Breed Specific Legislation

(BSL) is often utilized to solve the pressing dilemma of the frequent dog attacks that occur in parts of the country.   BSL is used to refer to laws that ban or regulate certain breeds.  Although they are usually enacted to decrease dog attacks, these laws only strengthen hate and bias towards certain breeds while doing very little to counteract the original issue.

 Impact

BSL typically impacts breeds who have a reputation as being vicious.  Common targets include Pitbulls (and all of the derivatives), bulldogs, Rottweilers, Chow Chows, German Shepherds or any dog that is a mix of these breeds.  Often, dogs who resemble any of the above listed are also outlawed.  Some states are enlightened and favor laws that identify and track dangerous dogs rather than depending on the breed to be the sole indicator of aggressiveness.  Regardless of this progressiveness, there are still over 700 US cities with BSLs enacted.

 Effectiveness

Although extensive efforts have been made, no evidence proving the effectiveness of BSL has been gathered.  Communities are not proven as safer nor have dog bites reduced.  Due to this lack of evidence, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention strongly oppose BSL.  Not only have BSL have proven ineffective in improving safety, but they are expensive and difficult to enforce.  It is hard to accurately identify the true breed of a dog, especially a mixed breed.

 Consequences

The negative consequences of BSLs are numerous:

  • Suffering by Dogs

Dogs who fall into the breeds restricted by BSLs suffer tremendously.  Owners of these breeds, rather than getting rid of their beloved pet, often try to hide their presence.  In doing so, the dog's exercise and socialization is severely decreased.  This stretches to include medical care, vaccinations and licensing.  Being denied exercise and socialization has a negative impact on the mental and physical health of the dog.   An even bigger issue the obstacle the BSL places on shelters and adoption agencies.  If such a place is located in a climate where there are tons of restrictions, then it’s virtually impossible to get the dogs adopted.  This leads to many of them being put down when they are perfectly adoptable dogs.

  • Suffering by Owners

Even if the owner is responsible and takes adequate care to ensure their pet is properly supervised and socialized, BSLs prohibit them from ownership of certain breeds.  This can lead to financial and legal trouble as those who owned the dog prior to the law being enacted are often unwilling to part with them.  The owner is then left with no other option than to move; if they are caught harboring the illegal breed, they will be facing fines and relinquishment of the dog.

  • Suffering of Public Safety

BSLs compromise public safety by taking focus and attention away from legislation that is actually beneficial to preventing dog attacks.  Rather than developing leash laws, licensing laws, anti-fighting laws, and laws that facilitate spaying and neutering that would help many of the pressing animal control issues today, efforts must be dedicated to regulate or ban certain breeds.  Not only is attention deprived from legislation, animal control officers have to devote energy to enforcing these laws.  When a nuisance or dangerous dog of an approved breed needs dealt with, the officers are often times busy on calls regarding ownership of a prohibited breed, of which the dog has not endangered anyone. 

 Alternatives

As previously mentioned, there is no evidence that BSLs actually have succeeded.  This is due to the face that there are many other factors beyond breed that determine tendency towards aggression.  With this in mind, the most beneficial legislation would be laws that are neutral of breed.  Examples of a breed-neutral approach are below:

  • Increased enforcement of dog licensing laws
  • Increased availability of affordable spay/neuter services
  • Development of "Dangerous Dog" laws that focus on the behavior of the dog and owner rather than the breed
  • Development of punishments and options for dogs that are deemed dangerous
  • Development of laws that hold owners responsible for the actions of their dogs
  • Development of laws that regulate treatment of dogs that includes prohibiting chaining, tethering and other unreasonable confinement

An emphasis on these types of legislations would help to decrease the dangers posed by the ownership of dogs without unfair bias towards the specific breeds.