Breed Specific Legislation


Photo by J. Nichole Smith |

Breed-specific legislation is being proposed and enacted all over the world, and targets so-called 'aggressive breeds.' German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and pit bull type dogs are common victims of this discriminatory and ineffective legislation.

Why Doesn’t BSL Work?

  • Banning specific breeds fails to get to the root of the dog bite problem—irresponsible ownership. Any dog can bite, especially a dog that is in the hands of an abusive, neglectful, or irresponsible owner.
  • Many dogs labeled as 'pit bulls' in the media are actually other breeds or breed mixes.
  • Enforcing this legislation is costly, and even when the county or state has the manpower and funding to enforce BSL, those areas do not see an increase in public safety. In fact, many areas see a surge in dog bites and attacks after the enactment of BSL.
  • Breed specific legislation rips dogs away from responsible pet owners and drives irresponsible owners further underground.

What Are the Alternatives?

  • Educating parents and children is critical for decreasing the number of dog bites. As the majority of dog bites involve children, this is a key age group to target in dog bite prevention education.
  • Communities need to be vigilant about enforcing leash laws, licensing laws, and spay/neuter mandates for dogs adopted from shelters.
  • Responsible pet ownershipis truly the key to reducing dog bites in any community. Many studies show that the majority of dogs involved in fatal bites are unaltered. Consider spaying or neutering your dog. If a dog owner chooses not to spay or neuter, they should be vigilant in keeping their dog properly contained at all times.
  • Training and socializingyour dog is going to make him a better pet, and you a better owner. Dogs that are chained or tethered for most of their lives are highly susceptible to aggressive tendencies towards people and other dogs. An unsocialized, untrained dog is a danger to the community and to his owners.

In Her Own Words:  Victoria on Breed Specific Legislation:

It continues to confound me that there are still proponents of BSL given both the behavioral science that is now available and the abysmal track record of municipalities that have attempted to curb dog attacks by instituting BSL. We know so much more than we did even 20 years ago about how dogs think, what they feel, how their brains are wired, and what could potentially cause them to aggress.

Regardless, counties, cities and entire countries around the world continue to turn to BSL policies in a desperate attempt to protect their public from the rising number of serious (and sometimes fatal) dog bites. I share this desire to reduce the number of dog attacks. As a mother, my heart breaks every time I hear about another child who has been mauled by the family dog. The key to avoiding these tragedies is not to make owning certain breeds illegal, but rather to ensure that everyone in charge of dogs and/or children is educated about safe practices and never leaves any dog alone with any child.

Simply put, any breed of dog can bite, and any breed of dog can make a perfect family pet. Yes, the bigger and stronger the dog, the more damage it is capable of inflicting, although I have seen horrific footage of bite wounds from small dogs such as Jack Russell Terriers and Chihuahuas as well.

I’ve trained countless Pit Bulls, and have found them to be among the most loyal, intelligent and trainable dogs I’ve worked with. That said, it is indeed possible to turn them into deadly weapons in the wrong hands, just as it is with any breed of dog. Every dog is different, and those differences are not due to the breed of the dog, but rather to the individual dog’s breeding and the environment in which it has been raised. Using aggression, intimidation and forced submission on a fearful, unconfident dog is like treating fire with fire, as the dog’s issues are often merely suppressed rather than treated and resolved effectively. In the majority of cases, dogs that are confiscated due to BSL are inhumanely warehoused and dealt with using this confrontational approach, which often creates the very problems the law was attempting to avoid.

So if we are not going to ban certain breeds, what is the solution to reducing the number of dangerous dogs?

  • As a society we must focus on the other end of the leash. First, we must make a concerted effort to crack down on and eliminate ‘backyard’ breeders and puppy farmers who churn out puppies with no regard for the well-being of the dogs except the money they bring from being sold.
  • The most effective way to reduce the number of dangerous dogs is to stop irresponsible owners from raising their dogs to be aggressive, intimidating potential weapons.
  • If we could somehow prosecute those who are reckless, irresponsible or those people who willingly encourage their dogs to be aggressive, I firmly believe the number of tragic accidents would decrease significantly. But even if that’s not possible in the short term, or even if one chooses to ignore the facts that science has presented to us about animal breeds and behavior, there’s one more simple but powerful argument against BSL: it just doesn’t work.
  • Statistics have shown that throughout the world, wherever BSL has been instituted, the number of dog bites has actually increased since the legislation has passed. This is the case in Scotland, England, parts of Canada, and certain cities in the US, the Netherlands and beyond. In every single case, dog bites have become more of a problem since governments began banning breeds. What more evidence do we need as a society to realize that BSL is ultimately ineffective, if not also unfair?

I encourage you to use the facts about BSL, pit bulls, and dog safety on this site to arm yourself with information and join the fight against this discriminatory legislation.

Victoria Stilwell

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