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What is Breed Specific Legislation?

breed specific legislation pit bull

By Amanda Sullivan
What is breed-specific legislation?
Most dog lovers probably know how pit bulls unjustly get a bad rap but many people still do not know about breed-specific legislation (BSL), which impacts countless dogs and their owners. According to the ASPCA, BSL is defined as “the blanket term for laws that either regulate or ban certain dog breeds in an effort to decrease dog attacks on humans and other animals.” 

BSL largely discriminates against dogs that fall under the pit bull classification, however, there have been BSL enacted against American Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, any mix of these breeds, and even dogs who resemble these breeds. Today more than 700 U.S. cities have enacted breed-specific laws.

Effects of BSL
The problem with having legislation that bans certain breeds is that it does nothing to directly resolve the issue of dog attacks, and instead, punishes responsible and loving dog owners and dogs who live in areas that enforce BSL. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study on human fatalities resulting from dog bites and found no evidence that BSL makes communities safer. 

Consequentially, the CDC went on to strongly oppose BSL. Even worse, BSL has the potential to spread bias and discrimination to other breeds when individuals who purposely train dogs to be aggressive and vicious move on to other breeds because of BSL. In fact, the only thing that BSL is successful in doing, is spreading the bias against the breeds affected by these laws and potentially others.

  • Pit bulls euthanasia rate overall is 93%
  • Dog bite fatalities are extremely rare
  • The factors that commonly lead to dog bites are no able-bodied person being present to intervene (87%), the victim having no familiar relationship with the dog (85%), the owner’s prior mismanagement of the dog (37%), and the owner’s abuse or neglect of dog (21%). Dog breed isn’t one of them.
  • The Humane Society of the U.S., the ASPCA, the United Kennel Club, the American Animal Hospital Association, the American Kennel Club, Best Friends Animal Society, the CDC, and the Obama administration are against BSL.
  • BSL wastes money with its enforcement and does not cause any type of reduction in the amount of dog bites that occur.

BSL is ineffective because dog attacks and dog control issues are a people problem — not a dog problem — and it is not specific to any breed or mix. No dog is born vicious and if a dog naturally shows some aggressive traits, that can be remedied with behavioral training. It is unfortunate that pit bulls and other discriminated breeds are known for being aggressive and vicious, particularly when their breed temperament says the opposite. Pit bulls are naturally friendly, affectionate, loyal, and obedient. In fact, when I was conducting research for my masters’ thesis on therapy dogs, I found that the temperament of a pit bull is ideal for becoming a therapy dog.

The only way to solve the issue of dog attacks and to effectively reduce dog bites and attacks, is to hold dog owners and guardians legally responsible for their training methods and also to enforce stricter animal cruelty and abuse laws.
How you can help end BSL:
  • Volunteer with a group that is anti-BSL or promotes pit bull advocacy. New York Bully Crew is a 501c3 not-for-profit dog and puppy rescue organization specializes in rescuing pit bulls.
  • Spay and neuter your pets. More than 70 percent of dog bite cases involve unneutered male dogs.
  • Educate others on BSL and help spread the word. Pinfluence sells BSL and pit bull advocacy pins
  • Adopt or foster a pit bull


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