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Breed-Specific Legislation – An Introduction © Written by sassawj
This is probably a rather overdue article covering some major points in breed-specific legislation which should have been written and shared with our members long ago, since we are an anti-BSL group after all! When stopBSL
was first opened as a dA account in 2007, we did have a few journal entries regarding breed-specific legislation but in the transfer from member account to group account those entries were lost and never replaced... until now! I hope you all enjoy this read and find it informative. Thanks for reading!
What is BSL? BSL
is the acronym for breed-specific legislation
. So what is breed-specific legislation?Breed-specific legislation
refers to laws that regulate and restrict what breeds of dog citizens residing within certain municipalities can and cannot own, breed-specific laws are proposed and adopted in failing effort to reduce bites and attacks inflicted by dogs and to increase public safety.
As defined by Wikipedia
– "BSL, also known as breed-specific legislation, is a law or ordinance passed by a legislative body pertaining to a specific breed or breeds of domesticated animals. In practice, it generally refers to laws or ordinances pertaining to a specific dog breed or breeds
As defined by stopbsl.com
– "Breed-specific legislation bans OR restricts certain types of dogs based on their appearance because they are perceived as "dangerous" breeds or types of dogs
The misconception about breed-specific legislation is that it only refers to breed bans, which is not true; there are two forms of breed-specific legislation
– breed bans
and breed restrictions
, which are explained below...Breed bans
require all dogs of a certain breed, or rather – a certain appearance – to be removed from the municipality wherein the ban has been put in effect, along with banning ownership of, these laws also prohibit the breeding, selling and relocation of dogs of the targeted breed. After the effective date of the ban, dogs of the targeted breed found to be illegally harbored within the area of the ban are at risk of being seized and euthanized by the authorities and same would go for stray dogs impounded by animal control; though in some cases a dog can be saved if relocation is an option, and this more often based on the individual dog’s disposition and temperament. Breed bans will sometimes – but not always – have a grandfather clause, which will allow dogs of the targeted breed already residing in the area before the effective date of the ban to continue to as long as the owner registers their dog with the municipality as a "dangerous / vicious animal" by a certain date and agrees to comply with various breed-specific restrictions, which often times includes mandatory spay / neuter and muzzling the dog in public.Breed restrictions require the owner of a targeted breed to do any of the following, or more depending upon how the law is written:
• Muzzle the dog in public
• Spay / neuter the dog
• Contain the dog in an enclosure that meets specific requirements & reinforcement
• Purchase liability insurance of a certain amount
• Place "beware of dog" or dangerous / vicious dog warning signs around their residence
• Require the dog to wear a vicious / dangerous dog tag or other identifying marker
• Require the dog to be microchipped
• Owner is not allowed to sell / give away / relocate dog
• Owner must notify the authorities if dog has escaped & is running at large
These restrictions make it very difficult and sometimes impossible for citizens to own a breed targeted by legislation, making dogs of these breeds less desirable to the public because of the hassle of owning one.
What Breeds Are Targeted?
The common misconception is that American Pit Bull Terriers, other pit bull type dogs, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherd Dogs are the only breeds subject to breed-specific legislation, which is not true; in fact, the Great Dane, English Mastiff, Chow Chow, Siberian Husky, Fila Brasileiro, Bullmastiff, Alaskan Malamute and Anatolian Shepherd are just a few among the many, many other breeds of dog often subject to breed-specific laws and other forms of discrimination. For the most accurate list available on the web of what dog breeds are affected by breed-specific legislation in the United States, Canada, & more than fifteen other countries worldwide such as Norway, Bermuda & Spain, please see...
What Is Wrong With BSL?
Breed-specific legislation supporters will argue that the only way to be safe from dog bites is to eradicate "dangerous breeds", but there is little to no evidence to support that these laws put into place are truly effective, in fact it is quite the opposite, as in municipalities that have previously enforced breed-specific laws have repealed their laws after proving it to be unsuccessful and ineffective.
The cost to enforce breed-specific laws is very expensive. Municipalities will require more animal control officers and additional shelter space should breed-specific laws be adopted, which will undoubtedly lead to higher taxes to pay for it in order for the laws to be enforced.
Breed-specific legislation targets dogs of certain breeds or appearance, these laws do not target dogs based on poor temperaments or aggressive behavior; dogs of a targeted breed are wrongfully seized and soetimes needlessly killed, not because they have bitten or attacked and not because they have proven to have aggressive tendencies, but because of the appearances they were born with and the breed they are identified as. While these guiltless dogs are rounded up and killed for their breed ancestry and appearance in the name of breed-specific legislation, these laws do not protect the public from non-targeted breeds or dogs of non-targeted breeds that do have a history of aggressive tendencies, that are lacking greatly in proper training and have otherwise proven to be potentially dangerous, thus the real underlying problem with irresponsible dog owners is overlooked until an aggressive dog of a non-targeted breed lashes out and even then it is already too late for the victim of the attack.
o All Dogs Bite
Because breed-specific legislation restricts dogs based on breed this would require breed identification for each and every dog. Breed identification is often times difficult for those who are not exactly dog savvy or dog breed identification experts, many simply do not know an American Pit Bull Terrier from a Boxer or a pit bull type from a Labrador Retriever mix, and same can be said for the authorities who are the ones determining whether a dog is a "pit bull" or not when their job requirements certainly do not include being familiar with the hundreds of different established purebred breeds we have today all around the world. Authorities enforcing breed-specific laws, as well as the media, have been found to incorrectly identify dogs as "pit bulls", then later it is determined that the dog was any breed but that. Misidentification or incorrect labeling can easily cost an innocent dog its life if the dog lives within a municipality wherein a breed ban has been put in effect. It is not unheard of for dogs found in municipalities with breed bans to be seized by the authorities under misidentification.
As said by stopbsl.com
, "To know whether BSL affects any particular dog, breed determination is usually made by an animal control officer or a veterinarian (depending on how the law is written). However, contrary to popular assumption, veterinarians and animal control officers—despite handling many dogs for a living—are not trained in breed identification. For the most part, they are no better than average citizens at breed identification.
Some areas with breed-specific legislation in effect will use checklists for breed indentification in an attempt to "standardize and objectify identification processes
"; some check lists are short and simple while others contain in depth detail for each characteristic. These checklists more often consist entirely of subjective characteristics.
Below is a "pit bull" checklist used by the city of San Francisco, provided by stopbsl.com
...The City and County of San Francisco, Department of Animal Care and Control considers a dog to be predominantly a pit bull breed (American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, or Staffordshire Bull Terrier) if s/he possesses 5 out of the following 8 characteristics:
• Head is medium length, with a broad skull and very pronounced cheek muscles, a wide, deep muzzle, a well-defined, moderately deep stop, and strong under jaw. Viewed from the front, the head is shaped like a broad, blunt wedge.
• Eyes are round to almond shaped, are low in the skull and set far apart.
• Ears are set high. Un-cropped ears are short and usually held rose or half prick, though some hold them at full prick.
• Neck is heavy and muscular, attached to strong, muscular shoulders.
• Body is muscular, with a deep, broad chest, a wide front, deep brisket, well-sprung ribs, and slightly tucked loins.
• Tail is medium length and set low, thick at the base, tapering to a point.
• Hindquarters are well muscled, with hocks set low on the legs.
• Coat is a single coat, smooth, short and close to the skin
A breed check list like this one as shown above could easily apply to more than just American Pit Bull Terriers and other bully breeds, putting the lives of non bully breed dogs in danger of being wrongfully identified as "pit bulls".
o Cases of Mistaken Identity
| o Difficulty of Breed Identification
"BSL places unreasonable burdens on responsible dog owners, tears families apart, and kills innocent dogs
", as said by stopbsl.com
Because breed-specific legislation only punishes responsible dog owners, it is those dog owners who are either forced to give up their beloved canine companions to the authorities when a ban has been put into effect, or the dog owners are forced to move to another area where their dog will not be a target by breed-specific laws.
Breed-specific restrictions will require dog owners to purchase expensive liability insurance, spay / neuter their dog and invest in reinforced kennels to contain their dog; however it is understood that these laws do not require dog owners to properly train or socialize their dogs, never do these laws require dog owners to otherwise be responsible with their dogs.
While responsible dog owners usually already have their dogs spayed / neutered and have already invested a lot of time and money in training and properly managing their dog, it is the irresponsible dog owners who continue to shrug off and at times break the law while owning both targeted and non-targeted breeds no matter if breed-specific legislation has been put in effect or not.
As put by stopbsl.com
, "In effect, breed-specific legislation says that a dog’s behavior is dictated by its appearance, and therefore an owner’s treatment of the dog has no effect on the dog’s behavior at all. BSL subtly suggests that dog owners do not need to train, socialize, or properly manage their dog; that as long as the dog looks "safe," the owner may do as he or she pleases, and if the dog looks "dangerous," there’s nothing the owner can do to make it "safe." Of course, this goes against everything we know about canine behavior.
Because breed-specific legislation is a quick and uneducated reaction or "quick fix" to combating dog-related incidents, it does not improve public safety, it does not reduce or prevent dog bites / attacks or fatalities. In short, breed-specific legislation targets breeds of dogs based on appearance, legislators do not take the individual dog’s temperament or upbringing into account, breed-specific legislation only punishes responsible dog owners.
According to stopbsl.com
, "Studies have proven that breed-specific legislation does not reduce dog bites or improve public safety. Non-targeted breeds continue to bite and do severe—and sometimes fatal—damage.
Yet tens of thousands of guiltless dogs of targeted breeds have been and continue to be rounded up and killed in the name of breed-specific legislation.
To read further into these points and arguments against breed-specific legislation, please see the following links listed below.
o BSL Overview
o Failure to Improve Safety
| o BSL Expenses
o Mismanagement Allowed
| o Punishment of the Innocent
o Injustice to Victims
| oAttraction to Danger
Alternatives to BSL
The purpose of breed-specific legislation is to increase public safety and to reduce dog bites and attacks, but because legislators do not take into account the individual dog’s temperament, upbringing or genetics, breed-specific legislation is not an effective way at combating these issues – but there are alternatives.
First of all, education is the key in prevention; communities need to be provided with resources to proper education on dog bite awareness and prevention, as well as knowledge on how to be safe around dogs, but unfortunately this kind of education is rarely implemented despite the obvious need for it. In the United States children make up the majority of dog bite victims; just as children learn about fire safety and stranger safety, dog safety should be taught in school as well, not just to children but to parents too.
All communities should already have leash and containment laws enforced, which is a law that requires a dog owner to keep their dog on a leash when the dog is off of the owner’s property, these laws are more often overlooked yet are potentially very powerful tools in preventing dog related incidents from occurring, leash laws need to be better enforced and repeat offenders found violating the leash law should have to face harsher punishments.
As stated by stopbsl.com
, "Studies have shown that dog owner (mis)management is frequently the cause of dog bites. Dogs that are not properly socialized, trained, and contained are often implicated in dog bites. Furthermore, dogs have no control over their environment—but their owners do. Consequently, dangerous dog laws should more properly be called dangerous dog owner laws, because the laws should focus on owner actions (and inactions) and owner responsibility (and irresponsibility). Dog owners are capable of—and should be held responsible for—safely controlling their dog, no matter what breed or type of dog they happen to own.
Breed-specific legislation is NOT
o Alternatives to BSL
o Tools to Fight BSL
o Non-Breed-Specific Ordinances
| o Satefy Eduation
o Containment Laws
| o Low-Cost Training
o Regulate Breeders
| o Bite Prevention Programs
Peta SUPPORTS Breed-Specific Legislation
It is sometimes amazing to animal lovers & canine advocates that a legitimate, professional organization that specializes in animal welfare or rights would actually support or be pro-BSL. Peta / People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
is not a reliable organization to begin with, they believe in "total animal liberation" which goes against the owning and exploitation of animals such as keeping animals as pets and using seeing eye / service / therapy dogs and preserving wildlife species in captivity; Peta also believes in the wholesale killing of all "bully breeds", as well as destroying all feral cats rather than controlling their populations with TNR (trap, neuter & return / release), and is an avid supporter of breed-specific legislation, as well as being a prime advocate in pushing kill policies for "pit bulls" in animal shelters. That being said, Peta has also made quite an impression on the public after killing thousands of highly adoptable healthy dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, which were taken in under their care.PetaKillsAnimals.Com
- "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has a problem. Despite its mission to advocate for "total animal liberation," government documents obtained through public records requests indicate that each year PETA kills thousands of animals at its headquarters.,,
Members, please make sure you have taken a moment to look at the links provided in this article, I hope that this brief introduction to breed-specific legislation has been helpful to any and all members of ours who are not so very well informed on the subject, and I hope that this article was enjoyable to read. Thank you for your time!