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Breed specific legislation
A New Year and decade is upon us! As we celebrate the New Year, there is also a new law to celebrate for animal advocates. Washington State is taking a big step forward to fight unfair breed based bans. The new law will allow dog owners to avoid breed based restrictions if they can prove that their pets are well-behaved. 

House bill 1026 requires local jurisdictions to not just focus on a dog and its physical features, but on how the dog is behaved. If a dog can pass the American Kennel Clubs Canine Good Citizen program, or an equivalent test determined by the city or county where the dog lives, the pet parents will no longer live in fear that their pet can be taken from them. The program includes tests on whether an animal will react aggressive towards strangers, being pet and interacting with other dogs that are unfamiliar to them. Dogs who pass the test are exempt from dog bans for two years, while dogs who have not passed are allowed to take it again after a reasonable amount of time.

Breed specific legislation (bsl) hurts everyone, but especially dogs who have certain characteristics such as short coats, a muscular build and a broad chest. Animals with these and other characteristics are unfairly targeted by breed based bans. According to the organization Responsibly Dog Owners of the Western States, there are currently 75 banned or restricted breeds in the United States and 700 cities that have bsl, affecting thousands of dogs across the country.

Bsl is most often discussed and enacted after a tragic accident. It’s understandable that a community wants to protect its citizens, but mostly, bsl punishes responsible dog owners with well-behaved dogs, while doing very little to actually punish irresponsible owners. Numerous studies have been published showing that the time an owner spends caring for and training a dog is correlated. The more time, the better behaved a dog is, while if the owner spends less time with the dog, the more badly behaved the dog is. Other studies support evidence that any dog, no matter what breed, can be trained to be aggressive. 

Well respected organizations who work for the betterment of animals including the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Animal Control Association, the American Bar Association, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and many others recognize the flaws of bsl laws.

As people learn to understand more about bsl, hopefully more cities and states throughout the country will follow Washington’s lead.