Breed specific legislation...




Breed Specific Legislation or "BSL" is exactly what it sounds like...regulation of your right to own or, in many cases, not own, a dog based solely on the breed or "type" of dog - not your responsibility as an owner.  While most people associate BSL to laws that ban the ownership of specific breeds of dogs, it also refers to regulations such as muzzling, insurance, and a host of other strict requirements placed only owners of specific breeds of dogs. 

No matter the type of BSL in a community, it targets all dogs of a specific breed -- the innocent as well as the guilty - and it removes the responsibility from the dog's owner and places it on the dog itself.   Laws are created to punish or deter the actions of humans - not those of animals - and the failure to recognize the integral role or irresponsible ownership is the biggest reason that breed specific legislation fails. 


Breed specific laws take away the right to own particular dogs for no reason other than their perceived breed or their resemblance to a certain breed.   Most instances are fueled by media hype and the fears induced by media hype and sensationalism.  There is no such thing as a vicious breed of dog, and a dog's appearance has nothing to do with his actions or behavior.    


BSL is an inadequate and uneducated "band-aid" quick fix to address the gushing "wound" of irresponsible ownership and lack of personal accountability.  


States that prohibit breed specific legislation 

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington. 


BSL... not just for "pit bulls"

If you think only pit bull owners need to be concerned about breed specific legislation ("BSL"), the following list should shatter your illusions:


American Pit Bull Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier


Doberman Pinscher

Scottish Deerhound

Belgian Malamois

Cane Corso

Fila Brasileiro

Great Dane

Bull Mastiff

St. Bernard

Dogo Argentino


Shar Pai

Alaskan Malamute

Siberian Husky

American Bulldog

Presa Canario

German Shephard


Chow Chow

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Dogue de Bordeaux

Tosu Inu

Irish Wolf Hound

English Mastiff


Great Pyrenees

Wolf Hybrids


Why breed specific legislation is a concern for ALL dog owners!

Do you still think you can't be affected by breed specific legislation because you don't own a pit bull?    If so, think again... 


As previously mentioned, breed specific ordinances focus on the way a dog looks rather than the actual breed of the dog....this is particularly true with so-called "pit bull bans."  Why?  Because accurate "pit bull" identification is difficult, if not impossible.  These ordinances are worded extremely broadly in order to include ANY dog that simply resembles a pit bull. Most "pit bull ordinances" define a "pit bull" as any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or any dog that closely resembles any of these breeds.  In essence, whether a dog is or is not a "pit bull" is based on the eyes of the beholder.


Who Makes the Decisions?

With the knowledge that pit bull ordinances target dogs that simply look like pit bulls, the obviously leads to the question:  WHO is charged with identification of a "pit bull" in cities that have enacted breed specific ordinances.  What special criteria do they have?  What is their area of expertise that entitles them to condemn your dog? 

In many cities, the determination as to whether a dog is or is not a "pit bull" is made by a police chief, police officers and/or animal control officials.  In other words, the people charged with enforcing these ordinances are not experts in breed identification.  The mere fact that animal control officers come in daily contact with various breeds in the course of their job, does not mean they can properly identify all those breeds.  In fact, many veterinarians  - who also come in daily contact with a variety of breeds on a daily basis - have stated there is no way to positively identify a "pit bull." 

To emphasize the incredible potential for arbitrary enforcement of these laws, Tom Skeldon, an Ohio dog warden, testified in a court of law that "there is really no way to tell if a dog is or is not a pit bull, and the determination is made by animal control officers' subjective judgment."  To add to the irony of this statement, Mr. Skeldon was testifying as an "expert" on behalf of the city defending its ban on pit bulls

Among the many problems associated with breed specific legislation and its enforcement against pit bulls are the issues associated with identification.  "Pit bull" is not a breed, but rather a generic term used to describe the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  However, the physical traits and characteristics shared by "pit bulls" are also shared by approximately twenty-five (25) other breeds that are not typically classified as bully breed dogs.  Obviously, this causes great difficulty in identification and allows for discriminatory and subjective actions by animal control officers. 

This clearly illustrates the importance of why every dog owner should be against breed specific legislation.  Could your dog fall into the category of "looking like" a pit bull?  Does your dog "closely resemble" a breed that could  look like a pit bull?


All across the country, non-pit bull owners ARE being affected by pit bull bans.  If you think otherwise, you are simply ignoring the obvious as set forth in ordinances above.  


Your dog could be next.  Responsible dog owners of ALL breeds need to help in the fight against breed specific legislation


As evidenced above, it is unreasonable for laws to be passed based simply on what a dog looks like or what breed it not necessarily is, but what breed it appears to be.  As dog bite statistics show, every breed of dog will bite. 

The focus of legislators should be on implementing and enforcing generic, non-breed specific dangerous dog laws.  These laws deem a dog dangerous based on individual dangerous or vicious acts of the dog - not by breed.  Existing laws should be strictly enforced and irresponsible owners should be held accountable for the actions of their dogs. Breed specific legislation removes the responsibility from the dog's owner and places it solely on the dog itself.   

Breed bans and other forms of BSL do not work because they target all dogs of a breed -- the innocent as well as the guilty; they are difficult to enforce; and they do not end the use of guardian dogs by criminals. If a breed that is popular with criminals and/or unethical breeders is banned, they simply move on to another breed. 

Removing all "pit bulls" or "rottweilers" or "fill in the breed here" does not instantly render a community safe.  Rather, it instills a false sense of security among residents because the truly dangerous dogs remain in the community because those dogs do not meet the criteria of the banned breed.


BSL and the Cost to Taxpayers


1.  Cost of additional animal control offers to enforce the ban or restrictions.  **Remember, most cities do not have sufficient animal control departments to enforce leash laws, which if enforced would reduce many of the problems that lead to bite incidents.


2.  Kennelling.

3.  Veterinary care.

4.  Legal fees (lawsuits). 

Read:  High Price Paid for Failed Breed Ban.