Breed Specific Legislation

Breed specific legislation (BSL) refers to laws, acts, rules and regulations set forth by the state, local or federal government or legislature that single out certain dog breeds and not others. BSL generally targets larger, muscular dogs stereotyped to be intimidating or inherently mean. Some dog breeds commonly associated with BSL include:

  • Akitas
  • Dobermans
  • Pit Bulls
  • Rottweilers.

Pit bull laws exist in many states. While the BSL in some states restricts the ownership of dog breeds considered to be “pit bulls, ” other states enact BSL that goes as far as prohibiting ownership of these breeds. Breed specific legislation that prohibits pit bull ownership is, in effect, creating a pit bull ban.

Breed specific legislation can:

  • require owners to muzzle and leash pets in public
  • require spaying and neutering
  • restrict or prohibit breeding
  • restrict or prohibit ownership.

These are just a few of the things that can be regulated with breed specific legislation. Some laws are more specific and have very detailed requirements.

Other Issues Surrounding Pit Bull Ownership

In addition to BSL, there are a number of legal issues surrounding pit bull ownership:

  • Certain airlines may not allow pit bulls to fly on their planes, even when enclosed.
  • Pit bulls are stereotypically thought of as fighting dogs, so owners may have to prove the safety of their animals to avoid legal liability.
  • Some insurance companies make it harder to get homeowners insurance in some areas if you own a pit bull.

The BSL Debate

Breed specific legislation is a long-standing debate in many different countries, including:

  • Australia
  • Britain
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • Israel
  • United States.

The common arguments and issues in this debate include:

  • Pro Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) Arguments: People who argue in favor of breed specific legislation believe that certain dog breeds are inherently dangerous and should be restricted. They believe, for instance, that given the chance, a pit bull will always attack people or other animals.In contrast, others that support BSL do not believe that certain dog breeds are inherently dangerous. However, these people maintain that it takes a certain kind of owner and the correct training to make these dog breeds safe. These supporters argue that only certain people should be allowed to own dogs like pit bulls.
  • Anti Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) Arguments:People who argue against breed specific legislation believe that BSL is created illogically or randomly. They believe it is founded on unfair and often untrue stereotypes of dogs like pit bulls, including myths about “locking jaws ” and superior pain tolerance, which have been proven incorrect.Those against BSL also believe that it does not accomplish its goals or protect anyone. Criminals will still find ways to own and mistreat these dogs, while law-abiding pit bull owners whose dogs are not dangerous are the ones who suffer from BSL. Many on this side of the debate also believe that statistics on pit bulls” bites and attacks are inaccurate or skewed, as many people cannot even correctly identify a pit bull.

Sadly, there does not appear to be an end in sight to the BSL debate.

Alternatives to Breed Specific Legislation

Those who are against breed specific legislation offer a number of alternatives. Among these people are responsible pit bull owners who feel that these dogs have gained a negative reputation unfairly.

Alternatives that have been presented for BSL include:

  • enforcement of leash laws
  • full enforcement of existing dog laws that hold owners responsible for the actions of their dogs
  • judging dogs on a case-by-case basis regardless of breed
  • larger penalties for animal cruelty and animal abuse, such as in the cases of training dogs for dog fighting
  • requirements for spaying and neutering
  • training and socialization requirements for all dogs.


The Pit Stop (2004). Breed Specific Legislation. Retrieved January 23, 2008, from the Geocities Web site: