Eva

    My neighbor has a Rotweiller, and she looks scary. But my neighbor is smart. She had a housewarming when she moved in and invited everyone to meet her well trained dog. Now, I love that there is this great watch dog next door, who is well behaved.

  • Marcie

    Thanks Mich! I live in FL, and am glad I am armed with the info from Best Friends. I will share with my friends. I have two German Shepherds.

  • Linda

    I have a standard poodle who had to be trained to behave around others. Kids and adults think that my dog is friendly because of her looks. She is sweet, but no one should approach a dog without asking if it is friendly first.

  • Clarice

    My Pit Bull is so well trained. I use her as a therapy dog. people who know her, love her.

  • Ginger

    Breed Discrimination is stupid. You can’t lump all of anything into one category. Not all “bully breeds” are dangerous. My cousin owns 2 pit bulls & they are such sweet, loving dogs.

  • Carol Hupp

    profiling is wrong for people and animals!!! thank you Michele

  • Fulvia

    Wonderful post! Thank you, Michele. As far as I’m concerned, all the dogs belonging to the so called “dangersous breeds” I bumped into were the most reliable and sweet and playful dogs ever! I had a mixed boxer pitt bull that was so funny! A canine Buster Keaton, an amazing, lovely creature!And my Neapolitan Mastiff, before him, was great! Now I’ve got small dogs, but they’re so temperamental some times, nothing to do with the good big guys…

  • Hi Fulvia, I love the line “A canine Buster Keaton.”–Thanks, Michele

  • Yolanda

    Great Job. Greatread keep up the great work :)

  • Thanks for this update. BSL is wrong and discriminatory. Besides, I know some people that should be banned from public places. Grrrr. TY, Michele.

  • PE Anderson

    Another great article and another great reveal of what the real problem is with most animals—people. One of the sweetest dogs I ever met was a Pitt-mix named Ziggy, who let the little girls in the house, his little sisters, paint his toenails. I won’t get up on a soapbox and write another article here. LOL Suffice it to say, you hit the nail on the head again, Michele. During a training session, my Maltese, who had a bit of leash aggression, bit a Pit Bull. We all lived to tell the tale and her trainer got to see just how much wolf was in that little white dog. :) Humans love to vilify others.

    The truth is that with improper care you can make any dog a mean dog, frightened, and aggressive. The key is to raise them responsibly and be good pet parents, the Michele tells us to be. :)

  • If an insurance company can charge more for anything they will, making this issue tougher to fight. It’s absurd to group any breed like this.

  • Kim O

    All kinds of profiling is wrong!! When will humans ever learn!! Thanks Michele!!

  • Rhonda

    Great job! BSL is BS. I’ve done lots of animal rescue transports, and there were only two times when a volunteer was bitten. One dog was a Dachshund, and the other was a Cocker Spaniel. And, many breeds are incorrectly identified as pit bulls when they are not. http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html

  • Helen Vassos

    I think that govts and councils must be very careful not to overstep certain boundaries and rights. As mentioned by many, any animal can be dangerous and that is usually because of the owner. Profiling dogs is unfair, and overstepping their jurisdiction. On the other hand pet owners, must assume their responsibilities for their pet’s actions.

  • Ronni Goddard

    Great article, Michelle. We used to have a Rottweiler, Oscar, and he was the softest creature you could wish to meet. He didn’t have a bad bone in his body and was a delightful companion for 12 years. I find it appalling that the insurance companies can tarnish the reputation of whole breeds.

  • Helen, I totally agree with you. If a dog has a history of biting, the owner should have liability insurance to cover costs to the victim. And it does frighten me that the government can step in a make these kind of rules.–Michele

  • Thanks for the link Rhonda. You are correct when you say that many dogs are incorrectly identified as pit bulls.–Michele

  • Hey Elizabeth, I was just thinking about you. I would love to hear the story of your Maltese biting a Pit. –Michele

  • Hi Carol, I know them too! I wish I didn’t.–Michele

  • Lisa

    As an awareness educator of this incredible breed, I can attest that profiling does NOT work nor does breed banning. My pit/boxer was a baitdog and came to me extremely anxious. He was fearful of everything but never a negative reaction. In fact, he was attacked by a shihtzu that latched on to his neck and all he could do was flail onto his back, screaming and crying, all the while peeing in the air. That little dog set my rehabbing of my boy back months! Almost all pit bull type breed attacks were due to the dog being extremely unsocialized, tethered outside with no human companionship and/or abused by humans. These owners SHOULD

  • Lisa

    oops….these owners SHOULD have to pay the liability of not caring for these dogs properly and ethically. The owners who DO properly train, house and care for their animals should not have to pay!
    Also, this one patriotic breed that was a tribute to what dogs are to families, with crime and ignorance on human and media parts, has now within 20 years become an abolishment to our society. The criminals and the abusers are the ones to blame for these dogs lashing out!

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