Would Breed-Specific Laws Protect Fort Wayne Residents from Dog Bites?

Aggressive German shepherd on training.

In the 1980s, communities throughout the country began to enact laws that ban or regulate certain breeds of dogs. The goal of these laws is to reduce the risk of dog bites by limiting the public’s exposure – especially children – to breeds that are deemed to be more dangerous than others. Most of these laws focus on one particular breed: Pit bulls.

Today, more than 900 communities in our country have these breed-specific laws on their books, including 11 cities and counties in Indiana, according to Dogsbite.org. Fort Wayne is not one of them. Our city takes a breed-neutral approach to preventing dog bites.

Here, we take a look at the pros and cons of breed-specific legislation, explain Fort Wayne’s breed-neutral laws and discuss what you should do if you or a loved one suffers a dog bite.

What Are The Potential Benefits of Laws that Target Specific Dog Breeds?

Many people who support breed-specific legislation rely on numbers. They point to statistics which indicate that certain breeds of dogs are involved more often in fatal attacks than other canines. They point specifically to pit bull dog bite statistics.

Dogsbite.org – relying on news reports and other data – reports that pit bulls contributed to 29 of the country’s 39 dog bite-related deaths in 2017, or 74 percent. That was more than seven times higher than the breed with the second-highest number of fatalities, German shepherds.

Additionally, Dogsbite.org reports that between 2005 and 2017, pit bulls contributed to 284 of the country’s 433 dog-bite related fatalities, or roughly two-thirds of the total. Rottweilers, the breed involved in the second-highest number of deaths, accounted for 45 (or around 10 percent).

Proponents of breed-specific legislation say that these numbers indicate the need for laws that prohibit pit bulls or other breeds of dangerous dogs. At the very least, they claim that these numbers should require owners of the dangerous breeds to take extra steps to control their dogs. For instance, a law may allow pit bull owners to walk their dog in a park or other public place only if the dog is leashed or muzzled.

What Are The Potential Drawbacks of Breed-Specific Legislation?

Even though hundreds of communities throughout the country have breed-specific laws, an overwhelming number of organizations believe that these laws are not the answer. The Humane Society provides a summary of the many organizations opposed to breed-specific legislation, including:

  • American Veterinary Medical Association
  • American Kennel Club
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
  • National Canine Research Council
  • National Animal Control Association
  • American Bar Association.

These organizations point out that dog bite-related fatality statistics can be misleading and should not serve as the basis for enacting laws. This is because fatal dog bites represent only a small fraction of the total dog bites that occur in the country.

Additionally, even though one breed may be involved in a high number fatal dog bites, the fact remains that numerous breeds contribute to deaths. For example, in 2017, at least 12 breeds were involved in such attacks, according to Dogsbite.org.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) raises several other arguments against breed-specific laws such as:

  • In order to avoid getting caught with a banned breed, dog owners may fail to get proper veterinary care for their animals, including vaccinations and spaying or neutering. This could lead to the spread of diseases such as rabies.
  • The people that exploit dogs for activities such as dog-fighting may simply turn to other breeds and raise them to be aggressive and dangerous.
  • The focus on enforcement of breed-specific laws may take attention away from other laws that could be more effective such as laws that ban fighting, require leashing and impose requirements on how dogs are tethered.

What are Fort Wayne’s Dog Bite Laws?

Fort Wayne has taken a breed-neutral approach to prevention of dog bites. The city of Fort Wayne’s ordinances include:

  • A leash law that requires a dog to be under the control of a leash whenever the owner or attendant takes the dog off the property.
  • A law that allows Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control to classify a dog as being “potentially dangerous” and take measures that can prevent attacks.
  • Another law that requires a dog to be spayed or neutered, and the dog’s owner to attend a responsible dog care class, if the dog bites or attacks a person or another animal while running loose.

Additionally, Fort Wayne has an ordinance that prohibits people from owning or possessing dogs that are classified as “dangerous.” A dog can fall into this category if the dog:

  • Bites or attacks a person or animal on three occasions
  • Bites or attacks a person or animal once, causing a wound or injury that creates “potential danger” to the victim’s health or life
  • Could not be restrained or controlled at the time of the bite or attack
  • Was bred, bought, sold, trained or harbored for the purpose of fighting
  • Was previously microchipped by Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control or a veterinarian for the purpose of determining if a bite or attack occurred.

What Should You Do If a Dog Attacks You or a Loved One?

Although Fort Wayne’s breed-neutral laws are the type that organizations believe to be the most effective approach to the prevention of dog bites, the reality is that these attacks still occur. If you or a loved one should suffer harm in a dog attack, you should take these steps:

  • Get information at the scene. You should exchange names and contact information with the dog’s owner or the person in control of the dog at the time of the attack. If possible, you should also get the names of witnesses.
  • Get medical attention right away. A doctor can treat the wound as well as take steps to prevent infection. Additionally, you may need shots to prevent additional complications.
  • Report the attack to the police and/or Animal Care & Control. An animal control officer may take steps such as quarantining the dog, which could prevent other people from suffering similar harm.
  • Save everything. Keep the clothes you wore on day of the attack, photos you took of your wounds and/or of the dog which attacked you and copies of your medical bills and receipts of all other expenses brought on by the bite.

The most important step you can take is to see a lawyer about your case. An experienced Fort Wayne dog bite attorney from Truitt Law Offices, for instance, will provide a free consultation, start an immediate investigation of your case and work aggressively to recover all compensation that you are entitled to receive. To learn more, call or reach us online today.

Visit Our Dog Bite Injury Law Offices

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About the Author

As an attorney who has practiced law in Northeast Indiana for nearly four decades, Richard Truitt has seen many changes in the way personal injury and wrongful death cases are handled. However, at least one aspect of his work has remained the same. “You always have to listen to your clients, and you have…