Legislation possibility for Large Powerful breed dogs

cane-corsoIt is understandable that in America, a place that values freedom and individual rights above all else would allow anyone to own any type of dog breed you want, including wolf hybrids.

This article is not about current Australian Proposed BSL. It is about how legislaton might be enacted to ensure large powerful breed dogs are socialialised. It is about ensuring that large powerful breeds are owned by responsible owners who walk and socialise their dogs. 

This discussion is about large powerful large dogs, because small unsocial dogs (while not ideal) are unlikely to cause human or dog deaths as much as large powerful dogs (accoding to CDC statistics) see ref.


What is a large powerful breed? You may use a counter argument that any dog on the list of dogs that have caused human deaths is a dangerous breed, so in some tables, Labradors could be banned. But more on that later.

Below is the statistic that most BSL legislators will be considering. Note I am not advocating killing or banning specific dog breeds. 

American 8-Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart - 2005 to 2012

Dog Breed



Pit Bull









Mixed Breed



American Bulldog



German Shepherd















(3 and less) Combination






















There is a strong case for only non-fighting dogs (dogs not regularly used in illegal dog fights in the US) or non guard dogs being kept in urban areas.  If they are to be kept they should be kept by owners who are registered for a dangerous breed, and that they to comply with certain levels of proficiency of control.

This article is not about banning a dog breed as such, or killing ones currently owned. It is about better control of dogs (and perhaps the larger more dangerous breed dogs owners). Note a "Declared dangerous dog" is a term used by councils. 

At the moment in Australia if you own a dog declared to be part of a "dangerous dog  breed", your only requirements are you pay your registration fee. You can then take them to any off lead dog park and let them loose.  Some dogs are supposed to have muzzles on but it is impossible for councils to police.

Because 'dangerous dogs' (and especially those dog specifically bred to latch onto large game, usually in Australia used for pig hunting) are often resistant (independent) to learning commands (particuarly from non experts), and can take a lot of time and money to train, people either have dangerous breed dogs off lead when they should not be, or they leave them in their yard and the dogs energy builds up to a boiling point. These dogs might decide to escape and harm people or become very anti social waiting for a chance to harm. 

It is true that some people own very placid dogs that are part of the 'dangerous breeds'. There are passive and aggressive dogs in every breed. But not every dog breed is as dangerous to humans. If you own a dog that is considered a 'dangerous breed' and it is great at home, great with the kids, it does not mean that it is great when in an open dog park, or that it is social to strangers. Any legislation would be aimed at the bad dog owners who mistreat these powerful breed dogs, so that they are required to provide a certain level of proficiency in handling, and the dogs are made to be social. A small anti social dog is NOT the same as a large powerful breed dog that is anti-social.  

I have had initial client meetings with enough rescue dogs, and met large 'dangerous breed' or similar style dogs in off lead areas to comment on this. if you are an owner of a 'dangerous breed dog' which is a nice temperatment, well done on your training.

Interestingly in America almost anyone can own a wolf hybrid, but in Australia Dingo crosses are banned. 

As a dog walker, I know the vital importance of a long off lead dog walk at least once per day. Learning to be social (without harm to others) is important for 'dangerous breeds', but this rarely happens to this extent. Very few owners have the trainer skills or TIME to ensure this.

Some owners of dangerous breed such as pit bulls choose this dog for its guarding abilities. The reason that this discussion usually centres on pit bulls is that in America typically 60% of all human dog related deaths each year are caused by pit bulls and they make up only 5% of the dog population (see reference link). Not all larege breed owners are irresponsible, but for those that are, there are deadly consequences. People will continue to argue against these statistics, however if they are anywhere near to be correct, then what is the arguement?

Whether 'bad owners' buy these massively muscular dogs for their own status and ego, or to protect property (and sometimes illegal activities) is impossible to say (good records are rarely kept of owner intentions). But it spoils the reputation of all the good owners of large breeds.

It is more likely that breeds selected for the above activities are not going to be well looked after and socialised, and they dramatically increase the risk to the public. As there are no ongoing competency tests, any daily walk (long and off lead) to foster socialisation, how does just increasing registration cost effectively control against the 'wrong owners' owning these dogs?  

There are longer periods for P plate drivers on the roads,  there are stong penatlties for breaking road rules, but anyone can own almost any breed of dog and never be tested for competeance. When you get a bike license you cant buy a 1000CC bike, but you can buy the most powerful dog on earth. Whether it is the 1% of 'dangerous breed' dog ownes that give the rest a bad name, it doesnt change the end result of the same breeds mostly being responsble for killing.

I have been told by anti bsl people that it is hard to identify pit bulls etc. And that dna testing is inadmissable in court etc. Rather than help solve an ongoing issue that they might be unfairly being blamed for (the good socialisation owners), they deflect the issue and abuse anyone who dare highlight statistics. The other fact that 50% of the deaths are of a family member (of these peaceful large loving family dogs) doesn not concern them.

The few people who can sufficiently control these kinds of dogs speak up for their rights but unfortunately every year there are enough deaths (in America) and MANY more serious bites that suggest that society would benefit from restrictions (not necessarily bans or killing dogs). Pit bulls and other decleared 'dangerous' dogs (ones used for illegal fighting) are often trained by inexperienced people to attack. Or neglected in the back yard, or given insufficient regular discipline, which has the same result.

Cesar Milan has many pit bulls at his clinic in LA, but then again he is one of the best dog trainers in the world, and he takes them for four hour hikes in the hills to drain their energy, then roller blading runs in the afternoon. How many owners do you know who do that EVERY DAY for their dog? Again, it doesnt matter how great a powerful dog  breed is in its own yard. it is the consequences usually when it is away from its home and it is not social with other unknown dogs. Even a lot of good powerful breed dog owners would struggle to pass this test.

Any dog that is not given off lead social contact regularly with other dogs is diminished psychologically. This is not a slight against owners who do not walk their dogs daily, but the point is, a sporting type dog, not socialised presents FAR less of a risk to society than dogs capable of killing large wild game. AGAIN, this is not an attack on every owner of large potentially dangerous dogs (known to have killed) but how do you seperate good and bad owners of large 'dangerous breed dogs'. 

There is a strong chance that any Labradors that have killed children are not walked daily and have become very anti-social. Labradors also make up a large percentage of the total dog breeds in society and so they are likely to feature at some stage in statistics. This argument against BSL is used as a red herring. Again MY Bsl is not about killing or banning. IT is about socialisation.

The poweful dogs/ fighting dogs and guard dog breeds are an obvious choice for restriction or more extensive compliance, because the above table figures are only for reported deaths, not from the many more reported and unreported dog bites that occur every year.

What are Ancient breed dogs?

These are dogs that share a very high percentage of their DNA with wolves and are often notoriously hard to train. Like the wolf they are robust and are independent dogs. This is not bad for a consistent highly skilled trainer or walker, but there is no correlation or requirement between breed and owner skills.

The reason that there are not a lot of ancent breed dog associated deaths each year, is that their total numbers are relatively small, and you rarely see these dogs out (except for huskys and malamute locally).

The dangers of Wolf Hybrids

Yes America is in love with breeding any dog they want with a wolf. The nature of the wolf is that it cannot be easily tamed, let alone trained. If you take a 'dangerous breed' dog, guard dog or ancient dog and breed it with a wolf, you are just asking for trouble.  This is the same reason why people don't usually breed dogs with jackals or hyenas.

pit bullA possible RESULT of large numbers of 'dangerous breed' dogs in Australia

The only reason that there have not been more humans killed by 'dangerous dogs' is that that unlike America they do not make up a sizeable percentage of the dog population, yet.  And a lot of owners dont take their dogs to off lead dog parks yet.  If you go to dog parks regularly, you will observe that most people who own these dogs don't go regularly to off lead areas with their dogs. Hence the dog is not truly social. 

Besides a neglected 'dangerous breed' dogs behaviour usually being more aggressive, they have a much higher jaw pressure to hang onto the big game they were bred to catch. These are not things that regular breeds possess. Scent hounds can hunt rabbit and feral pigs, but for some reason aggressive large dogs are preferred. 

No this does not mean that every owner of a 'dangerous' breed is irresponsible. Or that  pit bulls or Rottweiler or other potentially 'dangerous breed' dogs will all be dangerous, but self regulation obviously isn't working in America, and with a large wave or people buying American Staffys and pit bulls in Australia, a very dangerous time is approaching (if they are bought by the people who dont socialise these dogs and purposefully make their dogs aggressive).

"The pitbull is not a distinct breed which may make it difficult for experts to identify" - that said, pit bull, american staffie and american boxer dogs are all considered 'dangerous' by some communities. I see people with dangerous breeds who are not in control of their dogs letting them loose in parks. It doesn't matter as much if a harmless, social retriever jumps on someone. Yes all dogs should be in control, but not every dogs has as much killing potential.

I see fights between dogs (dangerous dog breed V any other dog) break out and owners try and separate them without damage. My dog was recently attacked by a dog described by the 'dog control officer' as a pit bull. It was an unprovoked attack in a busy main street. My dog was on lead, the other dogs was not. The owner has been found and they may get a fine (and my choose not to pay it). They may be told not to own a dog (but they might choose to keep it with a friend). The dog was not registered, and the fine and ban are a poor deterrance. Shame how some people spoil it for the other owners. HOWEVER if it was made harder for such an owner to own such a dog, perhaps my dog would not have nearly been mauled to death.   

Why Council restrictions of Deadly breed dogs currently dont work

The three main options for control are to do nothing, to ban the breeds (BSL) or to monitor the breeds.

The last point would usually be administered by overworked council staff. And there in lies the impracticality. All dog breeds should be registered with council with high fines for not doing so, but it is not a major deterrant.

All dogs could be DNA tested at a reasonable cost. This is because some people are flying under the radar with banned dogs because they look like they might be another breed. Other people say that their breeds (like boxers), can sometimes look like a banned breed and they are at risk of having their dog confiscated. Legislation would need to be worked out about which breeds and which percentage of cross breeds would be required to undergo strict control such as the measures below.

All dogs could be dna tested and a one off low fee (sponsored by the governement) could be applied.

All dogs benefit from a daily exercise regime, however 1-2 hours for these 'dangerous breeds/ classified dangerous breeds  is the bare minimum to drain some of their high energy reserves. Remember Cesar Milan's four hour Hollywood hills runs?

YOU should also realise that many dogs behave VERY differently in a home environement to when they are outside of the home. If an anti social dangerous breed dog gets loose in the streets, then it is a much great issue than a small upset dog.

A continual training schedule could be imposed and if dogs are not present for training say 25 weeks out of a year, then the dog is surrendered. But nobody wants to sign off on forcing owners to part with their dogs. 

Fining people for breaches does little to abate harm. Particularly from those people who do not register their dogs.

I love all dogs. And yes that extends to all dog breeds. But I must take a lot of extra care if I take on a dog that is large and I consider to have possible aggression issues. As said you often dont know until you get to a park. 

I find the wolf a noble creature, and the dingo too. But from my daily dog walks, I see the danger to life from large uncontrolled dogs, bred to kill (at least in illegal dog fights). No it is not the dogs fault, but you can't fine a dog. Self regulation is clearly not working, and fighting restrictions ( including regular enfoced training) may not be the simple answer it seems.

For more information on dog kill statstics

Article by Bruce Dwyer. 

Please note, if you are an anit bsl person, more power to you.  This is not about taking away good dogs from good owners. It is about reducing the number of 'dangerous dogs in dangerous owner's hands'. 


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