LANSING (WWJ) – Hundreds of pet owners and animal activists are holding a rally in Lansing to urge lawmakers to put an end to breed specific legislation, which allows communities to ban certain types of dogs based solely on their appearance.
Courtney Protz- Sanders, with the group Make Michigan Next, said the state’s current law infringes on a person’s right to own whatever breed of dog they choose. But more troubling, she said, is that the law bans certain dogs based on their looks alone.
“The difficulty of BSL or breed discrimination is that it relies on the idea that you can identify a breed of dog base on looking at it… but you can’t identify a dog just based on what it looks like,” Protz- Sanders told WWJ’s Pat Vitale. “Studies have been done and they’ve found that when experts try to identify dog breeds based on appearance, they’re wrong 84 percent of the time. If the experts are wrong 84 percent of the time, then we certainly can’t expect our neighbor to identify what type of dog breed we have.”
The rally will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday with local and national speakers bringing attention to the plight of pet owners and breed discrimination in Michigan.
“When this happens, families have very difficult decisions to make. Uprooting your family or selling your house isn’t always an option, so that then forces them to get rid of their dog and in some cases, they’ve had these dogs for 10, 12 years and have never had a problem but now, based solely on what that dog looks like, they’re no longer allowed to keep that family member,” Protz- Sanders said. “We’ve invited all of the legislators to come down and meet some people, some Michigan families, who have been victimized by breed discrimination laws and talk to them about what they’ve been through.”
While pit bulls get most of the attention, breed specific laws can also include German Shepherds, Rottweilers, bulldogs — and any dog that looks like them.
“There are about 35 breeds of dogs that are banned somewhere in the state of Michigan,” Protz- Sanders said. “Waterford is one of our bigger townships and they’ve had their ban the longest, it goes back to the 1980’s, and they have seen no increase in dog bites.”
Instead of targeting the breed, Protz- Sanders said authorities should focus on the animal’s human counterpart.
“Dog bites have more to do with owner responsibility, owner management or in many cases mismanagement of their dog’s behavior. We want laws to be enforced that punish behavior versus what the dog looks like. In that case, all dogs are treated equally. Good owners with good dogs shouldn’t be discriminated against solely on what their dog looks like,” she said.
So far, 19 states have banned breed specific legislation.