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Legislation - BSL

What is Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)?

Breed-specific legislation (BSL) bans OR restricts certain types of dogs based on their appearance because they are perceived as “dangerous” breeds or types of dogs.

**It is a common misconception that BSL refers only to breed bans. BSL is seen in two forms: bans and restrictions.**

First they came for the Pit Bulls
and they banned them and killed them
their owners cried out in horror but I did not object because I did not own pit bulls.

Then they came for the Rottweilers
and they banned them and muzzled them their owners cried out in protest but I did not object because I did not own Rottweilers.

Today they have come for my dogs
and they will ban them and take them from me as I cry out in outrage and anger no one objects because they do not own my dogs.

breed ban usually requires that all dogs of a certain appearance (“targeted breed”) be removed from the municipality wherein the ban has been implemented. After the effective date of the ban, dogs in the municipality that are identified as targeted breeds are usually subject to being killed by animal control, though in some cases, such dogs may be saved if relocation is an option. Breed bans may have grandfather clauses that allow dogs of targeted breeds to stay in the ban area (provided they are registered with the municipality by a certain date, and likely subject to various breed-specific restrictions).

Breed-specific restrictions may require an owner of a targeted breed do any of the following or more, depending on how the law is written:

  • Muzzle the dog in public
  • Spay or neuter the dog
  • Contain the dog in a kennel with specific requirements (6′ chain link walls, lid, concrete floors, etc.)
  • Keep the dog on a leash of specific length or material
  • Purchase liability insurance of a certain amount
  • Place “vicious dog” signs on the outside of the residence where the dog lives
  • Make the dog wear a “vicious dog” tag or other identifying marker

Breed-specific legislation applies only to dogs of a certain appearance, not to any and all dogs. It does not take into account how the owner has raised, trained, or managed the dog. It does not take into account the dog’s actual behavior.

Breed Specific Bans: A group of laws that bans particular breeds, usually pit bulls (a type of dog, not a breed) and sometimes Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Akitas, Dobermans, Chow Chows, and a few others. These laws are usually passed after several attacks by a particular breed so that city councils can assure citizens they are ?doing something? about a voter concern.

But breed bans don't work. They target all dogs of a breed -- the innocent as well as the guilty; are difficult to enforce; and do not end the use of guardian dogs by criminals. If pit bulls in their various incarnations are banned, drug dealers and other felons switch to another breed or mix. In the meantime, the ill-tempered terrier mix that bites the hand that feeds it and the poorly-bred purebred that attacks the neighborhood children pose a far greater danger to people than the obedience-trained American Staffordshire Terrier that is a registered therapy dog but cannot step foot inside the city.

Far better than breed-specific bans are strict laws to control aggressive dogs of any breed or mix. Known as generic vicious dog laws, they put restrictions on the ownership of dogs that pose a danger to people, restrictions such as confinement in locked, escape-proof kennels while outdoors on the owner's property; muzzles when the dog is off the property; and purchase of a liability insurance policy.

Source: Dogs and The Law

Why Doesn't BSL work?

  • Most people cannot correctly identify an American Pit Bull Terrier. There are over 32 breed of dogs commonly and mistakenly identified as 'Pit Bulls'. Can you Spot the Pit Bull?
  • Dog attack occurrences are more likely to be the fault of the owner rather than the dog, and these attacks and bites are not limited to breed. When a breed is targeted as dangerous, it removes the responsibility from the owner and places it on the shoulders of the dog. Unlawful people are also less likely to abide by the law, so it doesn't affect the irresponsible owners that it should.
  • By deeming a dog 'dangerous', law-abiding and responsible dog owners will shy away from owning these breeds, therefore ensuring that the only hands that these dogs are in are the wrong ones.
  • Those individuals who use the dogs for nefarious purposes will either go deeper underground with their breeding activities, this ensuring that the only Pits in circulation will be badly bred ones, or they will target another breed, which will then be deemed dangerous, and it will all begin again.
  • BSL is expensive to enact. Best Friends has a wonderful article on the high cost and low effectiveness of enacting a breed ban in your community, including a calculator that helps determine specific costs in your area of the country.

Alternatives to BSL

  • More effective enforcement of existing dangerous dog laws and tougher penalties for offenders. Any dog is capable of biting, and the laws need to be focused on responsible dog ownership.
  • Encourage education for dog ownership and canine safety education. Many dog owners do not know the first thing about dog behavior, and therefore miss many signs of an impending problem. From this lack of education comes the statement 'he just suddenly snapped....'