By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT/FLE
In light of yesterday’s city council in Montreal on Pitbulls and other dangerous dogs (pitbull-type) hearing, I’d like to take a minute and point out to the many Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) advocates that using the term pitbull-type dog is as specific as saying tree-like plant. There's no way we can describe type because taxonomy doesn't refer to this word as a descriptive element; furthermore, the mayor didn't answer any of the questions, thus, the population still doesn't know how law enforcement groups will classify our dogs. This is a very important topic that should concern all dog owners.
Taxonomy is the system by which we classify living and non-living things. Taxonomic terms are very clear and are presented as follows: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum (Subphylum), (Superclass) Class (Subclass), Order, Family, Species (Subspecies).
The canine taxonomy is documented in the image to the left. The current dog taxonomy was changed in 2005 from Linnaeus’ Canis Familiaris to Canis Lupus Familiaris by the Smithsonian Institution; however, not every scientist agreed.
Linnaeus taxonomy places the dog as a subspecies of the wolf: Animal, Chordata, Mammalia, Carnivora, Canidae, Canis, Canis Lupus, Canis Lupus Familiaris. Scientists are currently debating reclassifying the dog to its former description Canis familiaris because on the inside dogs are similar to wolves, but on the outside, not as much.
For the time being, domestic dogs are already classified as a subspecies of the grey wolf; consequently, dog breeds have to be sub-subspecies. Scientifically speaking though, pitbull-type dogs can't be considered any different than say, your cocker spaniel.
Jean-Pierre Mégnin classified dogs according to scull types; however, when scientists use DNA tests to classify dogs, the results don't take Mégnin’s sub-groups into consideration.
For those inquiring minds who want to know. Mégnin's four classification categories are Lupoides (spitz), Braccoides (scenthounds), Graioides (sighthounds), and Molossoides (true mastiffs). Although rarely used today, people still refer to these groups to describe dogs. According to Mégnin's definition, the only true mastiffs are the English Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, Neapolitan Mastiff, Bullmastiff, and Boxer. Other breeds are considered molossers.
Wikipedia's definition for molosser reads as follows Molosser is a category of solidly built, large dog breeds that all descend from the same common ancestor. The name derives from Molossia, an area of ancient Epirus, where the large shepherd dog was known as a Molossus. As you can see, the definition of molosser doesn't offer a clear cut description. Not all is black or white; dogs come in every shade of grey. I believe our approach to dangerous dog management shouldn't be black or white. But, that's another topic for another day.
A clear definition is important because when it comes to breed-specific legislation, the breed can make or break your human-dog family. If pitbull-type referrers to molossers, then any big dog could be poorly labelled as dangerous and fall under local BSL. The term molosser, as does the pitbull-type term, need to be described further. If, on the other hand, laws clearly identify targeted breeds, no one needs to worry, confusion and ambiguity won't cause any problems. A dog, is a dog, is a dog. I disagree with BSL, but lets at least make it clear.
Science has concluded bred specific laws are inefficient and costly. Education should set forth laws that will encourage responsible ownership, make deviant owners accountable, and overall reduce bites and deaths. If you don't think BSLs can fail, read this article written by Patrick Cain in February 2016.
My objective today was to get pro and anti BSL believers to reflect on how, when and why we should let the government interfere in our life companion choices. Management strategies like BSL don’t keep populations safe, they're inefficient, ineffective, and costly. So, where do we go from here? Where and how do we educate people?
- Federation Cynologique International. Breed-specific education. http://www.fci.be/en/Nomenclature/Education.aspx Retrieved on 06-20-2016
- Hancock, D. (2001).The Mastiffs: The Big Game Hunters: Their History, Development and Future. Publisher: Charwynne Dog Features.
- Royal Canin. (2001). The Royal Canin Dog Encyclopedia.
If you think only pitbull-type dogs kill, you're wrong. Watch, read and share these articles and videos because BSLs create a false sense of security. ALL dogs bite.
Lab x golden mix
Jack Russell (Terriers)