Banning dog breeds and preventing dog bites

Animals Animal Welfare Dogs Pet Care Legislation Posted Apr 13, 2023
Banning dog breeds is not an effective answer to preventing dog bites and altercations. Each individual dog should be assessed based on their actual behaviour - and there’s widespread agreement that there’s more to an individual dog’s tendency to bite than just breed.
Stop labelling dog breeds as bad

All too often we see the breed of dog mentioned when dog attacks and bites are reported in media. Not only can this be inaccurately reported and presented, but the breed of a dog is irrelevant to why the dog attack occurred. The breed of a dog does not make it any more friendly, or any more dangerous. Every dog has the potential to be aggressive or bite, and every dog owner has a responsibility to ensure their dog does not pose a danger to themselves or others.

Based on scientific evidence, the RSPCA does not support Breed Specific Legislation.

Dog attacks are a serious problem that requires a serious and effective long-term solution from government, councils and ourselves as members of the community.

Breaking Bully Breed Stigmas

It breaks our heart at the RSPCA to see regular hatred online and in the media for ‘bull’ breeds, seemingly largely due to dog attack reporting. We know, as do our adopters, just how incredible ‘bull breed’ dogs can be as companions and you guessed it, they’re the most common mix breed of dogs we rehome at the RSPCA in Queensland! Read about our Adoptabull campaign we created to break down this negative barrier.

A dog’s ability to bite

There is widespread agreement that a dog’s individual tendency to bite depends on at least five interacting factors:

  1. Heredity
  2. Early experience
  3. Socialsiation and training
  4. Health
  5. The behaviour of the victim

For any preventative strategy to be successful, it needs to address all factors as well as provide mechanisms to protect the community as a whole.

How we can prevent dog attacks
  1. Education
  2. We need to educate ourselves, and particularly children in dog behaviour and bite prevention. Before you interact with a dog at someone’s home, your own, or in public, you should know the basics of dog behaviour. This includes watching the dog’s body language to see if they give consent for the interaction, and understanding the signs that mean they are enjoying it and want it to continue.

    Children should always be supervised around dogs and never left unattended, no matter how well you know the dog. Hugging, kissing, sitting on dogs, pulling tails, and getting close to (or trying to take!) food can all trigger dogs to bite, and children need to learn early the best way of interacting with dogs both in the home and when out in public.

    If you’d like your child to learn more about interacting with animals, learn more from our education team and programs here.

    preventing dog bites children

  3. Dog training and human training
  4. Dog training programs based on reward-based training provide an opportunity to educate owners on responsible dog ownership, basic dog behaviour and the use of appropriate training techniques. If you do have behavioural concerns about your dog, being proactive and seeking help from a reward-based trainer as early as possible can make all the difference in preventing further issues down the track.Learn more about dog training and classes to suit dogs of any age by speaking to our School for Pets team.

    dog training and socialisation

  5. Socialisation with people and other animals
  6. Unsocialised dogs are more likely to show aggressive behaviour. It is imperative if you’re getting a dog to ensure you have the time to train them and socialise them from an early age to set them up to be the best dog they can be as they grow old.

  7. Control of unrestrained and free-roaming animals
  8. If you are walking your dog off-lead, please consider others, it is legally required when in public to have your dog on a lead. It doesn’t matter how well trained your dog is or how friendly they are, you are in more control of a situation if your dog is on lead. Read more here about off-lead dog areas and how to protect yourself if you’re approached by a dog off-leash.

    When dogs stray from home they can become stressed and they can also find themselves in situations they aren’t used to, which can cause them to bite or end up in a fight. Ensure you can keep your dog secure on your property at all times. We know, sometimes dogs do escape and get lost, so it’s important to do all you can to prevent them from straying.

  9. Desexing of non-breeding dogs
  10. Did you know that desexing can have a positive impact on your dog’s health and behaviour? Entire male dogs may be more likely to display aggressive behaviour and female entire dogs add to this risk by attracting entire males.

    Please do your bit and desex your dog, you can also take advantage of cheaper council registrations when you do!

  11. The RSPCA also supports registration and microchipping of all dogs. This is so dogs can easily be traced to their owners.
How we can prevent dog attacks

Legislation alone does not mean less dog attacks.

Legislation will not prevent dog attacks if there continue to be unregistered, unidentified, untrained, poorly socialised, and undesexed dogs at loose in the community. Legislation and enforcement need to be proactive, but with limited resources they will remain reactive and reliant upon complaints from the community to highlight problems.

Incentives for pet owners doing the right thing.

Additional initiatives could be considered for pet owners that have completed dog training and education programs.

When is needed in Australia is a long-term commitment from State, Territory and local governments to move away from breed-specific legislation towards a preventative approach to dog attacks that encompasses all the above key elements, is adequately resourced and includes both incentives for compliance and penalties for non-compliance.

Emma Lagoon
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