Breed-specific Legislation (BSL) FAQ

 


1. WHAT IS BREED-SPECIFIC LEGISLATION?

2. WHAT BREEDS OF DOGS HAVE BEEN TARGETED BY BSL? 

3. WHAT POSITION DO LEGAL, ANIMAL-RELATED, AND NON-ANIMAL RELATED ORGANIZATIONS TAKE ON BSL?

4. AREN'T CERTAIN BREEDS OF DOGS MORE LIKELY TO INJURE OR BITE THAN OTHERS?

5. DOES BSL REDUCE DOG BITES? 

6. HOW COSTLY IS IT TO IMPLEMENT AND ENFORCE BSL?

7. WHAT IS THE TREND IN BSL?

8. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO REDUCE DOG BITE-RELATED INCIDENTS IN A COMMUNITY?


Q:      What is breed-specific legislation?


A:       Breed-specific legislation (BSL), also referred to as breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL), is a law or ordinance that prohibits or restricts the keeping of dogs of specific breeds, dogs presumed to be specific breeds, mixes of specific breeds, and/or dogs presumed to be mixes of one or more of those breeds. The most drastic form of BSL is a complete ban; but BSL also includes any laws or governmental regulations that impose separate requirements or limitations, including but not limited to: mandatory spay-neuter, mandatory muzzling, liability insurance requirements, special licensing and additional fees, mandatory microchipping or tattoos, owner / walker age requirements, property posting requirements, confinement and leash requirements, breed-specific pet limits, sale or transfer notification requirements, restrictions on access to certain public spaces with the dog [e.g.: public parks, school grounds], required town-issued items [e.g.: fluorescent collar; vest], training requirements, requirement that photos of the dog and/or owner be kept on town file. BSL, in all of its forms, results in the destruction of many pet dogs.


Q:      What breeds of dogs have been targeted by BSL?


A:       Various breeds have been or currently are targeted by BSL. Until the law was repealed in 2009, Italy regulated the keeping of 17 breeds. In the United States, jurisdictions have either banned or put discriminatory restrictions on one or all of the following: Akita, “Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldogs”, Alaskan Malamute, “American Bandogge”, American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Belgian Malinois, Bullmastiff, Bull Terrier, Cane Corso, Chihuahua, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Doberman Pinscher, Dogo Argentino, “Fila Brasileiro”, German Shepherd Dog, Miniature Bull Terrier, Neapolitan Mastiff, "Pit bull" (please note that "pit bull" is not a breed of dog), Perro de Presa Canario, Rottweiler, Shar Pei, Siberian Husky, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, “Tosa Inu”, and wolf-hybrids. These ordinances also target dogs suspected of being mixes of one or more of the named breeds.


Q:        What position do legal, animal-related, and non-animal related organizations take on BSL? 

 

A:         All of the following organizations do not endorse BSL:

American Animal Hospital Association, American Bar Association, American Dog Owner's Association, American Humane Association, American Kennel Club, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association, Association of Pet Dog Trainers, Australian Veterinary Association, Best Friends Animal Society, British Veterinary Association, Canadian Kennel Club, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federation of Veterinarians in Europe, Humane Society of the United States, International Association of Canine Professionals, National Animal Control Association, National Animal Interest Alliance, National Association of Obedience Instructors, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (UK & Australia), United Kennel Club, and the White House Administration. In addition, many state and local-level veterinary medical associations and humane organizations oppose BSL.


Q:      Aren't certain breeds of dogs more likely to injure or bite than others?


A:       There is no evidence from the controlled study of dog bites that one kind of dog is more likely to bite a human being than another kind of dog. A recent AVMA survey covering 40 years and two continents concluded that no group of dogs should be considered disproportionately dangerous.[1] Additionally, in a recent multifactorial study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association on the exceptionally rare events of dog bite-related fatalities, the researchers identified a striking co-occurrence of multiple, controllable factors in these cases.[2] Breed was not identified as a factor.

 

Q:      Does BSL reduce dog bites?


A:       No. BSL has not succeeded in reducing dog bite-related injuries wherever in the world it has been enacted. An analysis published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association explains one reason that BSL could not be expected to work even if particular breeds could be identified as high risk. The authors calculated the absurdly large numbers of dogs of targeted breeds who would have to be completely removed from a community in order to prevent even one serious dog bite-related injury. For example, in order to prevent a single hospitalization resulting from a dog bite, the authors calculate that a city or town would have to remove more than 100,000 dogs of a targeted group. To prevent a second hospitalization, double that number.[3]

• Denver, CO enacted a breed-specific ban in 1989. Citizens of Denver continue to suffer a higher rate of hospitalization from dog bite-related injuries after the ban, than the citizens of breed-neutral Colorado counties.[4]
• A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, compared medically treated dog bites in Aragon, Spain for 5 years prior to and following enactment of Spain’s “Law on the legal treatment of the possession of dangerous animals” (sometimes referred to Spain’s Dangerous Animal Act) (2000). The results showed no significant effect in dog bite incidences when comparing before and after enactment of the BSL.[5]

• The Netherlands repealed a 15-year-old breed ban in 2008 after commissioning a study of its effectiveness. The study revealed that BSL was not a successful dog-bite mitigation strategy because it had not resulted in a decrease in dog bites. [6]

• The Province of Ontario in Canada enacted a breed ban in 2005. In 2010, based on a survey of municipalities across the Province, the Toronto Humane Society reported that, despite five years of BSL and the destruction of "countless" dogs, there had been no significant decrease in the number of dog bites.[7]

• Winnipeg, Manitoba enacted a breed ban in 1990. Winnipeg’s rate of dog bite-injury hospitalizations is virtually unchanged from that day to this, and remains significantly higher than the rate in breed-neutral, responsible pet ownership Calgary[8]


Q.      How costly is it to implement and enforce BSL?


A:       BSL is very costly, penalizes responsible pet owners, diverts resources, and is open to challenge.
Use the Best Friends Fiscal Impact Calculator: http://bestfriends.guerrillaeconomics.net/ to calculate an estimate of the additional expenses for your community (and you as a taxpayer) that will result from BSL: costs for enforcement, kenneling, euthanasia and litigation, among others.
 
• Miami-Dade County banned “pit bulls” in 1989. The ban did not reduce dog bites, but has generated litigation costs. Hearing officer proceedings, as well as a circuit court case, have questioned the enforceability of the law.

• The Department of Justice guidelines for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) state that it is contrary to the Act to deny a disabled person equal access to public facilities based upon the presumed breed of their service dog. This has exposed municipalities with BSL to litigation costs when they have attempted to deny such access based the presumed breed of a person’s service dog.

Q:      What is the trend in BSL?


A:       There is a growing awareness that BSL does not improve community safety and penalizes responsible dog owners and their family companions. From January 2012-May 2014, more than seven times as many American communities have either considered and rejected a breed-specific ordinance, or repealed an existing one, as have enacted BSL.[9] Massachusetts, Nevada, Connecticut, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Utah have recently enacted state laws that prohibit their towns and counties from regulating dogs on the basis of breed. Eighteen states now prohibit BSL. The White House Administration has announced its opposition to BSL, stating that “research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.”[10]


Q:      What is the best way to reduce dog bite-related incidents in a community?


A:      The trend in prevention of dog bites continues to shift in favor of multifactorial approaches focusing on improved ownership and husbandry practices, better understanding of dog behavior, education of parents and children regarding safety around dogs, and consistent enforcement of dangerous dog/reckless owner ordinances in communities. Effective laws hold all dog owners responsible for the humane care, custody, and control of all dogs regardless of breed or type.

 

Updated 16 July 2014

 

 

 

Click the thumbnail for a PDF of this page

 

 

 

SOURCES


[1] AVMA Animal Welfare Division. (17 April 2012). The Welfare Implications of The Role of Breed in Dog Bite Risk and Prevention. Retrieved from:https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/LiteratureReviews/Documents/dog_bite_risk_and_prevention_bgnd.pdf

 

[2] Patronek, G.J., Sacks, J.J., Delise, K.M., Cleary, D.V., & Marder, A.R. (2013). Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite-related fatalities in the United States (2000-2009). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 243(12), 1726-1736.

 

[3] Patronek, G.J., Slater, M., & Marder, A. (2010). Use of a number-needed-to-ban calculation to illustrate limitations of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the risk of dog bite-related injury.. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association,237(7):  788-792.

 

[4] National Canine Research Council. (2013). Denver’s Breed-Specific Legislation: Brutal, Costly, and Ineffective. Retrieved from:http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/uploaded_files/tinymce/Denver%20BSL%20Brutal,%20Costly,%20and%20Ineffective%20_%20Aug%202013.pdf

 

[5] Rosado, B., García-Belenguer, S., León, M., & Palacio, J. (2007). Spanish dangerous animals act: Effect on the epidemiology of dog bites. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 2(5): 166-174.

 

[6] Cornelissen, J.,M., & Hopster, H. (2010). Dog bites in the Netherlands: a study of victims, injuries, circumstances and aggressors to support evaluation of breed specific legislation. Veterinary Journal, 186(3): 292-298.  

 

[7] Peat, D. (2010, April 28). Pit bull ban fails to reduce dog bites. The Toronto Sun. Retrieved from:http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2010/04/28/13753106.html

 

[8] National Canine Research Council. (2012). Winnipeg, Manitoba Far Behind Calgary in Community Safety. Retrieved from:http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/uploaded_files/tinymce/Winnipeg,%20Manitoba%20far%20behind%20Calgary%20in%20community%20safety_July%209,%202012.pdf

 

[9] National Canine Research Council. (2014). Breed-Specific Legislation is on the Decline. Retrieved from:http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/uploaded_files/tinymce/Breed%20specific%20legislation%20on%20the%20decline.pdf