Ethics Hero: The American Bar Association

This week, the American Bar Association House of Delegates passed Resolution 100.

The measure reads:

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific provisions.

Translation: stop discriminating against pit bulls and all the dogs that look like pit bulls, might be pit bulls, or that people who don’t know anything about dogs might think are pit bulls, as well as the dogs’ owners. It’s not fair, it’s unethical, and it’s un-American. Or, as Elise Van Kavage, chair of the Animal Law Committee of the Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section, put it, “People love their pets, no matter what their appearance,” she said. “This is America. Responsible pet owners should be allowed to own whatever breed they want.”

I must say, I was surprised at the ABA’s entry into this controversy, recently highlighted by Maryland’s adoption of a controversial rule that declares pitbulls “inherently dangerous.” The nation’s largest voluntary bar association usually takes reliably liberal political stands that are both partisan and unseemly. This one, however, does real good, coming to the rescue of beleaguered dog owners who are being victimized by a toxic combination of fear, ignorance and bigotry. Until the ABA threw its prestige behind the principles of due process and freedom, the argument against breed-specific laws and bans could be framed by the media and anti-dog activists as akin to the gun control debate: irrational dog lovers willing to let babies get mauled so they could own a four-legged weapon. This was always nonsense, but as the large number of anti-pit bull laws around the country proves, it remains popular nonsense. Cheer and plaudits are due to the ABA for coming to the rescue, just like Rin Tin Tin.


Facts: ABA Journal


  • ABA Journal
  • NBC
  • ABA Now
  • Ethics Alarms [I don’t usually include the blog, but I really liked this post (and the pictures), and not many people read it, perhaps because I used Elizabeth Warren in the title.]

Graphic: Daily Picks and Flicks

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

17 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: The American Bar Association

  1. It should also be noted that Maryland’s “adoption” of the notion that pit bulls were inherently dangerous was done via a court ruling – NOT the legislature.

  2. Thanks, Jack, for posting about this. I am heartened by this move from the ABA. The Maryland law really disturbs me — I live in Maryland, and I have friends and acquaintances with well-behaved pit bulls. That said, I also know of several pit bulls in my neighborhood that I would not be within twenty feet of without having in my possession a very large stick and my cell phone pre-programmed to dial 911 on contact. Still, my dog was attacked and injured by a Briard — who would’ve thought? And there’s a really vicious German Shepherd mix who lives down the street. My son was chased for three blocks by 2 scary Rottweilers when he was 10 years old. Breed-specific generalizations are about as accurate as ethnic generalizations. But many people figure it’s not the same because “They’re just animals.”

  3. I’m recalling that day half a century ago, a silent surprise attack from behind when a dog bit the back of my knee, while I was walking in a public street.

    A cocker spaniel, of course.

  4. Ive been bitten twice by a dog, once so badly that I had to have stitches. Both times it was a beagle. The worse thing that a pit bull, or to be a precise a Staffordshire Terrier, ever did to me is hit me in the groin with its head becuase he was trying to jump up and lick me to death.

  5. Of course RinTinTin is coming to the rescue. When I see a German Shepherd dog I think of police and rescue. Were I to see a Pit bull coming I’d be outta there in a heart beat.
    And I have to say the comments above support my view that some dogs and foremost their owners require special monitoring. If a Beagle or a Cocker spaniel bite you, you may be in need of stitches. But when a Pit bull gets a hold of you, half your calf muscle will be missing afterwards. It’s not about the race per se. But what kind of damage this breed is capable of – only the Rottweiler has stronger jaw muscles.
    Of course the dog is the victim in this legislation process. In the wrong hands any dog can be a dangerous weapon (well, except for the Maltese). And again, no generalisation is intended. I’m sure there are owners who have a family and raised their Pitt bull to be a wonderful family dog. But let’s be honest here, mostly what comes to mind are shady characters who misuse their Pit bulls as tools of intimidation – nothing seems to give them a bigger rush then to see people switch to the other side of the street.

    • Read the links, please. A main part of the problem is that “pit bill” is a void-for-vagueness definition. Dog-ignorant people call about 8 breeds ‘pit bulls” explaining a lot of the predominance of reported “pit bull” attacks. There is nothing inherently dangerous about the breed, or in fact any of the 8 or more breeds erroneously called “pit bulls.” That’s a fact.

      • The American Staffordshire Terrier is a very dangerous dog! I’ve had had them hop in my lap to sleep causing me physical pain. I’ve also fallen asleep on thr couch and woken up to beady little eyes staring me in then face and then out of no where POW it started trying to lick me to death!

    • Sorry, but the breed of the dog has nothing to do with the damage of a bite. The size of the dog and the reaction of the victim determine how bad a bite will be. There is no scientific study that shows the bite from a pit bull is worse then any other dog.

      • WHAT? Someone actually claimed this? I missed it.
        A Bouvier could bite your arm off. You don’t want a mastiff mad at you. An Airedale will shake your arm like a big rat. A bull terrier—not a pitbull at all, and smaller—has a huge mouth and was bred to bite the faces of bulls and never let go. Where does this crap come from? I have never met anyone who knew anything about dogs who believed pitbulls were inherently dangerous. These are phobics, cat owners and weenies.

        • There was a woman in my neighborhood who had a Bouvier. When she walked him if you stopped to talk to her he would sit their quietly watching you and if you move around he would get up and sit between you and her. The smartest dog I have ever seen.

  6. Well, in MD they decided to “shelf” the bill until another session in January. What a sad day. Everyone worked so hard to make them understand with rallys and letters, emails and calls. Even with the evidence of people losing their homes, sadly giving up their pets which are family, and shelters being overwhelmed with new dogs, These people can’t make a decision. They just don’t care. They are the ones that are inherently dangerous.

  7. Irresponsible pet guardians abound! I have spent many years volunteering in a pet shelter and lobbying for abandoned homeless dogs. I cannot express what I have seen, learned and know what people do to dogs outside the shelter and in the euthanasia room. People want a wind up dog. As with everything else, the American “gets tired,” of “things” and throws them away. The pits I have sat and hugged in cages were kind dogs, mistreated, neglected, never exercised properly, and then were horrifically thrown in gas chambers or stuck in the heart with poison and no anesthesia beforehand.

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