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PAVLOVIAN POLICY RESPONSES TO MEDIA FEEDING FRENZIES?

Pavlovian Policy Responses to Media


Feeding Frenzies? Dangerous Dogs
Regulation in Comparative Perspective
Martin Lodge* and Christopher Hood**

The first part of this article, based on a comparative analysis of recent policies on dangerous dogs
among a set of Western European states, shows that small-scale events like one dog-bite can
produce circumstances that confront policy-makers with a type of `forced choice', given a
particular set of political conditions. The second part, based on a more in-depth comparison of
German and UK approaches, probes beyond the `Pavlovian' level of political response to dog-bite
crises to explore how institutions mediate responses to `forced choices'. Dog-bite crises may
temporarily remove normal blockages and constraints on policy development, but this article
shows how institutions can still shape policy responses in at least three different ways.

Forced Choices and Small Events with eral European governments have faced precisely
Big Political Consequences that kind of forced choice over dangerous dog
risks over the past decade or so. Rather than the
The threat posed by dangerous dogs presents sort of forced choices that spring from unam-
contemporary governments with a special kind biguous macro-events, this type of forced choice
of `forced choice'. Dog attacks do not, of course, originates in micro-events that blow up major
constitute large-scale catastrophes of the kind political crises. For micro-events to have such an
focused on by much of the writing on forced effect, they need to attract high public attention,
choices and responses to crisis for example, sustained by media pressure that requests
wars and invasions, riots and revolutions, natural demands for immediate action by government.
disasters and environmental catastrophes, That in turn seems to require particular pre-
economic and industrial collapses.1 They hardly conditions, notably unprovoked attacks in public
threaten the viability of states and statistically on apparently innocent victims (particularly
they present only a modest threat to life and children), coming in the wake of earlier
limb. Indeed, it is unlikely that dog attacks claim attention-grabbing events of a similar type and
more than half-a-dozen lives in a normal year in occurring at a time when media attention is not
the five biggest EU states put together (though focused on other crises or political issues.
injuries serious enough to need major hospital The next section looks at responses made by
treatment probably amount to more than ten governments in Western Europe to `forced
thousand in a normal year in those states). That choices' over dog attack risks, showing how
kill-rate puts dog attacks decidedly at the low policy-makers responded to perceived crises
end of the scale of risks with which public over dangerous dogs in two different `waves'.
policy-makers have to deal in modern societies. The following sections look at two different
Nor is dog attack even the sort of high-tech risk cases (that of Germany and the UK) in more
produced by modern science and production detail. The aim is to explore how the various
processes that so fascinates analysts of the `risk institutions in the regime for regulating
society' (see Beck 1992). In fact, it is the sort of dangerous dogs responded to the `shocks'
risk that harks back to very traditional fears of presented by dog-attack crises. Critics of risk * Martin Lodge, ESRC, Centre
monsters and dragons and could be considered regulation (such as Breyer, 1993) often portray for Analysis of Risk and
as a classic sphere of `low politics'. government responses to crises as `Pavlovian Regulation, London School of
Economics, Houghton Street,
Nevertheless, dog attacks are small events that politics', constituting `knee-jerk' responses to the WC2A 2AE London, United
can have big political consequences. Though last tragedy that leaves cumbersome and Kingdom. Email:
they appear minor on any objective scale of inappropriate regulatory tombstones after public M.Lodge@lse.ac.uk
catastrophes, they can still face policy-makers concern has faded. But against that idea, ** Christopher Hood, All Souls
with a type of forced choice, if forced choice is institutionalists of various stripes insist that College, University of Oxford,
OX1 4AL Oxford, United
defined as the condition of having to respond to governmental organizations and agencies are Kingdom. Email: Christopher.
an immediate or anticipated crisis. Indeed, sev- not weathervanes that respond to any public hood@all-souls.oxford.ac.uk

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2 JOURNAL OF CONTINGENCIES AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT

pressure in an automatic way. Rather, such content or timing, and in particular there was a
institutions are held to deal with external shocks `first wave' of responses to dangerous dog risks
in ways that fit with imperatives of their own, by some European states in the early 1990s and
even when `forced' to respond by their a `second wave' (largely involving other states)
environment. Responses to dangerous dog at the end of the decade.
`shocks' offer a chance to explore how the The first wave responses, by the UK, the
`knee-jerk' perspective can be reconciled with the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland, marked the
idea of institutions as filters rather than beginning of a new breed-based approach to dog
weathervanes in the face of environmental regulation. For the most part these responses
shocks. followed strong media pressure after high
visibility incidents, and involved measures
targeted largely at the elimination of dogs of
A Pattern of Regulatory Response: the pit bull terrier type (and also the very rare
Two Waves of Policy Change over Tosa Inu). The responses also aimed for a more
Dangerous Dogs in Western Europe risk-based approach to dog regulation than the
during the 1990s immemorial practice, found across much of
Europe, of broadly giving every dog `one free
Across Western Europe an increasing political bite' before the hand of justice descended on it.
concern with the regulation of particular dog The second wave of regulatory responses
breeds and types is observable over the past involved countries where public pressure after
decade. This rising concern has cut across party repeated incidents led to calls for more extensive
lines, though it has not yet produced action at regulation (the Netherlands) or where initial
the EU level, and responsibility for regulation of opposition by kennel clubs against breed-based
dangerous dogs (and other dog-related issues) approaches was finally overcome following a
remains firmly at or below national-government massive increase in numbers of incidents
level. (France). At the same time, there was increasing
Three interlocking developments form the interest by scientists in producing risk ratings of
background to European policy responses to dogs (that is, those most likely to attack, see
dangerous dog risks over the past decade. One is Netto and Planta, 1997). This second wave of
the increasing introduction since the 1980s of dangerous dogs regulation was characterised by
the American pit bull terrier, widely regarded as the inclusion of a larger number of dog types
suitable for a family pet in the USA but in and breeds, the application of different categories
Europe commonly associated with criminals of treatment, and consideration of the intro-
(particularly in drug dealing and prostitution) duction of examinations of every dog to assess its
and neo-fascist subcultures. A second is the individual risk. To indicate some of the different
absence, in the main, of a highly developed `gun patterns, we briefly sketch out some of the
culture' in Europe as compared to the USA, features of the Dutch and French responses below.
meaning that dangerous dogs have more In the early 1990s, Dutch government pro-
significance as weapons of offence and defence. posals for an immediate destruction of all pit
(Furthermore, the absence of a constitutional bulls, Dogo Argentinos, Fila Brasileiros and
right for citizens to bear arms in the European American Staffordshire Terriers were abandoned
states as contrasted to the US cannot spill over following opposition from dog owners that
into equivalent claims for rights to own killer provoked ministerial fears about public accept-
dogs.) Third, there is an established canine `class ability and enforceability. Instead, the legislation
system', reflecting traditional patterns of dog that eventually emerged in 1993 targeted pit
ownership that tend to be associated with social bulls alone and aimed for long-term elimination
class. The structure of kennel clubs that insti- via compulsory sterilization rather than mass
tutionalises canine status tends to discriminate execution. A fatal attack on a five year old girl
against non-recognized or `lower class' dog by a Mastino Napolitano in 1998 led to a second
types like the pit bull terrier just as class bias wave response, following criticism that the 1993
was built into nineteenth century animal cruelty law on pit bulls simply encouraged owners that
laws. wanted fierce dogs to switch to or breed other
These interlinked features of the European types (De Volkskrant, 24 October 1998). The
context help to explain why dog attack risks, government proposed to extend the 1993 law to
particularly from new `foreign' dogs, should be include American Staffordshire Terriers, Fila
politically salient in many European countries Brasileiros, Dogo Argentinos and Mastino
and why pit bulls and other non-established dog Napolitanos, but also proposed exemptions from
types tended to be marked out for special compulsory sterilization on the basis of dog
treatment during political crises sparked by character examinations, following government-
severe dog-bite incidents. Nevertheless, policy sponsored research into evaluating the level of
responses were by no means uniform, either in aggressiveness of individual dogs (Netto, Vinke

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PAVLOVIAN POLICY RESPONSES TO MEDIA FEEDING FRENZIES? 3

and Bruinsma, 1995; Netto and Planta, 1997). difficulties, ranging from open non-compliance,
However, these proposals did not reach the and a lack of police and local authority resources
statute book. Though animal associations to breed-switching and changing `animal
favoured the dog character test (Platform fashions'.
Preventie Hondenbeten, 1999), the government These two cases show how dog-attack
later abandoned it on grounds of cost and dangers can present policy-makers with a kind
effectiveness, and simply proposed to extend the of `forced choice', as a result of media and public
1993 compulsory sterilisation provisions to the attention that dog-bite incidents can generate in
dog types above, with exemptions applying to particular circumstances, obliging legislators to
Rottweilers. The influence of the animal associ- introduce extra regulation. But the two cases
ations in the Dutch Parliament led the Parliament also show that those responses were far from
to reject these proposals in March 2001, on the uniform and that they were heavily shaped by
grounds that such data as were available on dog institutional responses, particularly in the selec-
attacks did not suggest the types selected were tion of particular dog breeds and types for
the most dangerous. special controls. Accordingly, the remainder of
The French response was `forced' after a rise in this article probes further into the way that
criminal activity and a substantial increase in the institutions mediate forced choice responses. The
population of fighting dogs. Throughout the next section briefly outlines three ways of
mid-to-late 1990s, Paris was plagued by `armed understanding how institutions seek to filter or
robberies' of shops using such dogs as principal shape environmental pressures, and the follow-
weapon. This phenomenon was paralleled by an ing section investigates those approaches in a
estimated increase in chiens dangereux, mainly pit more detailed account of the development of
bull terriers, from approximately 23000 in 1993 dangerous dogs regulation in the UK and
to 2040,000 in 1998, particularly in the Germany cases that allow us to see how very
suburbs. Highly publicised incidents, notably a different institutional structures respond to the
pit bull attack on young African immigrants in same sort of `forced choice' crisis.
1995 that was deliberately unleashed by the
dog's owner and resulted in horrific injuries,
strengthened demands for regulatory action (Le Mediating Forced Choices: Three
Monde, 31 January 1996). The initial response in Themes in the Analysis of
1996 was to strengthen the penal code, to Institutional Responses to
criminalise `unlawful use of dog ownership'. Environmental Pressures
Existing measures in the `code rural' and health
and safety regulations meant that `negligent' How might we expect institutions to mediate
behaviour by dog owners could be penalised responses to `forced choices'? The diverse
under civil law but the penalties were moderate literature on institutional adaptation to environ-
and legal uncertainties about the array of laws, mental change and pressure for policy change
regulations and decrees meant that decisions by suggests several possible institutional responses,
local authorities were regularly reversed by the but what those diverse institutional approaches
Conseil d'Etat (Le Monde, 30 November 1996; 12 tend to have in common is the expectation of
March 1998). selective responses to outside shocks. Selective
New dangerous-dogs legislation was intro- adaptation means that institutions function less
duced in 1999, based on two categories, fighting as weathervanes than as filters or distorting
and guard and defence dogs, and applied new lenses for outside pressures, seeking to pursue
requirements, notably compulsory registration, their own purposes and imperatives. Three types
insurance and sterilisation, for the lawful owner- of selective adaptation that are commonly
ship of specified types of dogs. The dog types identified in the institutional literature are:
involved were specified by ministerial decree by entrepreneurial exploitation of `windows of
the Interior and Agriculture ministries, and the opportunity' to launch incubated proposals,
decree targeted cross-breeds and dog types that dynamic conservatism or system-maintenance
had not been officially recognised as breeds. The approaches, and institutional biases colouring
proscribed list for compulsory sterilisation response.2
reflected an expert view that particular breeding In a `window of opportunity' response, policy
lines rather than whole breeds are potentially entrepreneurs take advantage of `policy
dangerous, and signalled a victory for the French windows' to produce pre-cooked policy pro-
kennel association. Those kennel association posals or initiatives (Kingdon 1995; McFarland
breeds that appeared in the ministerial decree 1991). Such processes resemble the notion of
(principally Staffordshire Bullterriers and Rott- `crisis reform', which characterises turning points
weilers) were excluded from compulsory sterilis- that lead to institutional renewal (Boin and `t
ation and notably excluded German Shepherds. Hart, 2000: 3; also Alink, Boin and `t Hart, 2001:
Even so, implementation encountered numerous 287). To the extent that such processes are at

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work, we would expect to find that the policy some larger purpose. In addition, public and
ideas that emerge from government or interest regulatory organizations regularly engage in
groups during dog-bite crises are not simple forms of `blame prevention engineering' in the
`knee jerk responses', but solutions that have face of rising demands for transparency and
been waiting for a problem or that have been openness over the handling of risk (Hood et al.
rejected earlier. 2001).
In contrast to the `windows of opportunities' Elements of each of these institutional
response, we distinguish between two responses can be discerned in German and
conservative types of institutional responses, British responses to `forced choice' dog-bite
`system maintenance' and `partial re-engineering'. tragedies capturing media and public attention
In a system-maintenance response, institutions and generating importunate demands for decis-
respond to disturbances in their environment in ive action. Evidently, something more than
ways that seek to maintain their borders and simple `weathervane' activity or Pavlovian
established modes of operation (see Thompson, politics went on in both cases. But the mix of
1967; Weick, 1979; Maturana and Varela, 1980; responses varies, not only across the two
Brans and Rossbach, 1997). Here the expectation countries, but also across time and across
is that bureaucracies and other institutions different parts of government and the bureauc-
constituted as `discourse communities' adopt racy. Parts of the story of these two cases fit
strategies for survival in the face of environ- established stereotypes of their institutional
mental shocks like dog-bite crises, preserving as `policy styles', even though the notion of `policy
much as they can of their pre-existing ways of style' is widely contested (see Richardson 1982;
life. For example, the last section showed that Lijphart 1999). The UK is often claimed to be
the activity of established breed associations and particularly prone to rapid and ill-judged policy-
kennel clubs in France and the Netherlands making due to its unitary state characteristics, its
reproduced the pre-existing canine `class system' detached, NPM-oriented career civil service and
in the regulatory regimes. its virtually veto-point free majoritarian govern-
But `system maintenance' can be conceived in ment (see Dunleavy 1995), while Germany with
more than one way. At one extreme is the pure its executive federalism and orientation towards
idea of `autopoiesis' (cf. Luhmann, 1975 and legal policy harmonisation without policy
1980) as closed self-reproducing patterns of centralisation is often seen as a structure that
discourse. At the other are ideas of `staged avoids `knee-jerk' responses and reacts, if at all,
retreat', in which institutions fight a rearguard in a delayed fashion as a result of the high
action against pressures for change, adopting transaction costs for policy change (Lehmbruch
new responses only when existing positions 2000). Given that stereotype, it is perhaps not
have become indefensible. The pattern of staged surprising to find that the UK was one of the
retreat is sometimes depicted by style-phase `first wave' of countries to adopt new breed-
models (see Beck Jrgensen 1985, 1987; Joo specific dangerous dog regulation and Germany
1999). Adoption of `second order' responses was in the `second wave'. But contrary to the
(Levy, 1986), involving change in basic value conventional `tortoise and hare' stereotypes of
systems can be expected to come only after `first the two countries' policy styles, the German
order' responses (that leave core value systems `tortoise' responded as rapidly to dog-bite
unchanged) have been tried and sometimes not tragedies as the British `hare' (if not more so),
even then (Laughlin 1991).3 and in both cases a variant of the `staged retreat'
In the case of biased forms of institutional response is observable.
reengineering, organizations respond to complex
demands for change by filtering out the more
difficult or demanding (even if more important) British Dangerous Dogs Policy: A
aspects of the change agenda and focusing on Whitehall Farce?
the more readily doable, programmable or
internally valued aspects. Such change does not The UK developed a legal framework for regu-
necessarily involve pure system-maintenance or lating dog-attack risks in the nineteenth century,4
clear entrepreneurship and may simply take the together with a system for dog licensing that
form of emerging or reinforced bias, for instance dated back to the eighteenth century, and a
in which of the many demands on their time practice of enforcement by the police that com-
overloaded bureaucracies respond to and which monly followed the `one free bite' doctrine found
they choose to ignore. An example is Clay and in various other European countries, as noted
Schaffer's (1984: 10) account of bureaucratic earlier. By the last quarter of the twentieth cen-
irony or paradox, which stems from the way tury, that Victorian legal framework was widely
organizations in development programmes con- believed to be obsolete, for several reasons. Those
centrate on what is easiest or most convenient reasons included the fact that the main
for them to do, whether or not it contributes to nineteenth-century statute, the 1871 Dogs Act,

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PAVLOVIAN POLICY RESPONSES TO MEDIA FEEDING FRENZIES? 5

did not impose criminal penalties on dog owners dog bites were out of the news. For example, a
who used their pets as instruments of terror. Guard Dogs Act was introduced as a private
Moreover, the penalties it did prescribe had never member's bill in 1975 following the killing of a
been increased to take account of inflation and so child by a guard dog in Glasgow. The following
had become derisory a century later. decade saw the abandonment of dog licensing in
These deficiencies were highlighted in the Great Britain (it was retained in Northern Ireland),
1980s in the context of changes affecting many which was presented as a triumph for
Western European countries, as noted earlier. `deregulation' by the Thatcher government. But
During that time, new fighting dog types were renewed media attention on dog-bite risks
introduced to the UK, particularly American pit following a Rottweiler attack on a young girl in
bull terriers, which became popular with urban the summer of 1989 led to the enactment of a
drug dealers and other criminals as legal Dangerous Dogs Act, a private member's bill that
weapons, as well as for illegal dog-fighting and amended the 1871 Dogs Act5 and to the
as part of fascist sub-cultures (see Baker 1993: discussion of policy proposals for further change
433). As in other European states, the UK's in dog legislation by some of the main UK
canine `establishment', in the form of the Kennel government departments.6
Club and breed associations, did not recognize However, out of the last quarter of the
American pit bull terriers as a `breed', but only as twentieth century, it was the spring and summer
a cross-breed. By contrast, the fierce dogs of 1991 that saw the development of media
traditionally favoured by the affluent and landed activity and ministerial responses most closely
classes (such as Rottweilers and Dobermans) approximating to a form of `forced choice' on
were well represented by breed associations and public officials responsible for dog-bite
had political connections in the sense that they legislation in the UK. A small number of tragic
were owned by MPs and Cabinet Ministers. injuries following unprovoked dog attacks in
Following a familiar risk-regulation pattern (in- public places, particularly by pit bull terriers,
volving bounded rationality, issue-attention cycles produced a media `feeding frenzy' and demands
and a system bias towards incremental change in for prompt and decisive government action to
law and policy rather than synoptic rationality), control what were claimed to be `devil dogs'.
the patchwork and antiquated structure of UK Figure 1 below indicates the extent of that
dog-attack laws was never systematically re- `feeding frenzy' in 1991 by an analysis of
viewed. Rather, in the last quarter of the twentieth selected tabloid and broadsheet coverage of
century, legislation on dog attack risks followed a dog risks over approximately a decade.
classic `tombstone' pattern. Parliamentary atten- That media activity put further pressure on a
tion was aroused after dog attack tragedies that Conservative Home Secretary (Kenneth Baker)
attracted substantial media coverage and imposed who was already in difficulties following a major
a form of `forced choice' on policy-makers during riot at Manchester Strangeways prison and
periods of saturation coverage, with a correspond- needed a way of restoring his political fortunes
ing waning of politician attention at times when ahead of the summer Cabinet-reshuffle season.

Source: Hood, Rothstein and Baldwin 2001: 91. See also Podberscek 1994.
Figure 1: Coverage of Dangerous Dog Risks by Selected British Newspapers

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When Baker tried a `stonewalling' response to broadly parallel regulation, given the free
media demands for action, stressing the diffi- passage of dogs between the Irish Republic
culties of further legislative action to deal with and the UK.11
the dog-attack problem, he ran into heavy media The Act was supported by all major political
criticism that also put pressure on the Prime parties during its hasty passage through
Minister (Baker 1993: 434). The Conservative Parliament (though the Labour opposition
government was itself in difficulties as a result of wanted to go further and include other dog
by-election defeats and was widely seen as types in the special regime) and public opinion
facing an uphill battle to win the general election polls at the time of its introduction showed
that had to be held the following year. substantial support by respondents for extra
The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, which was controls on dangerous dogs in general and pit
rapidly drafted and passed through all its stages bulls in particular (see Hood, Rothstein and
on the floor of the House of Commons in one Baldwin 2000: 294). However, police enforce-
sitting, was the product of this `forced choice' ment of the Act was patchy across the country
situation. The Act entered British popular culture, and criticism of the measure soon began to
being widely cited in newspaper editorials as a mount up. Magistrates and judges protested
cardinal example of ill-thought-out `knee-jerk' about the lack of discretion available to the
responses to tabloid headlines.7 Its architecture courts under the terms of the Act over
reflected concerns by a range of stakeholders. destruction of dogs whose owners had not
The Home Secretary (Kenneth Baker) wanted to complied with the law. This mandatory death
be seen as making a vigorous response to the pit penalty (for dogs) also attracted protest from
bull menace highlighted by the tabloids but not several other quarters, leading to the formation
to introduce general dog licensing8 or to target of a Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 Reform Group
other types of dogs that were more politically led by a former Labour Minister (Lord Houghton
established or popular with voters at large.9 of Sowerby, one of the joint sponsors of the
Police, particularly in London, wanted new legal 1989 Dangerous Dogs Act). The tabloids that
powers to deal with drug dealers using pit bull had pressed for the introduction of tougher
terriers as tools of trade. Animal cruelty controls on dangerous dogs in the summer of
organisations wanted further measures to control 1991 were soon carrying tear-jerking stories
dog fighting. Home Office bureaucrats were later about what appeared to be much-loved family
criticised by the Minister as putting up `endless pets on `death row', facing mandatory execution
difficulties' in the face of his ideas for action for what were claimed to be innocent infractions
against pit bulls and stressing the difficulties of of the Act.12 Accordingly, the Act was amended
picking out pit bulls from other dogs (Baker in 1997 to remove the obligation on courts to
1993: 434). But those bureaucrats at least wanted impose a death sentence on dogs whose owners
to get the dog control issue off the front pages of had not complied with the Act.
the newspapers, to craft legislation that dealt Moreover, enforcement of the Act by the
with the pit bull problem with administrative police, always patchy, in effect reverted to the
elegance and economy, and to move general dog traditional `one free bite' approach to dogs rather
legislation more firmly in the direction of than the `risk-based' approach that the Act was
orthodox criminal law and away from the intended to represent. After a short period of
`administrative law' basis of the 1871 Dogs Act. vigorous enforcement of the law by the police,
The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act made it a especially in London, as part of a crackdown on
criminal offence to have any dog dangerously drug dealers, the Dangerous Dogs Act ceased to
out of control in a public place and introduced be actively enforced by the Metropolitan police
additional controls that were targeted on pit bull a year or so after its introduction and was placed
terriers and a few other little-known types of low in the list of police priorities.13 New public
`luxury' fighting dogs. Those additional controls fears (notably over paedophiles) preoccupied
included compulsory neutering (by castration for Home Office ministers and policy-makers, and
males), insurance, registration, tattooing, identi- the alleged propensity for introducing extra
fication by the insertion of microchips (an idea regulation that was shown by the New Labour
taken from racehorse identification via the government elected in 1997 did not extend to
government vetinerary network), and the obli- new dog laws or more vigorous enforcement of
gation to be muzzled and on a lead in any public the existing ones.
place. The Act further prescribed mandatory
destruction of any dog of the prescribed type
that was found to be in breach of these specific German `Racing Tortoise' Responses
requirements.10 There is no evidence that the to Dog Bite Tragedies
Act was based on learning from other countries
to any extent, though its architects were keen to The killing of a six year old by a pit bull and an
ensure that the Republic of Ireland introduced American Staffordshire Terrier while playing in a

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PAVLOVIAN POLICY RESPONSES TO MEDIA FEEDING FRENZIES? 7

Note: This table, drawn from Lexis-Nexis, indicates the number of articles published in both the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Suddeutsche Zeitung. Lexis-Nexis only extends to January 1993
and does not include German tabloid newspapers.
Figure 2: Coverage of Dangerous Dog Risks by Selected German Newspapers over Time.

school playground in Hamburg in the summer of La nder (Baden Wurttemberg, Hamburg, Bremen
2000 caused a `shock' to the then existing and the Saar) therefore had to revert to the
system of German dangerous dogs regulation. In traditional `one free bite' approach to dog
the face of public pressure, a widespread media regulation. The only exception was Bavaria,
outcry and political demands for immediate which in 1992 adopted a breed-based regulatory
action, the different La nder responded by regime that declared five dog types and breeds
adopting diverse measures for the control of to be `irrevocably' dangerous, and nine further
dangerous dogs. Figure 2 shows the over-time breeds to be `revocably' dangerous (depending
incidence of coverage of dangerous dog risks in on a case-by-case veterinary risk assessment). In
two broadsheet newspapers and indicates a contrast to the position in the other La nder, this
broadly similar pattern of a high peak among regime was accepted by the Bavarian
sporadic bouts of interest as in the UK case constitutional court. It is notable that the
shown in Figure 1, even though the time-periods German Shepherd (Alsatian) breed was excluded
are not quite the same and Figure 2 does not from the framework in spite of a high incidence
include tabloid coverage. of serious bites from this dog; the Court justified
The policy initiatives advanced in 2000 were this exclusion on the grounds that the German
not, however, a simple `Pavlovian' response to Shepherd's share in German tradition and
the media outcry, but reflected debates and heritage meant that people were more aware of
frustrated reform initiatives that had been in its risks and dangers.
train since the early 1990s. Due to the federal The continued rise of the pit bull and related
nature of Germany's political system, the dog population, further (although not always
competence for public order rests solely with fatal) attacks on humans and animals as well as
the La nder, thus ruling out any federal action, the `big dog' fashion of the 1990s led to a re-
except for initiatives in animal health and emerging interest in establishing a breed-based
protection (federal powers were used in 1998 approach. Local authorities began to charge
to prohibit any training that increased the differential dog taxes in an attempt to `price'
aggressiveness of a dog). Earlier attempts to dangerous dogs `out of the market', but such
introduce breed-based lists to target pit bulls and attempts met with a mixed public reception and
other dogs popularly regarded as unacceptably were rejected by several administrative courts
dangerous had been largely frustrated by various before being ruled legally permissible by the
Land administrative courts. The courts argued Federal Administrative Court in 2000. Several
that regulation based on breeds would violate La nder also attempted to overcome the legal
the `proportionality principle' in the sense that barriers that proposals for breed-based
targeting particular dog breeds and types instead regulation had encountered.
of others with a similar `incident record' was not Initiatives to come to an intergovernmental
justified or scientifically proven. The affected agreement on a common approach failed to

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8 JOURNAL OF CONTINGENCIES AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT

reach a common set of recommendations as These differences are closely related to what
some La nder remained opposed to breed-based extent institutions took on a `system main-
regulation. However, following a fighting dog tenance' or `system re-engineering' perspective.
attack that injured a child in May 2000, the While some La nder (in particular Saxony Anhalt
Standing Conference of Interior Ministers agreed and Saxony) adopted a `system maintenance'
to encourage tougher action at the individual approach, by introducing minimal coercion and
Land level through the strengthening of existing administrative obligations such as breed bans
laws, restricted eligibility for dog ownership, and and lead and muzzle requirements, other La nder
possible requirements for dogs to be muzzled adopted `re-engineering' strategies. Here the aim
and on a lead in public. This agreement, allowing was to reduce or eliminate the population of
for a large element of discretion, followed a particular dogs and breeding lines usually by
pattern typical of German policy-making by co- prohibiting breeding rather than through
ordination across the La nder with agreement compulsory sterilisation and demanding
among the La nder only being reached in the face compliance requirements such as compulsory
of strong media pressure. identification signs worn by particular types of
The Hamburg incident provided the type of dogs, dog examinations and owner tests.
external shock that offered policy entrepreneurs The Hamburg attack also provided an oppor-
a policy `window' for advancing long-advocated tunity to establish or readjust regulatory pro-
and long-frustrated proposals, and highlights the visions that had previously faced concerted
importance of such shocks in policy develop- opposition, exploiting high public support for
ment.14 In some La nder, responsibility for dog coercive action and the temporary discrediting of
regulation shifted temporarily from animal the kennel clubs. For instance, in Lower Saxony
health officials to higher-ranking public order/ planned dog `personality tests' were after the
security officials with a concern for the impo- Hamburg attack changing from an instrument to
sition of risk-based regulation. The Hamburg determine whether a dog should be allowed to
incident also allowed officials, in response to breed to a test for the dog's right to survive.
demands from ministers, to overcome the More administrative effort was put into dog
resistance of kennel clubs and experts and other control and registration by local authorities in
veterinary officials. Their initiatives were La nder like North Rhine Westphalia, Hamburg,
supported by advocacy from Bavaria which Hesse and Lower Saxony. However, the involve-
pointed to its `no incident' record in Munich ment of kennel clubs and vets reduced the coerc-
since the passing of its 1992 law. However, none ive nature of the instruments in the implementation
of the La nder copied the Bavarian approach fully stage, and dog owners again sought to restrain
and their approaches indicate different types of regulatory initiatives in the courts. Courts in
institutional responses to forced choices. In Hesse, Mecklenburg Vorpommern, Schleswig
contrast to the UK, the police did not have an Holstein, Lower Saxony and Baden Wurttemberg
established position on dangerous dogs, and as ruled out large parts of their respective Land
indicated above the search for regulatory government's regulatory response, while the
instruments that would survive legal challenge provisions in Berlin and in Rhineland Palatinate
was central to the process at Land level. Table 1 were endorsed by court rulings.
offers a broad summary of the main provisions The upshot of this process was that a pit bull
of the various Land approaches. owner, travelling across Germany with her dog,
As Table 1 shows, breed-based approaches would have had to comply with between seven
were widespread, nearly always including the and nine different types of regulatory controls.
American pit bull terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Accordingly, a new La nder working group was
Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. established to propose a more harmonised
Similar requirements were imposed to keep approach, while the federal government intro-
dangerous dogs muzzled and on a lead in public, duced a national ban on the importation of pit
and in `secure' accommodation, and there was bulls, American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull-
widespread agreement on the establishment of terriers and Staffordshire Bullterriers and any
dog ownership criteria following the model used related cross-breeds. It also attempted, without
for gun licences. But there was substantial success, to persuade the European Commission
variation in the dog types targeted, ranging to introduce an EU-wide ban on the import of
from Saxony Anhalt with three dog breeds and such animals. Furthermore, using its animal
types to North Rhine Westphalia which targeted health powers, the federal government intro-
43 breeds and types, plus all dogs above 40cm duced, by September 2001, an overall breeding
height and 20kg weight. The same applied to the ban on dangerous dogs and standardised
degree of coerciveness of regulatory instru- procedures for licensing dog owners. The
ments, which ranged from obligatory sterilis- administration of the regulatory instruments
ation to different tests of dog `personalities' and was generally delegated to kennel clubs, and in
of the competence of the owner. a matter of months after the Hamburg incident

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PAVLOVIAN POLICY RESPONSES TO MEDIA FEEDING FRENZIES? 9

Table 1: Approaches to Dangerous Dog Regulation by the German Lander


Land Category I: Strict regulation Category II: Moderate regulation
North Rhine- 13 breeds and types breeding ban; 30 breeds and types
Westphalia individual examination & registration examination and registration
Lower Saxony 3 breeds and types individual 11 breeds and types examination
examination; if failed: destruction; to reverse lead and muzzling
if passed: registration and neutering requirements
Bremen 9 breeds and types registration
Bavaria 5 breeds and types registration 9 breeds and types examination to
and examination exempt from lead and muzzling
requirements
Brandenburg 5 breeds and types registration, 13 breeds and types biannual
neutering, ban on sale and breeding examination
Berlin 5 breeds and types immediate 7 breeds and types lead and
notification, ban on breeding, muzzle requirements
examination
Baden 3 breeds and types examination to 9 breeds and types classification as
Wurttemberg establish breeding ban, registration dangerous where strong evidence,
registration
Hamburg 3 breeds and types registration, 10 breeds and types examination to
neutering, owner & dog examination, establish level of aggressiveness and
ban on breeding of aggressive dogs exempt from adjustable conditions
Hesse 3 breeds and types two year 12 breeds and types examination
permitafter examination, neutering, to prove non-dangerousness
ban on sale and transfer
Mecklenburg 12 breeds and types dog & owner
Vorpommern examination to revoke requirements:
otherwise ban on breeding and sale
Rhineland 3 breeds and types neutering,
Palatinate ban on breeding and sale, dog &
owner examinations
Saxony 3 breeds and types (established by
subsequent regulation), owner
competence, ban on breeding and sale
Saxony Anhalt 3 breeds and types ban on breeding
and sale
Saar 3 breeds and types ban on non-
commercial breeding, registration,
owner examination
Schleswig 3 breeds and types planned 12 breeds and types lead requirement
Holstein sterilisation and ban on breeding
and sale. Lead and muzzle
Thuringia Rejection of breed-based approach in
March 2000.
Note: This table provides only a partial overview of the key provisions. Most La nder also included a third category to
include other particularly aggressive dogs.

local authorities (notably Berlin) withdrew the challenges and dog attacks continued and
resources they had put into dog controls. As in arguments continued over their efficacy.
the UK, the implementation of the various
provisions remained at best patchy; legal

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10 JOURNAL OF CONTINGENCIES AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT

How Do Institutions Matter over incident seems to have briefly triggered an


Forced Choices? uncharacteristic form of regulatory competition
among La nder, with each Land government
These cases show a number of similarities and trying to seem more draconian in its response
differences. Broad similarities include speed of than its fellows.15
response, limited awareness of international However, in both cases `normal' institutional
experience (with the exception of the university- constraints and processes tended quickly to
based veterinary community), the dog types that reassert themselves once the media `feeding
were selected for the most draconian regimes frenzy' was over. In the German case, the
and a common pattern of `institutional retreat' rapidly-introduced regulatory initiatives were
after the high point of the forced-choice phase. either watered down at the implementation stage
Differences include the range of instruments or, were, to some extent at least, legally revoked
used to tackle dangerous dog risks (with more within months. And German policy-making soon
broad-ranging measures used or contemplated resorted to type, with intergovernmental working
by `second wave' countries like Germany). The groups trying to produce a more harmonized
German policy story shows the degree to which approach to dangerous dogs regulation and their
regulatory responses were shaped by the legal efforts frustrated by unanimity requirements. A
doctrine of proportionality, and heavily shaped similar pattern of institutionally-driven retreat
by anticipated court challenges, reflecting the from the initiatives taken in the `forced choice' era
failed attempts to produce breed-based regu- is observable in the UK case, with police rapidly
lation in the early 1990s, while such constraints returning to the traditional `one free bite'
on policy-making were much less evident in the approach and opposition (among lawyers and in
UK case. Equally, German policy-makers were the media) to the compulsory death sentence for
less constrained by a media backlash against dogs whose owners had not complied with the
draconian dangerous-dog regimes than their 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act leading to the
British counterparts. amendment of the Act in 1997 to give courts
This story suggests at least three broad greater discretion.
conclusions about `forced choices' and how insti- Third, institutions mediated forced choices by
tutions respond to them. First, small events can a mix of system-maintenance, and partial re-
have big consequences. In the cases analysed engineering responses, with a limited element of
here, one dog bite at a strategic moment could solutions-in-search of problems responses. In all
trigger an institutional reaction that demanded four cases observed here, the institutions that
heavy attention and activity by political leaders, maintained the canine `class system' worked to
cabinet committees, high officials, street bureau- impose the most draconian controls (notably
crats and court systems. Given the right circum- forced sterilization) onto pit bulls, while partially
stances in this case a combination of an attack or fully shielding established dog types such as
in a public place, an innocent victim, a develop- Rottweilers and German Shepherds with attack
ing pattern of incidents that led to `institutional records that could be argued to be broadly
vulnerability' (Boin and `t Hart, 2000: 20) and an equivalent to the pit bull kill-rate. All of the
absence of rival big news stories one dog bite systems observed show signs of `staged retreats'
can present policy-makers with `forced choices' by institutions away from preferred status quo
in the same way as large-scale events that rank positions, forced in the British case by
high on any `objective' scale of public risk. continuing political pressure on the responsible
Second, as the Anglo-German comparison minister to adopt a more draconian regulatory
shows, it is in the nature of such `forced choice' regime, and by a pattern of repeated dog-bite
incidents to cause periods of disequilibrium tragedies in the Dutch and German cases. There
where an issue is forced out of its usual niche was no clear-cut case of identified policy
and becomes part of a macro-political agenda entrepreneurs exploiting the policy window
(True, Jones and Baumgartner 1999). With created by a `forced choice' dog-bite incident
normal constraints on policy-making removed to promote pre-cooked solutions, but
by such incidents, conventional expectations particularly in the German case the Hamburg
about the working of institutions can be incident served to remove the roadblocks facing
confounded. As we saw, the German `tortoise' policy proposals that had been in the political
moved as rapidly as the British `hare', if not more process for some time and even in the UK case
so, to produce a regulatory response to a dog- the pit bull tragedies of 1991 helped to
bite incident that produced a media `feeding accelerate changes in the criminal law that had
frenzy', and that response contrasted sharply already been mooted by government depart-
with the typical `lumbering' pattern of German ments. The cross-national comparison suggests
federal-policy making in which dramatic new that the analysis of `forced choices' is likely to
departures tend to be prevented by unanimity gain by moving beyond the distinction between
requirements on decision-making. Indeed, the active and conservative responses made by Boin

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PAVLOVIAN POLICY RESPONSES TO MEDIA FEEDING FRENZIES? 11

and `t Hart (2000), and indeed a further differen- control of dogs in England and Wales were the
tiation beyond the three modes developed here 1839 Metropolitan Police Act, the 1847 Town
is probably needed in further research. Police Clauses Act and the 1871 Dogs Act. The
Thus, while `forced choices' are commonly said 1847 Act made it a criminal offence to allow an
unmuzzled ferocious dog to be off a lead in
to constitute circumstances where policy-making public or to allow any dog to attack or menace
departs from `normal' or `humdrum' styles of any person or animal. The 1871 Act was non-
politics, institutions still appear to mediate criminal legislation that allowed action to be
responses to crises of the type considered here. taken to control potentially dangerous dogs even
Forced choices, often stemming from a combi- when no offence had been committed. Other
nation of events, institutional interaction, political dog-related legislation included laws prohibiting
calculus and public advocacy, can serve to over- dog fighting and seeking to control strays and
come some entrenched institutional obstacles to dog fouling (House of Lords, 1996: 23).
policy change, but at the same time entrenched 5. The 1989 Act gave courts extra powers and
institutions shape the context of those choices by increased the range and levels of penalties that
the interests and positions that are developed in could be imposed on dog owners. It also
included powers for destruction of dogs other
advance of a crisis and being promoted before a than strays and gave courts the power to issue
crisis event, and in the detailed way that orders banning dog owners from having custody
regulatory tools and their application are of a dog for a specified period.
developed during and after such events. 6. A consultation paper on control of dogs issued
by the Home Office, Scottish Office, Welsh
Office and Department of Environment in 1990
(Home Office, Scottish Office, Welsh Office and
Notes Department of the Environment, 1990),
discussed general changes in the law on all dogs
1. The notion of `forced choice' is closely related to and proposals for special controls on particular
debates over crisis management capacities and breeds or types.
patterns of organizational decision-making, for 7. A study of one broadsheet newspaper stable (the
example selective use of information and Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph) revealed
potential centralization of decision-making over 35 editorial items over seven years
(Staw, Sandelands and Dutton, 1981). Disasters following the Dangerous Dogs Act's enactment
and crises, conventionally defined as a that used the Act as an example of bad
cumulation of adverse conditions, including regulation (Hood, Rothstein and Baldwin, 2000:
`severe threat, uncertainty and the necessity for 282).
prompt decision-making' (Rosenthal, `t Hart and 8. He had ridiculed dog licensing in a newspaper
Charles, 1989: 10), are normally associated with article in the 1970s and abolished dog licences as
large-scale events. This article aims to explore a Secretary of State for the Environment in 1988
type of `forced choice' that arises out of small (Baker 1993: 467 and 4336).
events that attract high media attention, political 9. Baker (1993: 435) describes how he resisted
demand and public attention (see also the notion proposals `to put Rottweilers, Dobermans and
of `moral panics' as popularised by Cohen, 1972). Alsatians in the same category as pit bulls'
In such a context, a `non-response' is not a because `this would have infuriated the ``green
politically feasible option, though (in line with welly'' brigade' and declared, `I was not in the
almost every type of forced choice) the specific business of legislating to control chihuahuas
response path is not totally constrained by when I wanted to rid the country of pit bulls'.
environmental pressures (see also Boin and `t 10. For a more detailed account of the Act see Hood,
Hart, 2000). Rothstein and Baldwin (2000: 2868).
2. The selected approaches encompass the main 11. The Irish provisions required twelve dog types
themes of system-environmental analysis of and breeds to be registered and be kept on a lead
institutional responses to external disturbance and muzzle. The Irish response was also
but do not claim to be jointly exhaustive or motivated by public anxiety about bite incidents,
mutually exclusive. not only in Ireland, and concern about `sheep-
3. Laughlin (1991) and Laughlin and Broadbent worrying'.
(1995) differentiate first-order and second-order 12. Examples included dogs whose owners claimed
institutional responses to environmental they had not realised their pets were of a
disturbance. They divide first-order responses prescribed type and dogs whose muzzles had
into `rebuttal' (responses designed to resist the been removed in public, allegedly to allow them
disturbance) and `reorientation' (responses to vomit.
designed to change an organization without 13. The Metropolitan Police in 1992 `made a
affecting its core values). Similarly, second-order conscious decision not to be pro-active in
responses, involving changes in core values, are enforcing the Act' and by 1994 `had gone back
divided into `colonization' (where new core in effect to the traditional ``one-free-bite''
values are imposed on an organization from approach to dangerous dogs that the Dangerous
outside) and `evolution' (where all stakeholders Dogs Act had ostensibly replaced' (Hood,
absorb new values more or less voluntarily). Rothstein and Baldwin, 2001: 133).
4. The main nineteenth-century laws relevant to 14. Thuringia did not respond to the Hamburg

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12 JOURNAL OF CONTINGENCIES AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT

incident. It had altered its regulatory framework a Regulatory Law Fail?', Public Law, Summer, pp.
in March 2000 and had rejected the adoption of 282305.
a breed-based approach on the grounds that it House of Lords (1996), Select Committee on the
was not scientific. Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill (H.L.): Report
15. In contrast to the United Kingdom, there was with Evidence, HL paper 48, session 199596,
only little systematic opinion polling on the HMSO, London.
issue in Germany. One country-wide poll Joo, J. (1999), `Dynamics of Social Policy Change: A
suggested that 42 per cent argued that the Korean Case Study From a Comparative
toughening of regulatory controls on dangerous Perspective' Governance, Volume 12, Number 1,
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per cent argued that these were insufficient Kingdon, J.W. (1995), Agendas, Alternatives, and Public
(www.dimap.de/aktuell/vdw200028.html). The allo- Policies, Harper Collins, New York.
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meant that `centralisation' of forced choice Organizational Transitions and Transformations:
decision-making took place at the sub-national Some Alternative Models', Organization Studies,
level rather than at the federal level, prohibiting Volume 12, Number 2, pp. 209232.
opportunities for intergovernmental decision- Laughlin, R. and Broadbent, J. (1995), `The New
making. Public Management Reforms in Schools and GP
Practices: Professional Resistance and the Role of
Absorption and Absorbing Groups', paper
presented at the First Asian Pacific
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