Dog attacks can be a real and serious problem in communities across the country. Addressing dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs can be confusing and touchy. Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is the blanket term for laws that regulate or ban certain dog breeds. BSL was created to decreasing dog attacks on humans as well as other animals. However, dangerous dogs’ problem will not be remedied by the “quick fix” of breed-specific laws. Or, as they should truly be called, breed-discriminatory laws.

For instance, I featured my own rescued Pitbull above (Smokey ) in this article. Raised with nothing but love. He has the capability of tearing anyone apart, but because all he knows is love, the only danger he poses is licking you to death. Smoky always has to be in the room with either myself or my wife. When we go to bed, he gets in between us & alternates snuggling with us throughout the night. He is a total cuddle bug. Please read my article 20 best dogs for kids and families to adopt a good lovable breed for the family.

Who Is Impacted by Breed-Specific Laws?

Regulated breeds typically comprise the “pit bull” class of dogs. This list includes the American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and English Bull Terriers. In some areas, regulated breeds include The American Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, and Doberman Pinschers. Or any mix of these breeds—and dogs who resemble these breeds.

Many states, including New York, Texas, and Illinois, favor laws that identify, track, and regulate dangerous dogs individually. Regardless of breed, more than 700 U.S. cities have enacted breed-specific laws.

Are Breed-Specific Laws Effective?

There is no evidence that breed-specific laws make communities safer for people or companion animals. Following a thorough study of human fatalities resulting from dog bites, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opposes BSL. The CDC cited dog bite data inaccuracies and the difficulty in identifying dog breeds (especially true of mixed-breed dogs). Breed-specific laws are also costly and difficult to enforce.

What Are the Consequences of Breed-Specific Laws?

What Are the Consequences of Breed-Specific Laws?

BSL carries a host of negative and wholly unintended consequences:

Dogs Suffer. Rather than give up beloved pets, owners of regulated or banned breeds attempt to avoid detection by restricting their dogs’ outdoor exercise and socialization. By doing this, they forgo licensing, microchipping, proper veterinary care, and avoiding spay/neuter surgery and essential vaccinations. Such actions can harm both the mental and physical health of these dogs. Breed-specific laws create a climate that makes it is nearly impossible for residents to adopt and live with such a breed. This virtually ensures the destruction of otherwise adoptable dogs by shelters and humane societies.

Owners Suffer. Responsible owners of entirely friendly, properly supervised, coupled with well-socialized dogs who happen to fall within the regulated breed will be required to comply with local breed bans and regulations. This can lead to housing issues, legal fees, or even relinquishment of the animal.

Public Safety Suffers. Breed-specific laws tend to compromise rather than enhance public safety. When animal control regulates or bans a certain breed, the focus shifts away from effective enforcement of laws that have the best chances of making communities safer: dog license laws, leash laws, anti-animal fighting laws, anti-tethering laws, laws facilitating spaying and neutering, and laws that require all owners to control their dogs, regardless of breed. 

Additionally, guardians of banned breeds become deterred from seeking routine veterinary care, leading to outbreaks of rabies and other diseases that endanger communities. Breed-specific laws may also have the unintended consequence of encouraging irresponsible dog ownership. Whenever certain breeds become regulated, individuals who exploit aggression in dogs are likely to turn to other, unregulated breeds. Conversely, “outlaws” become attracted to the “outlaw” status of certain breeds. The rise of pit bull ownership among gang members in the late 1980s coincided with the first round of breed-specific legislation.

What Are the Alternatives to Breed-Specific Laws?

There is no convincing data to indicate that breed-specific legislation has succeeded anywhere to date.

The CDC has noted that many other factors beyond breed may affect a dog’s tendency toward aggression. Things such as heredity, sex, early experience, reproductive status, socialization, and training. Conversely, studies referenced that point to clear, positive effects of carefully crafted breed-neutral laws. A breed-neutral approach may include the following:

  • Enhanced enforcement of dog license laws
  • Increased availability of low-cost sterilization (spay/neuter) services
  • Dangerous dog laws that are breed-neutral coupled with a focus on the behavior of the individual guardian and dog
  • Graduated penalties and options for dogs deemed dangerous.
  • Certain Laws that hold dog guardians financially accountable for failure to adhere to animal control laws
  • Laws that hold dog guardians civilly and criminally liable for unjustified injuries or damage caused by their dogs
  • Laws that prohibit chaining, tethering, and unreasonable confinement, coupled with enhanced enforcement of animal cruelty and animal fighting laws
  • Community-based approaches to resolving reckless guardian/dangerous dogs. Questions encompass all stakeholders, available dog bite data, and recommended realistic and enforceable policies.

Credits:  ASPCA – Photo by Nancy Guth via Pixel