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Breed-Specific Legislation: Pet Owners and BSL



pitbull-684876_960_720With the Montreal pit bull ban making national news in the United States, owners of pit bulls and other “bully” breeds should be made aware of the existing laws within the US.

What is BSL?
Breed-specific legislation legally allows a city to ban or restrict dog breeds that are considered “dangerous,” based solely on their looks.  For example, a municipality may place a ban on a specific breed, typically Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Rotweilers, and Wolf hybrids.  With a ban in place, existing dogs from the banned breed are heavily restricted, often requiring muzzles in public, steep licensing fees, and the purchase of additional liability insurance.  Any new dogs that come into the community of the banned breed must be euthanized when these bans are in place.  In other instances, BSL may simply be in the form of restrictions, where owners wishing to own a dog on the banned breed list are required to house, register, and contain their pets in specific discriminatory ways.

Which States Have BSL?
The majority of states in the US allow for BSL within their law books.  The states that prohibit the passing of breed specific legislation are the following:  Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Rhode Island.  While California does not allow for breed-specific bans or regulations, it should be noted that it does allow for breed-specific spay/neuter laws.

Which Breeds are Affected by BSL?
The most common breeds affected by BSL are those which fall under the general term of “pit bull,” meaning American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, and Staffordshire bull terriers.  Occasionally, American Bulldogs are also included in the ban.  Rottweilers, Wolf hybrids, Cane Corsos, Mastiffs, and Doberman Pinschers are sometimes included, as well.  Additionally, these laws simply ban an animal based on looks alone, so a mixed breed dog without a drop of pit bull blood may be unfairly banned as a result.

How is BSL typically enforced?
The most common way that pet owners are affected by BSL is in the form of breed bans by landlords.  Many landlords and apartment complexes do not allow pit bulls or other “fighting” dogs on their premises, with rule-breakers facing eviction.  In addition, insurance companies may refuse to cover home owners or renters that own certain dog breeds, or may only offer coverage at dramatically increased rates versus the general population.

I have a BSL breed:  what can I do?
All too often, people give up their dogs for adoption because their new home will not allow their pet, based solely on breed.  First of all, never try to hide your pet from your landlord or sign a lease that strictly prohibits your dog.  Next, search for a dog friendly complex; the Humane Society or local ASPCA can help.  Create a résumé for your dog that includes his health record, obedience skills, and a letter of recommendation from your vet.  In the meantime, support Anti-BSL movements whenever possible!

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Anna Weber

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