A lot of people have asked why we would choose to host a VSPDT Dog Bite Prevention conference in Miami - a city in the news recently for its unwillingness to overturn a law banning certain types of dogs based on the way they look.
As any regular readers of this website and/or my social media feeds knows, I am a vocal and proud supporter of the worldwide efforts to overturn breed-specific legislation (BSL) like that which is currently on the books in Miami. But far from shunning such municipalities, I feel it is even more crucial that those of us armed with the statistics, knowledge and common sense about the inefficiencies and unfairness of BSL to attack the issue in such cities' back yards.
Miami is not alone in its decision to restrict ownership of certain breeds in an effort to reduce dog bites. Indeed, the proliferation of BSL in communities is global and widespread. What the generally well-meaning proponents of these laws don't know or don't make public, however, is that we've yet to find any municipality which has instituted BSL and seen the number of dog bites decrease. In fact, bites in the UK have risen steadily since the introduction of the BSL-laden Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 - a trend mirrored worldwide.
Big, strong bully breeds have continually been demonized as 'killer dogs' and correspondingly decreased in number, only to see the tragic news of more serious maulings and deaths of young children become more and more frequent.
Such tragedies are the inspiration for the creation of the Dog Bite Prevention Task Force and the global Dog Bite Prevention Conferences like the one we're holding in Miami on April 26th. These dire and fatal attacks must stop, and they can if we continue to educate everyone - not just dog owners, and not just people who have certain types of dogs. Every parent, every child, every educator, mail carrier, aunt, uncle and nanny needs to understand more about dog body language, what are warning signs from potentially dangerous dogs, and that any breed of dog can bite, just as any breed of dog can make a good family pet.
The Dog Bite Conferences are igniting a conversation about that need for education. We don't want to preach to the choir - we need teachers, doctors, lawyers, animal control officers, parents, and dog owners all to come together to begin to understand what does (and what does not) constitute a dangerous dog in order to stop these heartwrenching tragedies from occurring.
The next Dog Bite Conference is on April 26th in Miami, and I encourage everyone to spread the word to everyone they know so that we can begin to turn the tide in this fight against ignorance and dangerously misplaced warning systems.