S. 90/H. 198: An Act relative to animal welfare and DCF regulations
MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsor: Senator Adam Gomez and Representative Jack Patrick Lewis
Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities; hearing held September 26, 2023.
What does the bill do?
This legislation would prevent Department of Child and Family Services (DCF) from using breed as factor to determine whether a family can adopt or foster children. Currently, no child under age 12 will be placed in a home where Rottweiler, Pit Bull or German Shepherd dog, or a dog which mixes at least 2 of these 3 breeds, is maintained on the premises.
At the recommendation of PAWS II commission on animal cruelty reporting, this bill will also remove timing restrictions in the statutes that allow employees and contractors of human services agencies to report suspected animal cruelty. Currently, the timeframe for this reporting has been interpreted to apply only to the 10-day investigation period. This bill will ensure that suspected animal cruelty can be reported at any time the employee or contractor suspects it.
Why is this bill needed?
Dogs should be judged as the individuals they are — not based on outdated and long-ago-disproven stereotypes. If properties choose to allow dogs as family pets, they should not be able to discriminate based on size, weight, or perceived breed.
The range of breeds affected by these discriminatory practices is staggering, and includes popular dog breeds like Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Dobermans, Pit Bulls, Dalmatians, Rottweilers, and more.
No one should have to choose between their well-behaved dog or their home; it’s that simple.
Why is this important?
Policies that target specific dog owners based on the size, weight, or perceived breed of their pet discriminate against those who properly train and socialize their dogs. The ramifications of these policies for animal shelters are that dogs are surrendered because owners are unable to find housing and that potential adopters may be unwilling to adopt certain dogs. Lives are lost and families broken. Policies that target specific breeds discriminate against responsible dog owners who properly train and socialize their dogs. The ramifications of these policies for animal shelters are that potential adopters may be unwilling to adopt certain breeds and dogs are brought to shelters because the owner was unable to obtain insurance. Lives are lost and families broken because of ineffective policies.
In 2012, the legislature recognized the irrelevance of dog breed in assessing the risk posed by dogs by passing a comprehensive law that strengthened the state’s dangerous dog law while prohibiting municipalities from discriminating against dogs based on breed — because no such legislation has ever proven effective at reducing dog bites. It is time for the same standard to be applied to the insurance industry.
There are many reasons why there is no accurate data on the number of aggressive incidents involving a specific breed. Studies show that there is often a significant discrepancy between visual assessment of breed, and actual genetic determination of the dog’s breed — even when the visual assessment is conducted by individuals who have substantial experience working with dogs. One study that asked experienced shelter staff to make a visual identification and then compared their assessment to a DNA test found that only ¼ had actually identified the “predominant ‘dog breed’”. The American Veterinary Medical Association published a document entitled, “Welfare Implications of The Role of Breed in Dog Bite Risk and Prevention,” in which the Association explains the importance of the prevalence and popularity of particular breeds in skewing statistics.
A dog’s tendency to bite is a product of at least five factors, including the dog’s genetic predisposition to be aggressive, the early socialization of the dog to people, his training for obedience or fighting, the quality of care and supervision provided by the owner, and the behavior of the victim. All of these factors interact. There are other factors that play into a dog’s tendency to bite. One study found that male dogs are 6.2 times more likely to bite than female dogs, sexually intact dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs, and chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite than unchained dogs.
The experts also agree that the best predictor of a dog’s behavior comes from an evaluation of individual adult dogs — not selection based on breed.