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, and 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. In the United States, jurisdictions have either banned or put discriminatory restrictions on one or all of the following (please note that names in quotes are not recognized breeds of dogs by the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club, yet they appear in municipal legislation as written):

Akita, “Alapaha Blue Blood Bull dog,” Alaskan Malamute, “American Bandogge,” American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, “Aussie Bull Dog,” Belgian Malinois, “Banter Bull Dog,” Boerboel, Bullmastiff, Bull Terrier, “Ca de Bou,” "Canary Dog," Cane Corso, “Catahoula Bull Dog,” Chihuahua, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, “Deerhound,” Doberman Pinscher, Dogo Argentino, Dogue de Bordeaux, “Dorset Olde Tyme Bull Dog,” English Bulldog, “Fila Brasileiro,” French Bulldog, German Shepherd Dog, Great Dane, Kuvasz, Miniature Bull Terrier, Neapolitan Mastiff, “Olde Boston Bull Dog,” "Old Country Bulldog,"  "Pit bull,"  “Pit bull terrier,” Perro de Presa Canario, "Presa Mallorquin," Rottweiler, Shar Pei, Siberian Husky, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, “Tosa Inu,” “Victorian Bull Dog,” “Valley Bull Dog,” “Wolfhound.” 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, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, Association of Professional 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, Pet Professional Guild, 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. An AVMA Animal Welfare Division survey covering 40+ years concluded that no group of dogs should be considered disproportionately dangerous.[1]

Additionally, in a 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. Breed was not identified as a factor.[2]

 

Sources and Notes:

1. AVMA Animal Welfare Division. (2014). Dog Bite Risk and Prevention: The Role of Breed. Retrieved from: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/LiteratureReviews/Pages/The-Role-of-Breed-in-Dog-Bite-Risk-and-Prevention.aspx
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.
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 evidence-based 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]

•Prince George’s County, Maryland’s breed-specific law was assessed by a Task Force in 2003, which reported that “public safety is not improved as a result” of their BSL.[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.[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]

 

Sources and Notes:

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. Vicious Animal Legislation Task Force: Prince George’s County (2003). Report of the Vicious Animal Legislation Task Force.
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
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 legal challenge.

•The Best Friends Fiscal Impact Calculator allows you to calculate an estimate of the additional expenses for a community (and its taxpayers) that would result from BSL (costs for enforcement, kenneling, euthanasia, and litigation, among others): http://bestfriends.guerrillaeconomics.net/

•In Prince George’s County, Maryland the 2003 Task Force assessment estimated that between 2001-2002 expenditures due to confiscations in the county due to BSL totaled approximately $560,000. That estimate did not include other expenses, such as utilities, manpower, or overtime, and did not include expenditures of the County or Municipal Police Departments, which also expend efforts with respect to the breed-specific law.[8]

•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.[9] 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.

 

Sources and Notes:

8. Vicious Animal Legislation Task Force: Prince George’s County (2003). Report of the Vicious Animal Legislation Task Force.
9. U.S. Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division. (2015). Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA. Retrieved from: http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.pdf
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.[10] As of December 2016, nineteen states have enacted state laws that prohibit their towns and counties from regulating dogs on the basis of breed. 

 

Sources and Notes:

10. National Canine Research Council. (2016). Breed Specific Legislation is on the Decline. 

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

A: The best ways to reduce dog bite-related incidents in a community are multifactorial approaches[11] focusing on improved ownership and husbandry practices, better understanding of canine behavior, education of parents and children regarding safety around dogs,[12][13][14][15] and consistent enforcement [16] 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.

 

Sources and Notes:

11. 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.
12. Kahn, A., Bauche, P., & Lamoureux, J. (2003). Child victims of dog bites treated in emergency departments: A prospective survey. European Journal of Pediatrics, 162(4), 254-258.
13. Chapman, S., Cornwall, J., Righetti, J., & Lynne, S., (2000). Preventing dog bites in children: Randomized controlled trial of an educational intervention. The Western Journal of Medicine, 173(4), 233-234.
14. Wilson, F., Dwyer, F., & Bennett, P. C. (2002). Prevention of dog bites: Evaluation of a brief educational intervention program for preschool children. Journal of Community Psychology, 31(1), 75-86.
15, Reisner, I. R. & Shofer, F. S. (2008). Effects of gender and parental status on knowledge and attitudes of dog owners regarding dog aggression toward children. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 233(9), 1412-1419.
16. Clarke, N.M. & Fraser, D. (2013). Animal control measures and their relationship to the reported incidence of dog bites in urban Canadian municipalities. Canadian Veterinary Journal, 54, 145-149.
Additional Reading

Breed-Specific Legislation is on the Decline:


Breed-Specific Regulation Not A Basis for Dog Bite Prevention:


Established Epidemiological Measure Shows Why Breed Bans Fail to Reduce Dog Bite Injury:


The Relevance of Breed in Selecting a Companion Dog:


Dog Bites: Problems and Solutions (Revised 2014):


The Quality of a Dog's Relationship to Humans Crucial Determinant of Social Behavior:


Resource for lawyers: "Down to a Science: Combating Breed Discriminatory Litigation with Frye, Daubert, and Rule 702":