Breed-specific legislation ("BSL") is a law or ordinance passed by a legislative body pertaining to a specific breed(s) of dog, and/or to any dogs that appear they may be mixes of those breeds. The most drastic form of BSL is a complete ban; but BSL also includes any laws or governmental regulations that impose other requirements or limitations on specific breeds or mixes: mandatory spay-neuter, mandatory muzzling, special liability insurance requirements, special licensing, property posting requirements, enclosure requirements, breed-specific pet limit laws, sale or transfer notification requirements, and prohibitions in government and military housing. BSL, in all of its forms, results in the destruction of many pet dogs.
Many different breeds of dogs have been and currently are targeted by BSL in one form or another. At one point, Italy alone regulated ownership of 92 breeds of dogs! In the United States, jurisdictions have either banned or put separate ownership restrictions on one or all of the following breeds of dogs: American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Cane Corso, Chihuahua, Chow Chow, Doberman Pinscher, Dogo Argentina, German Shepherd, Miniature Bull Terrier, "Pit bull" (please note that "pit bull" is not a breed of dog), Presa Canario, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, and wolf-hybrids. In addition, most jurisdictions with BSL also target dogs that appear to be mixes of the regulated breeds of dogs.
One is too many, and it changes every week. Fortunately, many jurisdictions have repealed BSL after learning the hard way that it is costly, ineffective, does not result in safer communities, and is often a barrier to responsible pet ownership. The current estimate is that 300 cities and counties currently have BSL in force.
Many animal-related AND non-animal related organizations oppose regulating dogs on the basis of breed. As of 2012, these include:
American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)
American Bar Association (ABA)
American Dog Owner's Association (ADOA)
American Humane Association (AHA)
American Kennel Club (AKC)
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)
Best Friends Animal Society
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)
National Animal Control Association (NACA)
National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA)
National Association of Obedience Instructors (NAOI)
National Pet Industry Association's Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).
In addition, many state and local-level veterinary medical associations and humane organizations oppose BSL.
No. There is no scientific evidence that one kind of dog is more likely than another to injure a human being than any other kind of dog.[i][ii] In fact, there is affirmative evidence to the contrary.[iii]
• A recent evidence-based analysis published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association explains why BSL does not reduce dog bites. The authors calculated the absurdly large numbers of dogs of targeted breeds who would have to be completely removed from a community, in order to prevent even one serious dog bite. For example, in order to prevent a single hospitalization resulting from a dog bite, the authors calculate that a city or town would have to ban more than 100,000 dogs of a targeted breed.To prevent a second hospitalization, double that number.
• Denver, CO enacted a breed ban in 1989. Citizens of Denver continued to suffer a higher rate of hospitalization from dog bite-related injuries after the ban, than the citizens of breed-neutral Colorado counties.
• In June 2008, the Netherlands repealed its 15-year-old ban on "pit bull" dogs because it had not resulted in a decrease in dog bites. The Dutch now focus on local leash laws and owner education programs.[iv]
• The Province of Ontario in Canada enacted a breed ban in 2005. In 2010, based on a survey of municipalities across the Province, the Toronto Humane Society reported that, despite five years of BSL and the destruction of "countless" dogs, there had been no significant decrease in the number of dog bites.
BSL is very costly, penalizes responsible pet owners, diverts resources, and is open to challenge.
• Look at the Best Friends Fiscal Impact Calculator at http://www.guerrillaeconomics.biz/bestfriends to see an estimate of the additional expenses for your community (and you as a taxpayer) that will result from BSL: costs for enforcement, kenneling, euthanasia and litigation, among others.
• Miami-Dade County banned pit bulls in 1989. The ban did not reduce dog bites, but has generated litigation costs. Recently, several hearing officer proceedings, as well as a circuit court case, have questioned the constitutionality of the law.
• According to the Fiscal Impact Calculator, if every community in Florida, ignoring Miami-Dade's bad example, enacted BSL, the total cost to Florida taxpayers would be almost $26 million per year!
• The Department of Justice issued guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act (effective March 2011) stating that it is not appropriate to prohibit service animals based on local BSL that may be in place, exposing municipalities to additional litigation costs if they deny access to persons with disabilities based on what type of service animal they own.
Dogs cannot be characterized apart from people. At the heart of any public safety issue involving dogs is the need for responsible pet ownership. Communities need to hold dog owners responsible for the humane care, custody, and control of all dogs regardless of breed or type. Humane communities are safer communities.
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[i] http://www.avma.org/advocacy/state/issues/javma_000915_fatalattacks.pdf (Accessed April 27, 2011).
[ii] http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Dog-Bites/dogbite-factsheet.html (Accessed April 27, 2011).
[iii] S. Ott, et al. (2008). Is There a Difference? Comparison of Golden Retrievers and Dogs Affected by Breed-Specific Legislation Regarding Aggressive Behavior. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 3, 134-140.