Breed specific legislation has been making the headlines for years. Breed specific legislation or as it is often called, BSL, is a law that bans or restricts certain types of dogs based on their appearance or breed in an effort to decrease dog attacks on humans or other animals. You may be surprised to see that a majority of the states in the U.S. either have BSL or allow BSL in some form – either through being grandfathered in or in or as a part of a homerule exemption. The most common breeds banned through BSL include:
Breed specific legislation first came into being in the early 1980s after several fatalities occurred following attacks committed by dogs. It was the aim of these early laws to identify certain breeds as “inherently dangerous to society.” It should be noted that dogs are not the only animals to have faced breed-specific legislation. At one point potbellied pigs were banned from city limits as were goats. BSL can range in severity and direction, for example, some BSL bans certain breeds from particular areas such as public beaches or parks, whereas other legislation bans entire breed from towns altogether. In the past 20 years over 25 different breeds have been involved in dog bite fatalities.
According to the Michigan State University College of Law, “Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is defined as a law or statute that equates the qualities of a dangerous dog with a certain breed, and bans or restricts certain breeds based on identity, not behavior of a specific animal. This type of legislation does not make concessions for those members of the breed who are valuable assets to their communities, such as therapy dogs, assistance dogs, or advanced trained dogs such as drug dogs and search and rescue dogs. BSL identifies a dog as “dangerous” based upon its breed alone and not based on any action or offense that the individual dog has ever committed”
When trying to understand BSL, you’ll come across some terms that may be unfamiliar to you. Below is a guide to help you understand some key BSL terms.
Breed specific legislation
Breed discriminatory legislation
American Pit Bull Terrier
A law that allows municipal level laws to continue to be honored and enforced even after legislation that has been passed to ban BSL because the original municipal level law existed prior to any state-level legislation.
Home rule Exception
A municipality is allowed to pass and enforce laws regardless of if there is a state level law or not. Such could be the case in states that allow municipalities to self-govern outside of state laws.
Breed specific legislation can include either bans or restrictions. Some restrictions include:
Muzzling the dog while in public
Spaying or neutering the dog
Contain the dog in a specified kennel with predetermined features such as concrete floors and chain link walls
Keeping the dog on a leash of a predetermined size
Purchasing liability insurance of a predetermined amount
Hang “vicious dog” signs at the place of residence
Have the dog wear a “vision dog” tag or identifying marker
States with breed specific legislation being enforced and there is no legislation that prohibits breed specific legislation
States where there is some state law that prohibits breed-specific legislation from being enforced, but there are cases that are being allowed.
States where there is no breed specific legislation.