As for statistics used to support the idea that some breeds are more dangerous, the numbers are misleading, said Anthony Pobderscek of the University of Cambridge Veterinary School. "There's a problem getting records," he said. "Golden retrievers bite, Labrador retrievers bite, but don't get reported."
Wagner presented the results of a study on the "dangerous dog" laws of Germany earlier this week at the meeting of the International Society for Anthrozoology in Davis, Calif.
Although they look different, dog "breeds" have no more scientific basis than do "races" among humans, said canine researcher James Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania.
The same goes for behavioral traits. Good training beats out any minuscule genetic differences among breeds, said Pobderscek. Current dangerous dog statistics can't be trusted because, among other things, you just don't know what happened to cause the attack or dog bite, he said.
Most dog bites happen at home with the family dog biting a family member, said Pobderscek. The dangerous dog breed issue has more to do with the public image of certain breeds and the way the media handles incidents involving those breeds, he said.
After all, it's a lot easier to whip up a frenzy about pit bulls than border collies, and pick and choose statistics to fit the argument.
That is what happened in Germany, where 49 "foreign breeds" were targeted by the law after a series of highly publicized dog attacks, said Wagner. Local favorites, like German shepherds, were spared. The German law requires sterilization, expensive permits, muzzling, travel certificates and proof that the owner needs of a "dangerous" dog. Dogs must also pass a temperament test.
The law was passed last year against the advice of German veterinarians, said Wagner.
What's more, she said, the law has led to dogs being
restricted to the point that they are being psychologically and
physically harmed. It's taken a year, but now German law makers
are beginning to realize the problems with the law, she said.