A Note to the U.S. Senate on Breed Specific Legislation (by Guest Blogger Molly Ballas)

First, get to know Molly here.  Then, read her culminating project.


FFFWR122I have spent the past few months researching the pros and cons of breed specific legislation (BSL) and have focused on the question “How does breed specific legislation affect the frequency of reports of dog bites in a community?” It is important to me to share some the knowledge I have gained on this issue with our Senators in hopes that they may come to understand the effects of BSL as I see them. Although I consider this letter to be appropriate to send to any member of Senate I have chosen to address this particular letter to Senator Jeff Merkley. Oregon currently only has one county that has implemented BSL but because I am an Oregon resident, I thought this would be a good place to start.

The Research Collection 

Note: The research collection is meant to be an informational series of articles/sources that can inform readers on the issues impacting the author’s research question.

Source 1

“MCHA News Article.” MCHA Monroe County Humane Association. MCHA, n.d. Web. 29

May 2013.  This is a short article that includes more resources than actual information within the article. It does, however, give a brief explanation of why breed specific legislation is ineffective including some information on Pit Bull breeding and temperament. Being a county association I believe that this is an authoritative source.

This article was a great starting point for me as it gives a basic overview of the issue of breed specific legislature. It also offers many other resources that support the claims of the article. This is a very straightforward and short article making it the perfect starting place for my research.

Source 2

Winn, Brett. “What’s Wrong with Breed Specific Legislation?” Examiner.com. Examiner, 7 Mar.

2013. Web. 29 May 2013.  This article gives a list of reasons why breed specific legislation is not a practical answer for the reduction of dog attacks. Although the website itself is not considered to be a credible source the author of this article only included factual and balanced information.

This article, though only slightly longer than the first, offered a number of interesting ideas and brought up some questions that helped guide my research. Although it wasn’t an incredibly academic article I liked how it felt a conversation and got me thinking.

Source 3

Hussain, Safia Gray. “Attacking the Dog-Bite Epidemic: Why Breed-Specific Legislation Won’t

Solve The Dangerous-Dog Dilema.” Fordham Law Review (2006): n. pag. Web. 29 May

2013.  This article explains why breed specific legislation came about in the first place and the different between that and dangerous-dog laws. It also examines statistics involving the frequency of dog attacks and canine homicides and how that relates to the laws that have been imposed. There is a history of Pit Bulls as a breed as well. This article appears in an academic journal making it an authoritative source.

I think this article does a great job of showing why people might be scared of certain breeds of dogs because of how they have been portrayed in the media. It included some of the more gruesome information and didn’t shy away from the idea that there are plenty of Pit Bulls out there that are extremely dangerous, but that doesn’t mean the entire breed is dangerous. I feel more confident looking at both sides of the argument after reading this article.

Source 4

Collier, Stephen, PHD. “Breed-specific Legislation and the Pit Bull Terrier: Are the Laws

Justified?” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 1.1

(2006): 17-22. Web.  This article offers an analysis of the prevalence of reported dog bites in Australia, as well as the correlation of the frequency of dog attacks and breed specific legislation. It takes into account a thorough collection of the breeds responsible for the majority of reported dog attacks and how that information has affected the laws in place whether or not those laws are effective or justified. This article is also from an academic journal making it an authoritative source.

I think that this article is what will influence my research the most. I think it gives the most thorough overview of the issues. It includes information about Pit Bulls as well as other dogs that are commonly included in breed specific legislation which I think made it a more well-rounded source of information for my research.

Source 5

“Dog Bites.” Dog Bites. American Humane Association, n.d. Web. 29 May 2013.  This website includes some very interesting and relevant statistics on dog bites. It is the best compilation of dog bite statistic I have found. It is published by the American Humane Society with is a nationally recognized, and respected organization making it an authoritative source.

The Public Writing

June 5th 2013

The Honorable Senator Jeff Merkley

313 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC. 20510

Dear Senator:  Merkley

As a pet owner and a concerned citizen I would like to urge you to consider the various consequences of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Because of some common but scientifically unsubstantiated stereotypes about certain breeds of dog (ex. Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers,) as dangerous and aggressive there have been laws passed across our nation discriminating against specific breeds and, as a consequence, their owners. However, there have been numerous studies that suggest that not only is BSL ineffective in reducing the number of canine attacks; it can actually increase the number of attacks. I have provided below, a short list of facts and statistics to shed some light on the issues surrounding BSL.

  • Any breed of dog can be taught to react aggressively and to bite.
  • According to The American Temperament Testing Society Pit Bull Terriers rate over 20 points higher than Chihuahuas on a scale from 1-100.
  • The presence of BSL discourages the ownership of targeted breeds by responsible dog owners and pushes breeding practices underground promoting unlawful activities such as dog fighting, and abuse.
  • 92 per cent of fatal dog attacks are perpetrated by unfixed males. Encouraging but not requiring spaying and neutering is a much more affordable way to reduce the number of dog attacks in a community.
  • The chance of aggressive behavior rises when a dog is left chained and unsupervised. Bills like the one just passed in Oregon (House Bill 2783) are a great way to reduce dog attacks.
  • “At least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the 238 dog-bite-related fatalities in the U.S.(American Humane Association.)
  • According to recent studies it is suggested the BSL has little impact on the number of reported dog bite cases.
  • Passing a Dangerous Dog Act that views dog attacks on a case by case basis is a more affordable and fair alternative to BSL.

I have included a list of sources for my research at the end of this letter for your convenience.

I believe that as a member of my community it is my responsibility to work to ensure the safety of my friends and neighbors. BSL is a dangerous practice that is known to encourage the training and over breeding of dogs that will be used for unlawful activities. BSL also adversely the affect the lives of responsible dog owners that would otherwise be able raise members of the targeted breeds as gentle and loving companions. The best thing that we can do for the safety of our communities and of our canine companions is say no to BSL and to put our time and energy into supporting responsible dog ownership.


Molly Ballas
Portland, Oregon




  1. emily keudell

    What an inspirational post, congrats on working with Fences for Fido they are amazing people! I’ve done adoption-fundraiser for them at my work a few years ago and a groomer near my shop promotes them in her shop too!
    The letter you wrote took courage and much time and effort, and as a bully breed lover I just want to thank you personally for doing this for our community. One of the papers I wrote was on breed bans. It is a very emotional research topic, I know I got teared up over it, so again thank you for your research. The letter is great and straight to the point. I have nothing to say about changes you could have made etc. I think it is all marvelously written.

  2. First of all, great letter! This is an issue that does not get much attention in our state (or at the national level) As a person who loves dogs and as seen first-hand how the effects of abuse and/or neglect can shape a dog’s demeanor, I completely agree. I think that your letter is well-written, thorough, and most importantly, straight to the point. I think using a bulleted list was a great idea: it makes for easier reading which I’m sure the senator will appreciate. I really liked your opening statement that “Because of some common but scientifically unsubstantiated stereotypes about certain breeds of dog – as dangerous and aggressive there have been laws passed across our nation discriminating against specific breeds” That line really grabbed my attention and made me consider my own perceptions about certain types of dogs. You also conclude strongly by offering a solution which really makes your point: “The best thing that we can do for the safety of our communities and of our canine companions is say no to BSL and to put our time and energy into supporting responsible dog ownership.” In fact, your last line makes it seem almost impossible for anyone to continue supporting BSL (I know I won’t after reading your work!) this was a great tactic to appeal to the reader’s logic.

    Your citations are strong which gives your letter a very authoritative tone, you’ve written with very persuasive confidence, and your research was really solid, with very credible sources and a wealth of good information which obviously did a good job of informing your argument. My only suggestion for strengthening your letter would be to add some examples of Oregon-specific legislation that is currently on the table or that may be up for renewal or dismissal at some point in the near future. Otherwise…wow. You really did an awesome job on this!

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