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Introducing a New Dog to the Family

Introducing a New Dog to the Family

According to the ASPCA, approximately 70-80 million dogs are owned in the United States as of 2014. Roughly 37-47 percent of all households have a dog. About 10 percent of the dogs that are acquired each year in the U.S. are given up because of behavioral issues. New dog owners can help to prevent behavior issues, including dog bite incidents, by introducing the new dog to the family in a proper way. Introducing Dogs to Children Before bringing a dog permanently into a home, all human members of the family should meet the dog. To prevent children from behaving in a way that will upset a dog, children should be taught to show the dog respect and never harm or tease the dog. Children should also be taught to refrain from getting too close to the dog’s face. Once the dog has been introduced to children outside of the home and displayed a positive attitude, the dog can be brought into the home. Children should be supervised at all times when interacting with the dog to prevent bite incidents. Introducing Dogs to Other Dogs Bringing a new dog into a home that has dogs must be done carefully to avoid aggressive behaviors. Dogs have a pack mentality and any new dog that is brought into a home will automatically upset the currently established ranking. It is important to handle the interactions between the dogs delicately and be vigilant for signs of aggression or fear. Dogs should never be introduced to one another in a car, as there is the potential for injury to humans and dogs if the dogs do not interact well. Introduce Dogs on Neutral Ground Before bringing a new dog into a home, the dogs should meet at a location that will not be considered territory by the currently owned dog. Dog parks and areas where the dog is often walked may be considered territory, so these should be avoided. When introducing the dogs, both dogs should be leashed, with leashes held by different people. This will be helpful in quickly pulling the dogs away from one another at the first signs of aggression. If possible, the dogs should meet prior to making any final decisions about ownership of the new dog. Bringing a New Dog Home After the dogs have been introduced and have interacted well, the new dog can be brought home. The dogs should be continuously supervised when interacting during the first few weeks and should be separated if tensions arise. Owners should allow dogs to establish a ranking without interfering when the dog claims certain toys or sleeping spots. During interactions, dogs may growl or snarl to set boundaries. Owners should be alert for aggressiveness, but should understand that growling is normal and is often necessary part of establishing boundaries.     Sources: “How to Introduce Dogs and Children.” DogHealth.com. DogHealth.com, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.doghealth.com/how-to/how-to-introduce-dogs-and-childen> “Introducing Your Dog to a New Dog.” ASPCA. ASPCA, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/introducing-your-dog-new-dog> “Introducing Your New Dog to Your Other Dogs : The Humane Society of the United States.” The Humane Society of the United States. The Humane Society of the United States, 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/introducing_new_dog.html> “Pet Statistics.” ASPCA. ASPCA, 1 Jan. 2014. Web....

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Who Will Pay My Dog Bite Medical Bills?

Who Will Pay My Dog Bite Medical Bills?

Every year in the United States, approximately 885,000 patients seek medical treatment for dog bite injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, roughly 27,000 must undergo reconstructive surgery in order to restore function and appearance to the injured area. These medical procedures and services may become costly. Under most circumstances, the dog owner is ultimately responsible for damages incurred from dog bite injuries. An attorney may be able to provide assistance with taking the appropriate actions to acquire compensation for dog bite medical bills. Dog Owner’s Homeowner’s Insurance If the dog owner has homeowner’s insurance, dog bite injuries will typically be covered under “Med pay” coverage. In most cases, the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance will cover medical bills incurred from a dog bite injury that occurred on the homeowner’s property or which was inflicted by the homeowner’s dog regardless of whether the insurance company accepts liability for the incident. However, the insurance policy limits may not be enough to cover the cost of medical bills. Dog Owner Liability If the dog owner does not have homeowner’s insurance or animal insurance which will cover dog bites, the dog owner may have to pay victim’s medical bills out of pocket. A skilled attorney will be necessary when pursuing this type of case. Failure to pursue a claim against the dog owner will make the victim responsible for all dog bite medical bills. Victim’s Health Insurance When receiving treatment, it is often in the best interest of the victim to utilize health insurance. It typically takes some time to receive payment for dog bite injuries no matter what measures are pursued. When the claim is paid, a portion of the compensation which is awarded may go towards reimbursing the health insurance company; this will depend on the language of the health insurance policy and whether Florida’s substantive law applies as opposed to federal ERISA laws Benefits of Using Health Insurance Utilizing health insurance will prevent unpaid medical bills which may affect the victim’s credit. Unpaid medical bills may also affect the medical facility’s willingness to provide further treatment for the victim. Using health insurance will help to avoid inconveniences caused by unpaid medical bills while waiting to receive compensation for the dog bite incident. Victims should consult with a lawyer and save all relevant bills and insurance statements when using health insurance to cover medical bills. Victim Options If a dog bite victim does not have health insurance, it may be necessary to speak to the medical facility about putting a lien on the case. This will postpone the efforts of the medical facility to collect payment for dog bite medical bills until after the case is settled. This will also allow time for the victim or the victim’s attorney to negotiate with the medical facility about lowering payments. If the medical facility does not agree to these terms, it may be best for the victim to pay the medical bills and receive reimbursement when the case is resolved through settlement or verdict.     Sources: “A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention.” Vet Med Today 218.11 (2001): 1-18. American Veterinary Medical Association. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <https://www.avma.org/public/Health/Documents/dogbite.pdf> “Dog Attack Deaths and Maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to December 31, 2013.” DogBites.org. DogBites.org, 16 Apr. 2014....

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Negligence Per Se Dog Bite Law

Negligence Per Se Dog Bite Law

Negligence per se is a guideline adopted by some states that helps dog attack victims hold dog keepers accountable for dog attack incidents. Negligence per se can be used to recover compensation from dog owners or keepers that have violated a law, statute, municipal code, or ordinance that would have prevented the incident. This guideline helps to establish liability on the basis of the statute or law which was broken.   Commonly Violated Dog Bite Statutes Violating certain animal control laws or statutes may increase the risk of dog bite incidents. Laws requiring dogs to be on a leash when not confined to the owner’s premises help to ensure safety, yet are some of the most commonly violated dog laws. In many states, these laws are carefully worded to avoid misinterpretations. Leash lengths may be specified and the law may state that a person capable of controlling the dog be holding the leash. In most cases, if leash laws are in place, violations of any part of the law will constitute negligence per se. Other animal control laws and ordinances for which violation may be considered negligence per se include: Laws prohibiting dogs from trespassing Laws requiring dogs to be contained by the owner at all times Municipal codes restricting the number of dogs a resident may own Ordinances prohibiting dogs from running at large Dog licensing and vaccination requirements Dangerous dog provisions Proving Negligence Per Se To prove negligence per se, a dog attack victim must first clearly understand and present the statute which was violated. The victim must then provide evidence or testimony to demonstrate that the statute was violated by the dog owner or keeper. The victim must also show injury or damage which was inflicted by the dog and prove that the damage or injury could have been prevented if the statute was not violated. A lawyer that has experience with dog bite claims may be able to provide assistance with acquiring the necessary evidence to support the negligence per se claim. Negligence Per Se Complications In some cases, it may be unclear whether a dog attack incident can be considered negligence per se. If a dog escapes an owner’s residence despite the owner’s efforts to keep the dog contained, it may or may not be considered negligence per se depending on the wording of the statute and the decision of the court. In such cases, words such as “permit” or “allow” within the statute may be called into question. The dog owner may argue that he or she did not “allow” or “permit” a dog that escaped to roam free. The results of these more ambiguous cases may vary, but an experienced attorney will be able to provide advice regarding the probable outcome of the case.     Sources: “Dangerous Dog Laws.” Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Polk County Sheriff’s Office, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2014 <http://www.polksheriff.org/InsidePCSO/LE/SOD/BOSO/AC/Pages/DangerousDogLaws.aspx>. “Leash/Restraint Laws.” Florida Animal Control Association. Florida Animal Control Association. Web. 12 Sept. 2014 <http://floridaanimalcontrol.org/home-leash/> “Online Sunshine.” The 2014 Florida Statutes. The Florida Legislature, 12 Sept. 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2014....

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Dog Park Liability Laws

Dog Park Liability Laws

Dog parks can be a great place for dogs to learn social skills and for owners to allow dogs to roam free. However, dog owners should be aware of the actions of their dog at all times. If a dog becomes aggressive and attacks another dog or a dog owner it may result in a lawsuit. Bringing a dog that has a past history of aggression to a dog park may also be considered a crime. Leash Laws and Dog Parks In Florida, dog owners are liable for any damage or injuries caused by their dog regardless of the past history of bite incidents. Although there is no formal state law mandating that owners must contain their dogs on leashes while in public places, most counties in Florida have leash laws in place. However, at leash-optional dog parks this law is waived, which makes liability more ambiguous. Dog Park Etiquette If a dog owner is uncertain of a dog’s disposition around other dogs and people, it is recommended that the dog owner keep the dog on a leash while in the park. If the dog exhibits aggression or fear, the dog owner should remove the dog from the park to prevent dog bite incidents. If an owner fails to take reasonable precautions, a dog bite incident may occur. Dog Park Liability Dog parks are not responsible for any bite incidents which may occur while at the dog park. Dog park management only owes a duty of care to park visitors to ensure that the park itself is free from hazards. Dog park owners and management cannot be held liable for incidents which occur between dogs or between dogs and humans. Dog Owner Liability Dog owners are responsible for controlling their dog to a certain degree, even while in the dog park. If dog owners do not control dogs and a bite incident occurs while in the dog park, the owner may have to pay medical costs for any injuries sustained. Dog owners may also be subject to fines or other penalties for negligence. Dog Park Lawsuit Complications While people that suffer dog bite injuries at a dog park may be able to successfully pursue a lawsuit against the offending dog’s owners, proving negligence may be more difficult than in other scenarios. Since dog parks allow dogs to roam without a leash, an owner cannot be held accountable for violating leash laws at a dog park. A dog bite victim may have to prove that a dog has exhibited aggressive or fearful behavior that the owner should have been aware of. Dog Park Waiver Most dog parks have a sign posted at the entrance that informs dog owners of assumed risks when entering the dog park. While this waiver is not necessarily legally binding, it may absolve dog owners of some responsibility that would be present in other settings. An experienced dog bite attorney will be able to provide advice regarding dog bite liability and assumed risks based on specific incidents.     Sources: “2014 Florida Legislative Session.” Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, 2 May 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://animalrightsflorida.org/Legislation_2014.html> “The 2014 Florida Statutes.” Online Sunshine. The Florida Legislature, 16 Sept. 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0767/Sections/0767.04.html> “West Florida Statutes Annotated.” Animal Legal and...

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How to Handle a Dog Fight

How to Handle a Dog Fight

Dog fights are common when there are multiple dogs in a home or other setting, particularly if the dogs are not familiar with one another. Breaking up a dog fight can be dangerous for dog owners or other mediators if not done properly. It is crucial to follow certain guidelines when breaking up a dog fight to ensure safety. Identifying Dog Fights The first step in handling a dog fight is to determine whether the dogs are actually fighting versus playing. Dog play can be rough and is often mistaken for fighting. The difference between fighting and playing can typically be determined by the dogs’ body language. If both dogs have tails wagging and loose bodies, it is usually play. If dogs are fighting, their bodies are typically tense and tails are rigid. Identifying Bullying Even in cases of play, one dog can be disinterested and become aggressive. If it seems as though one dog is instigating the majority of play, leading the dog that seems excited away safely using a leash or noose will help to identify bullying. If the dog that seemed disinterested moves to follow the other dog, it is likely that bullying was not happening and the dogs can safely be allowed to continue with play. Distract Fighting Dogs If dogs are fighting, creating a diversion may help to safely break up the fight. A loud noise will usually work to distract the dogs, but water may work as well. Fighting dogs should never be touched with hands or body parts, as the aggression will often be redirected and may result in injury. Secure Fighting Dogs Before taking action to secure one dog, it is important that others are involved to secure any other dogs involved in the fight. An unsecured dog may take the opportunity to attack the secured dog, or may attack the person trying to secure the dog. Dogs should be secured using leases, muzzles, leashes or other restraints. Dogs should be secured swiftly and taken away from the situation to cool down. If other dogs are present that were not involved in the fight, action should be taken to ensure that those dogs are secured prior to breaking up the dog fight. Preventing Dog Fights It is easier to prevent dog fights than to stop them. Keeping dogs secured in a yard or home will help to prevent fights with stray or neighborhood dogs. When socializing dogs, the dogs should never be left unattended. Dog owners should be present to ensure safe play and to handle dog fights, if necessary. It may also be helpful to eliminate possible environmental stressors, such as toys that may cause competition when first introducing dogs to one another.     Sources: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/breaking-dogfight...

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Homeowners Insurance & Dog Bite Liability

Homeowners Insurance & Dog Bite Liability

Nearly 4.5 million people suffer dog bite injuries each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When dog bites are serious enough to require medical attention, the dog owner’s homeowners insurance typically covers these costs. In 2013, about one-third of all homeowners insurance claims were for dog bite injuries, totaling about $483 million. Dog Bite Liability Dog bite laws vary from state to state, but dog owners are liable in most cases of dog bite injuries. Depending on the state laws and the situation, dog owners may be subject to criminal charges in addition to covering costs of dog bite injuries. Dogs may also be labeled dangerous or even be ordered to be put down depending on the laws that are in place in the state. Dog Bite Laws State laws regarding dog bite liability change frequently and differ greatly. In some states, dogs that have bitten without provocation are required to be put down automatically. In other states, dogs that have bitten are labeled dangerous and are given a second chance before euthanization is ordered. Breed specific legislation may automatically label certain dog breeds as vicious and require that the dog be put down if dog bite injuries occur, even if other dogs would be subject to the “one-bite rule.” Dog owners may also be required to purchase a certain amount of liability insurance if a dog is labeled vicious. Dog Bite Coverage Dog bite claims are typically covered under homeowners insurance policies, unless otherwise stated. Coverage amounts may vary according to the terms of the policy. If a dog bite incident causes injuries that exceed the amount of coverage, dog owners are required to cover additional costs. Homeowners insurance companies may also raise premiums following a dog bite liability claim, and in some cases can deny future insurance coverage. However, certain states have laws prohibiting insurance companies from cancelling insurance coverage following a dog bite incident. Homeowners Insurance Restrictions Some insurance companies outline conditions that must be followed before extending coverage to dog owners in order to minimize growing losses from dog bite incidents. This may include taking the dog to obedience classes or agreeing to always restrain the dog with a leash or muzzle when the dog leaves the home. Insurance companies may also charge more for certain dog breeds, or may deny coverage for certain breeds entirely. Insurance companies may also opt to deny or approve coverage on a case-by-case basis based on any previous history of aggression in dogs.     Sources: http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Dog-Bites/...

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Contractual Dog Bite Liability

Contractual Dog Bite Liability

In most cases in which a victim has been bitten by a dog, the dog owner is liable for any expenses incurred. However, a contract may serve to alter that liability or to reinforce it. Contracts are often written when dogs encounter a change in location or ownership, either temporarily or permanently. Contracts do not necessarily have to be written, but can be verbal or implied. However, contracts that are written are more easily provable and therefore may have more evidentiary value in a courtroom than non-written contracts. Reasons for Dog Bite Contracts Contracts may be written or otherwise exchanged when a dog is temporarily placed in another’s care. This may be the case with dog boarding services or other professional dog care, but can be used even in non-formal setting such as when a friend or neighbor is “dog sitting” while an owner is on vacation. In most cases, the person or business that is temporarily taking care of the dog will ask the owner to sign a contract stating that the owner will be liable for any dog bite incidents which occur while the dog is in the care of another. If a contract is not formed, the situation may dictate liability. Assumed Risk When a dog owner seeks professional help for a dog’s behavior or takes a dog to a vet, there is an assumed risk. In these cases, the dog owner may not be liable for dog bite injuries due to the assumed risk inherent in retraining a dog with behavioral issues or administering medical assistance to an injured or unwilling dog. If the business requires the dog owner to sign a contract assuming liability for dog bite injuries, however, the liability is deferred to the owner. Rental Agreements Dog bite injury claims are usually filed under homeowner’s insurance. However, if dog owners rent property from a landlord, the landlord may ultimately be held responsible for dog bite injuries when a claim is filed. Often this will turn on whether the landlord knew or should have known of the dog’s propensity to cause harm. Contractual Dog Bite Liability Limitations Courts typically honor terms set in contracts regarding dog bite liability. However, courts may fail to honor these terms if a dog bite victim is affected or if the terms are contrary to public policy. In these cases, liability for the dog bite incident will typically defer to the owner of the dog, unless circumstances dictate otherwise.     Sources: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0415/p1567.html...

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Strict Liability Laws

Strict Liability Laws

Strict liability laws are in place to hold dog owners liable for any damage or injury that is caused by a dog. These laws are more stringent than most dog bite laws, and will often hold owners liable in cases where a dog has attacked without showing previous signs of viciousness. Strict liability laws may also be used to hold dog owners liable in cases where a dog has not bitten the victim, but has caused harm in other ways, such as knocking a victim down. State Strict Liability Laws States across the U.S. vary widely in the use of strict liability laws versus other types of dog bite laws. States have the option to enforce strict liability laws or adopt other types of dog bite injury laws. States may adhere completely to strict liability laws or may vary in the way dog bite cases are handled by counties and jurisdictions. States may also repeal strict liability dog bite statutes or chose to adopt the laws as it is deemed necessary by legislators. Scope of Strict Liability Laws Strict liability laws have been in place since the 1700s in the United States. Unlike other types of dog bite laws, dog owners do not get “one free bite” before being held liable for dog bite injuries. In most cases, the victim does not have to provide evidence that the dog owner was negligent. In cases where another person besides the dog’s owner was caring for the dog, that person may be held liable for injuries caused by the dog. Dog Bite Incident Conditions The location in which a dog bite incident occurred and the conditions under which it occurred may have some bearing on how the case is handled. If a dog was not on a leash off of the owner’s property and a victim was bitten, the owner will be held liable and may face penalties in addition to covering the victim’s medical costs. If a victim was bitten while a dog was on a leash, negligence of the owner or the actions of the victim prior to the attack may come into question. If the victim was bitten while on the owner’s property, the owner will usually be held liable. However, this may vary based on warning signs that may be in place on the property and whether the victim was invited or acted menacingly towards the dog. Strict Liability Law Exceptions There are certain exceptions to strict liability laws that may excuse the dog owner from liability for injuries: Dog attack incidents which were provoked by the victim Occurrences where the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property Incidents in which the victim was committing a crime against the dog owner The victim took on risks associated with caring for the dog, such as administering veterinary care The dog was participating in police or military actions at the time of the attack     Sources: http://animallaw.info/articles/qvusdogbiteslstatutes.htm...

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Dangerous Dog Laws

Dangerous Dog Laws

Dangerous dog laws, also known as “vicious dog laws,” are in place to protect the public from dog bite injuries by restricting the activities of dogs that are known to be dangerous. Dogs that have previously bitten humans or attacked other animals may be labeled dangerous by the city, county, or state. Owners of dogs that have been labeled dangerous may face penalties if dangerous dog laws are not obeyed and a bite incident occurs. Dangerous Dog Complaint For a dog to be labeled dangerous, a complaint must be filed with the agency in charge of enforcing dangerous dog laws. This may be the sheriff’s department, animal control, the health department, or a local court depending on the jurisdiction. The person that was attacked or law enforcement that dealt with the incident may file the complaint. The dog owner may contest the label at a hearing. State Restrictions The restrictions imposed after a dog has been labeled dangerous may vary widely. In some states dangerous dogs are ordered to be destroyed immediately. In most states, the dog owners will be ordered to keep the dog contained at all times, and the dog will only be allowed out while on a leash. The order may specify that a muzzle is to be worn when the dog is being taken through areas where people and other animals may be. Other actions that may be required to identify, contain, or cover dangerous dogs include: Implanting of special micro chipping to identify the dog as dangerous Placing a tattoo on the dog that identifies the dog as dangerous Using a certain colored leash that identifies the dog as dangerous Posting a “Beware of Dog” sign, sometimes with pictures to alert children to the danger Buying liability insurance to cover damages or injuries inflicted by the dog Buying a special dangerous dog license Keeping the dog in a locked enclosure that meets certain specifications Notifying animal control and new owners of the dangerous dog status if the dog is sold or given away Dangerous Dog Penalties If a dog is labeled dangerous, the dog owner must adhere closely to the dangerous dog laws in order to avoid penalties and an order to have the dog put down. If a dangerous dog injures someone, the fines imposed on the owner may be as much as three times the normal penalties. If a dangerous dog kills someone, the owner may face prison time. Dogs that have attacked someone after being labeled dangerous are usually ordered to be put down.     Sources: http://www.aspca.org/about-us/aspca-policy-and-position-statements/position-statement-on-dangerous-dog-laws...

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Dog Breed Laws

Dog Breed Laws

In an attempt to combat dog attacks and dog bites, a number of U.S. counties and cities have enacted laws that restrict ownership of certain breeds of dogs. These laws, known as breed-specific legislation (BSL), revolve around theories that certain breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls or bulldogs, are more dangerous than other breeds. However, a number of reputable organizations like the National Canine Research Council, American Humane Association, and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that there is little evidence to support the claim that dog breed laws are productive for reducing dog attacks. Instead, these opponents encourage alternatives such as public education on dog attack risk factors and enhanced animal control laws for dog owners. Restricted Dog Breeds The majority of breed-specific legislation focuses on pit bulls. Pit bulls are defined as breeds such as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. While pit bulls tend to be the main focus of dog breed laws, a number of other breeds are included around the United States. The basis of breed-specific legislation is that certain breeds of dogs are genetically prone to being more aggressive and violent, and therefore restrictions on these breeds is believed to reduce dog attacks. Other breeds discussed in breed-specific legislation include, but are not limited to: Mastiffs English Bull Terriers American Bulldogs Rottweilers German Shepherds Doberman Pinschers Chow Chows Types of Dog Breed Laws Breed-specific legislation varies widely between jurisdictions where the laws are enforced. Breed-specific legislation typically enforces restrictions or complete bans on the breeds in question. In some areas, laws ban citizens from acquiring new dogs of the breeds in question. In these cases, owners may be permitted to keep their dogs for the duration of their lives, which may be accompanied by a requirement to register the dogs within the jurisdiction where the law is enforced. Some jurisdictions impose certain requirements on “dangerous breed” owners, such as paying a registration fee or posting warning signs on personal property. Some areas which enact breed-specific legislation include: Miami-Dade County, Florida Sioux City, Iowa Delta, Utah Springfield, Missouri Livingston County, Michigan Wheeling, West Virginia South Milwaukee, Wisconsin Dog Breed Law Alternatives Opponents of dog breed laws suggest that there are a number of factors that contribute to dog attacks and dog bites, not necessarily the breed of dog. These opponents argue that the real danger is unfavorable situations that create dangerous dogs. Opponents state that instead of enforcing breed-specific legislation, dog attacks may be more effectively reduced by education, enforcement of existing animal control laws, spaying and neutering, and improved bite reporting.     Sources: http://www.americanhumane.org/animals/stop-animal-abuse/fact-sheets/breed-specific-legislation.html...

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