Dog Breed Laws

In an attempt to combat dog attacks and dog bites, a number of U.S. counties and cities have enacted laws that restrict ownership of certain breeds of dogs. These laws, known as breed-specific legislation (BSL), revolve around theories that certain breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls or bulldogs, are more dangerous than other breeds.

However, a number of reputable organizations like the National Canine Research Council, American Humane Association, and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that there is little evidence to support the claim that dog breed laws are productive for reducing dog attacks. Instead, these opponents encourage alternatives such as public education on dog attack risk factors and enhanced animal control laws for dog owners.

Restricted Dog Breeds

The majority of breed-specific legislation focuses on pit bulls. Pit bulls are defined as breeds such as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. While pit bulls tend to be the main focus of dog breed laws, a number of other breeds are included around the United States. The basis of breed-specific legislation is that certain breeds of dogs are genetically prone to being more aggressive and violent, and therefore restrictions on these breeds is believed to reduce dog attacks.

Other breeds discussed in breed-specific legislation include, but are not limited to:

  • Mastiffs
  • English Bull Terriers
  • American Bulldogs
  • Rottweilers
  • German Shepherds
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Chow Chows

Types of Dog Breed Laws

Breed-specific legislation varies widely between jurisdictions where the laws are enforced. Breed-specific legislation typically enforces restrictions or complete bans on the breeds in question. In some areas, laws ban citizens from acquiring new dogs of the breeds in question. In these cases, owners may be permitted to keep their dogs for the duration of their lives, which may be accompanied by a requirement to register the dogs within the jurisdiction where the law is enforced. Some jurisdictions impose certain requirements on “dangerous breed” owners, such as paying a registration fee or posting warning signs on personal property.

Some areas which enact breed-specific legislation include:

  • Miami-Dade County, Florida
  • Sioux City, Iowa
  • Delta, Utah
  • Springfield, Missouri
  • Livingston County, Michigan
  • Wheeling, West Virginia
  • South Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dog Breed Law Alternatives

Opponents of dog breed laws suggest that there are a number of factors that contribute to dog attacks and dog bites, not necessarily the breed of dog. These opponents argue that the real danger is unfavorable situations that create dangerous dogs. Opponents state that instead of enforcing breed-specific legislation, dog attacks may be more effectively reduced by education, enforcement of existing animal control laws, spaying and neutering, and improved bite reporting.