Accessibility and Access Keys [4]

Skip to Content [2]

Dangerous dogs and breed bans

The National Companion Animal Coalition (NCAC), of which the CFHS is a founding member, defines a dangerous dog as:

  • A dog that has killed a person or domestic animal, regardless of the circumstances
  • A dog that has bitten or injured a person or domestic animal. Exceptions may be made if the dog was teased, abused, assaulted or if the dog was reacting to a person trespassing on the property owned by the dog’s owner
  • A dog that has shown the disposition or tendency to be threatening or aggressive an attack trained dog1

Dangerous dogs are generally the result of an irresponsible owner and, contrary to popular belief, dangerous dogs can exist in every breed and breed cross. As well, the incidence of dog bites has not been shown to be reduced by restricting the ownership of certain dog breeds. Aggressive dog behaviour can be attributed to a lack of appropriate training and socialization, inappropriate breed choice for owner’s lifestyle, failure to spay or neuter and mistreatment on behalf of the owner or person interacting with the dog.

breed ban
The issue of banning breeds that are thought to be more prone to aggressive behaviours has become the subject of debate – and legislation – at the municipal and provincial levels. Some municipalities have imposed tough by-laws against dog breeds that they have been deemed to be dangerous, such as pit-bulls. However, there are several reasons why breed-specific bans are problematic:

  • There is no objective method of establishing lineage of cross bred dogs or dogs which are not registered with a national kennel club. In addition, many municipalities do not have access to qualified persons that could accurately perform breed identification.
  • Dangerous dogs may exist in every breed and breed cross.
  • Dangerous temperament and behaviour are products of many factors other than just breed.
  • This type of ban will result in exclusion of some dangerous dogs, and inclusion of dogs that are not dangerous.
  • The incidence of dog bites has not been shown to be reduced by restricting the ownership of certain dog breeds.

The NCAC has developed a fact sheet on this issue entitled, Reducing the Incidence of Dog Bites and Attacks: Do Breed Bans Work? [pdf file: 0.45mb] While this document is unlikely to end the debate on this contentious matter, it at least contributes some valuable information to what promises to be an ongoing discussion.

Other preventive measures: Should dog owners be licensed?
Maybe licensing dog owners would be a sensible approach, rather than licensing the dogs. We are required to obtain a license to drive a car and to have a gun because those things can be dangerous to us and to others. A dog can be dangerous too, so would it not be a reasonable requirement for dog owners to obtain a license and to meet certain criteria? This would be an effective way of ensuring people have adequate knowledge and reasonable expectations before getting a dog and are prepared to spend time and energy training and socializing the dog and being a responsible dog owner.

1 Szpakowski, NM et al. An epidemiological investigation into the reported incidents of dog biting in the City of Guelph. Can Vet J 1989; 30:937-942.

Print this page
Subscribe to our newsletter