Over 10 Years of The Aurora Breed Ban

Since 2005, residents of Aurora have had to deal with a breed ban that is simply not an effective way of managing dangerous dogs. Numerous professional and legal organizations have come forward to strongly oppose the Aurora breed ban legislation. Some of these organizations include the American Bar Association, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), the National Animal Control Association (NACA) and even the Center for Disease Control (CDC)- to name a few. Every single one of these organizations has conducted its own independent studies and research on the issue and have duly concluded that breed-specific laws are not the way to go. But yet they continue.

The truth of the matter is that the ban has not done anything to ensure the safety and well-being of the people of Aurora, Colorado. The number of dog bites in Aurora has actually increased over the years since the law was put into effect. Immediately after the law was passed, there was a surge in the number of cases of aggressive dogs in the city. The raw numbers clearly show that the enactment of legislation into law did absolutely nothing to improve the safety of the public. The reverse was however true.

Dog bites from targeted breeds only account for 15% of dog bites that occur in Aurora. The remaining 85% of dog bite cases are from breeds that are not targeted by the ban. Most people are not aware of these crucial facts. Even with this information right out there in the open many media outlets in the Aurora and Denver area are not willing to publish these facts. The facts simply aren’t as interesting as sensationalizing the next dog bite.

Over the years, many people who have supported the ban including Aurora City Council members have come to realize that it has done more harm than good. This realization has been long overdue despite the supporting factual information that is there for people to see. The truth of the matter is that public safety has not improved because of the enactment of this legislation into law. The people behind the ban in the first place have been strongly criticized for not approaching the issue with fairness and open minds. The different opinions regarding the ban have led some crucial figures in Aurora to associate the banned dog breeds with certain social classes of people and races. Such associations are obviously beside the point and they do not help to address the big issue of public safety that is in everyone’s mind.…

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Fighting Perception: “Pit Bull” Labels

We’ve talked before about how BSL (breed specific legislation) only perpetuates perceptions of pit bulls, American bulldogs or other targeted dogs as being dangerous. Laws like this force shelters into precarious positions where they have aggressively label dogs and fit mixed breed dogs into specific categories in order to comply with people’s perceptions or legislative requirements. A recent study published in March 2016 reviews how this labeling has been extremely detrimental to dogs called pit bulls (even if they aren’t actually pit bulls!). The accuracy of shelters (or anyone) in identifing pit bull dogs is an article for another day.

The study found that between two dogs that look very similar, the one with the pit bull label will have a  very different path through the shelter. Perhaps a path that ends in euthanasia.

So what’s in a name? Apparently a whole heck of a lot.

Some of the key points of the study include:Dogs with the label of pit-bull end up with a 3x longer stay than a similar looking shelter dog that doesn’t get the pit bull label.

Dogs with the label of pit-bull end up with a 3x longer stay

Researchers looked into adoptions records at an Arizona shelter. From there, they found 15 dogs that were labeled as pit bulls and another 15 that were very similar to the “pit bulls” but that had not gotten the same breed label. What did they find? That despite both dogs having similar coats, size, markings, and head shapes the dogs with the pit bull label had a length of stay lasting 42 days. The other group? Only 13 days.

Remember, these are dogs that appear very similar but have a different name attached them.

How similar? Check out this image pulled from a Washington Post article on the same study:

pitbull and boxer but they'ere the same dog

Researchers did not find other reasons to suggest the difference in length of stay beside the naming used. The further confirm this bias, they created a short video using the similar looking dogs to potential adopters at the Arizona shelter. When the researchers labeled the dogs as pit bull or otherwise, viewers ranked the similar looking dogs are more attractive than the pit bulls.

How Does This Work?

The researchers then looked at people’s perception of the dogs in general. They showed pictures of a Labrador retriever, border collie, and a pit bull to a group of roughly 50 college students and almost 200 Reddit users. They asked them to place into the following categories:

  • Approachable
  • Smart
  • Friendly
  • Aggressive
  • Difficult to train
  • Adoptable

The pit-bull type dogs ranked the lowest in all categories except two. And I’m sure you already know what they are. Study participants felt that the pit bull dogs were the most aggressive looking and the most difficult to train.

Additionally, participants were shown similar dogs but this time next to an elderly woman, a small boy, and a tattooed man. Participants thought that the dogs next to the elderly women or the boy looked friendly or more adaptable than the dogs next to the tattooed man. In this case, the issue if the association of pit bull dogs with unsavory humans.

 That’s Horrible! Right? Well…

Well, there is an upside. Perception is fluid. And not to get too existential on you but there is true nature of human perception. It is malleable. The study shows the current public perception of pit bull dogs. But even more interesting, it shows how easy it be adjusted. While we can’t find an elderly woman for every old woman we can promote pit bull and bully breeds as the great family dogs that they are. This study shows how negative media coverage in which every dog attack seems to be perpetrated by a pit bull can be extremely damaging to all dogs.

So What Can We Do?

Get the word out! Tell your friends, family, and coworkers about the study or this article. If you’re in a shelter or adoption facility try the experiment yourself. By showing people how fluid their perceptions really are you allow them to step outside of them and see these “pit bulls” for what they really are: loving, caring dogs looking for a forever home.

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