What is BSL?
Breed-specific legislation (BSL), also known as breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL), bans or restricts certain types of dogs based on their appearance because they are perceived as “dangerous” breeds or types of dogs.
A breed ban usually requires that all dogs of a certain appearance (”targeted breed”) be removed from the area where the BSL has been implemented.
Breed-specific restrictions may require an owner of a targeted breed do any of the following or more, depending on how the law is written:
Muzzle the dog in publicSpay or neuter the dogKeep the dog on a leash of specific length or materialPurchase liability insurance of a certain amountPlace signs on the outside of the residence where the dog livesProblems with BSL?
BSL has been proven ineffective in reducing the number of dog bites in areas where BSL is enacted.
The Netherlands (Ban on “pit bulls” since 1993)—Dog bites continued to rise after a breed ban was enacted. The ban was repealed in 2008.United Kingdom (Ban on four types of dogs since 1997)—Dog bites increased by 50% between 1997 and 2007, and a number of fatalities involved non-banned breeds.Denver, CO (Ban on “pit bulls” since 1989)—“Between 1995 and 2006, Denver had almost six times as many dog-related hospitalizations compared to Boulder, even though Denver’s population is less than twice that of Boulder.” Boulder does not have BSL.Prince George’s Co., MD (Ban on “pit bulls” since 1996)—A task force found that “the public safety benefit is unmeasurable.”Province of Ontario (Ban on pit bull type dogs since 2005) – The Toronto Humane Society noted in 2014 that the only thing that changed were the breeds of the dogs involved: Restricting breed ownership has not reduced the incidence of dog bites. A survey of reported dog bite rates in 36 Canadian municipalities found no difference between jurisdictions with BSL and those without. Likewise, a 2010 Toronto Humane Society survey found no change in dog bites in Ontario in the years before and after Ontario’s BSL.Sioux City, Iowa (complete ban on pit bulls in 2008) – In 2007, the year before the breed ban, 110 dog bites were reported within the county. In 2015, there were 137. The severity of the bites overall did not change: Siouxland District Health, receives reports from the city agencies, as well as the Woodbury County Sheriff and other entities and follows up when the bite causes a break in the skin. In the agency’s reports, a large percentage of the bites reported each year are listed as coming from “unknown” breeds. Breed designations are listed as they are reported to the agency.
BSL has proven very expensive to implement and enforce.
Prince George, MD—In the fiscal year 2001-2002, expenditures due to pit bull confiscations totaled $560,000. Income from pit bull registrations during that same period totaled only $35,000.A BSL Cost Calculator developed by Best Friends estimates that BSL in Indianapolis would cost the city over $1million per year to enforce.Find how much it would cost your city, county or town, and how many pet dogs would be impacted, if public officials were to implement and enforce an ineffective breed restriction or regulation policy by entering your city and state into this breed ban calculator. In addition, you can also access talking points to discuss this important animal welfare issue with your legislators.The U.K.’s Dangerous Dog Act is estimated to have cost well over $14 million to enforce between the years 1991 and 1996 (no more recent numbers are available).The Act has come under fire recently as dog bites (committed by non-targeted dogs) rise despite the ban.In 2001, a Baltimore, Maryland, auditor estimated it would cost $750,000 to enforce a breed-specific ban.Citizens file lawsuits against municipalities with BSL, alleging unwarranted discrimination or breed mis-identification.Owners of targeted breeds feel that BSL violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. ConstitutionDog owners dispute the breed designation that an animal control officer or shelter worker has placed on their dogA municipality’s breed-specific legislation contradicts state lawBreed-specific legislation violates the federal Americans with Disabilities ActLawsuits can cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and place a heavy burden on both the court system and animal control departments.
BSL requires identification of a dog’s breed which is extremely difficult.
In 2007, only an estimated 2% of dogs were registered with a kennel club. The rest had undocumented parentage.Animal Control Officers and Veterinarians are not trained to identify breeds.Many places with BSL use a checklist of characteristics which are subjective (head is medium length, neck is muscular).Many owners have successfully challenged the breed identification of their dog.
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