Breed Specific Legislation

American Pit Bull Terrier puppy running in grass field

Breed-specific legislation is design to reduce dog bites and injuries. Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is the overarching term used to describe laws and ordinances which regulate or outright ban certain dog breeds, as a means of curbing dog attacks on humans and animals. Currently there are breed-specific laws in over 700 U.S. cities.

BSL is more than just a ban or limitations, and in many cases require that dogs covered under the legislation be spayed/neutered, muzzled when in public, property posting, and even mandatory liability insurance requirements, and special licensing and age requirements.

What Dogs Are Generally Targeted by BSL?

In the United States, BSL often impacts the following dog breeds: Neapolitan Mastiff, American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Alaskan Malamute, Akita, Bull Terrier, Cane Corso, German Shepherd dog, Rottweiler, Shar Pei, and Siberian Husky, or any dog that is deemed to be a mix of one of these breeds.

Does Breed-Specific Legislation Work?

There is no empirical evidence that BSL works in a way where it measurably reduces injury or fatality to humans or other household animals. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has strongly opposed the enactment of such laws and ordinances in cities and communities, because of results from studies pertaining to human fatalities as a consequence of dog bites.

What Type of Impact Do Breed-Specific Laws Have?

There is virtually no support for breed-specific legislation from animal welfare groups and organizations. This is due to the negative impact such laws have on both dogs and their owners.

When such laws are enacted, some owners try to limit their dog’s exposure to the world outside the home in order to avoid detection. In turn this greatly diminishes the ability of the dog to exercise and socialize. Additionally, owners may decide to avoid veterinary visits lest their dog be taken away from them. BSL also makes it very difficult or even impossible to adopt any affected breed, resulting in the destruction of many dogs by shelters or humane societies.

It is also often argued that diverting resources away from other law enforcement activities to the implementation of such breed-specific laws has a negative effect on the overall safety of a city or community.

Enforcing Existing Laws

Enforcement of existing laws can go a long way in reducing dog bite incidents, and does not require breed-specific enforcement, which can become arbitrary. Existing laws require licensure, focus on behavior rather than breed, high penalties for repeat offenders, civil and criminal liability for owners or guardians who fail to follow such laws, animal cruelty prevention, and other non-breed-specific laws which are designed to reduce the chance of a dog attack.

Even though breed-specific legislation may seem like a good idea at first, if the matter is studied with a bit of scrutiny, its shortcomings become glaringly apparent.


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