Banning breeds not the right approach to reducing dog attacks

02 Oct 2023

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) supports improving dog laws to better protect the community and promote responsible pet ownership. However, it does not back recent calls in Australia and overseas to ban specific dog breeds.

The AVA’s comprehensive report Dangerous Dogs – A Sensible Solution sets out the facts about dog attacks in Australia. It provides a detailed critique of breed-specific legislation that bans particular breeds of dog perceived to be aggressive.

“The AVA, along with the national veterinary associations of Britain, the United States and Canada, recognise that breed-specific approaches to dog regulation are not effective as they do not protect the public by reducing dog bite incidents,” said Dr Isabelle Resch, President of the AVA’s Australian Veterinary Behavioural Medicine special interest group.

According to Dr Resch dog bites are the result of a complex behaviour caused by the interaction of genetic factors, the learning and experience of the dog, pain and medical issues and the external environment they live in.

“A ‘Deed not Breed’ principle needs to be applied, which asserts that aggression in dogs is not tied to any particular breed, but is influenced by various individual factors and circumstances, not breed alone.

The AVA is calling for a multi-pronged response to reducing incidents of dog attacks. This would include a legislative approach to identifying individual potentially dangerous animals and preventing them from inflicting harm, and a well-designed education program directed at all segments of society, particularly children, and dog owners in lower socio-economic areas.

“There is a significant gap in community knowledge about how to live alongside and interact with animals, particularly dogs. This lack of understanding can lead to unsafe interactions and increase the risk of dog attacks,” Dr Resch explained.

The failure of breed-specific legislation to prevent dog attacks is due to a number of factors including:

  • breed on its own is not an effective indicator or predictor of aggression in dogs
  • the breed of dogs cannot be precisely determined by appearance or by DNA analysis
  • it ignores the human element whereby dog owners who desire this kind of dog will simply substitute another breed of dog of similar size, strength and perception of aggressive tendencies.

“The importance of being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to addressing dog behaviour issues cannot be overstated. We believe that governments’ attentions should be focused on prevention rather than consequences,” Dr Resch explained.

For more information refer to the AVA’s submission to the Queensland Government consultation on proposed changes to the Queensland Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Act 2008 to better protect their community from dangerous dogs.

For interview requests, call 0439 628 898 or email media@ava.com.au.