A breed of their own: an ever-changing landscape of controlling dog aggression

 

In recent years, questions over the banning of specific dog breeds has increased with the Georgia Senate disallowing any local authority from banning a specific breed, moving toward a case by case basis depending on regulations and ordinances instead of bans.

By DANIEL ROGERS, OLIVIA MAHOLIAS, and KATIE FISCHER

MARIETTA, Ga. – Recent changes in restrictions of dog breeds mirror the growing sentiment that dogs shouldn’t be restricted by breed, but more so their individual tendencies. Certain breeds, such as Pit Bulls, are deemed “aggressive” and often aren’t allowed on private properties and are even banned in some counties.

Recently, the Georgia State Senate passed a measure that would stop local officials from banning dog breeds outside of those banned by the state.

The bill still has to pass the Georgia House to become law. The law that it amends already allows local governments to adopt local ordinances or regulations that require “more restrictive control and regulation of dog behavior.”

The Dog Bite Attorney

Dog behavior regulations attempt to curb any harm that can be inflicted by an aggressive dog, with dog bitings being one of the main factors leading to these regulations and ordinances.

“If someone has a dog that has a propensity for aggression, or if the owner of the dog violated an ordinance such as allowing the dog to roam on its own, then any damages as a result of the dog’s actions will be covered by the owner’s homeowner insurance,” said attorney Benjamin Persons.

Persons, under Persons firm, specializes in dog bite injury law and provides evaluation of the attack and will file suits to “utilize the subpoena powers of the court to gather all necessary insurance information,” according to the Persons firm website.

“Within the small sample size of dog bite victims I have represented throughout the years, the smaller dog breeds tend to be more aggressive but the larger breeds, such as Pit Bulls, tend to lead to more devastating and permanent injuries,” said Persons. “The dogs tend to attack small children and women more so than any other group.”

Dog aggression isn’t a science

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Buchester holding the Pit Bull terrier she adopted after putting down the first one. (Photo by Olivia Maholias)

Hadley Burchester and her husband adopted a Pit Bull terrier just after getting engaged.

“We were told that the dog we were adopting had no aggressive tendencies and would make for a wonderful new family member,” said Burchester.

Two days after adopting the year old dog, Burchester was fixing herself lunch when she noticed the dog getting into the trash. While attempting to stop the dog from eating the trash, the dog suddenly attacked Burchester.

“He lunged at me, biting and scratching me. Luckily I made it to the bathroom before anything life-threatening happened. It was a terrible experience all-around because we had to put him to sleep,” said Burchester. “I was terrified of dogs, even small ones, for a while after. My sister-in-law has a little Yorkie that I have watched when they go out of town and I was still very hesitant around her at first.”

Buchester adds that she doesn’t think it’s specific breeds that are aggressive: “I think a bad situation and lack of proper training can make any dog aggressive,” she says.

“Along with psychological issues resulting in an attack comes with permanent physical scarring,” said Persons. “When a child is attacked, the scars can be seen as a deformity and can lead to a host of problems such as ridicule from their classmates.”

28-year-old Julianne Council grew up next door to a family who owned a Dalmatian.

“When I was 8 I went over to their house to play on their trampoline with my friends when the Dalmatian attacked my leg, which resulted in me getting 34 stitches,” said Council. “I now own a Rottweiler and two other dogs and am not scared of dogs as a whole, but I won’t go anywhere near a Dalmatian.”

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“I was told then that Dalmatians are the cause of a lot of attacks. You always hear about Pits and Rottweilers but you don’t hear about the other dogs that attack more often like Dalmatians and Chihuahuas,” said Council. (Photo by: Olivia Maholias) 

“From my experience throughout the years representing dog bite victims, I’ve noticed that the young kids, from 3 to 5, tend to forget the attack after a few weeks or months and children around the age 8 to 10 tend to remember the attacks vividly,” said Persons.

Banned Breeds

Ashley Deen recently moved out of her parent’s home into her own apartment. After signing the lease, she was asked if she had any pets.

“I told them I had a blue Pit and was informed by the property manager that I was not permitted to have my dog in the apartment because it was considered a ‘dangerous breed,’” said Deen. “I found this to be somewhat ridiculous. None of them had even met my dog and made this judgment/decision based solely on his breed.”

Call to Action

Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue, founded by Jason Flatt, is a volunteer rescue and outreach organization out of Dallas, Ga., specializing in Pit Bull rescue, adoption and fighting legislation against the breed.

“Pit Bulls aren’t for everyone, not everyone should own a Pit Bull, or a dog or a child for that matter,” said Flatt. “Our organization aims to spread awareness and end the negative stigmas that Pit Bulls have and prove that there are healthy relationships to be found between a Pit Bull and an owner.”

Every week the rescue holds an adoption event in Kennesaw, Georgia, and give a listing of all available dogs up for adoption on its website. The Facebook group for the rescue has over 12,000 likes and provides a space for individual dog’s stories to be shared so that the rescue can potentially find an available home for those dogs in need.

Following a recent trend of the last five years, DeKalb County has lifted the ban on Pit Bulls in its area. If the new Georgia State Senate legislation passes the House in the next legislative season, banning dog breeds will only become more difficult.

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