Is Your Dog Affected by Breed Specific Laws? Find Out If Your State Has Restrictions on Your Canine

Is Your Dog Affected by Breed Specific Laws?

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Did you know that, depending on the state you live in, perhaps even the county you call home, there may be restrictions on certain dog breeds that are deemed "dangerous?" Find out more here.

Breed specific laws place restrictions on certain dog breeds in certain areas. More than 4 million dog bites occur in America each year, and in 2012, 38 people were killed by dogs in the United States. Some communities have decided to take action by enacting breed specific legislation -- or BSL.


A great deal of controversy exists on how to prevent dog-related injuries. Groups like the Humane Society and the American Kennel Club reject BSL as a solution, and support strategies that emphasize education and responsible dog ownership as means to reducing attacks. These organizations are opposed to breed-specific legislation, arguing that these laws do little to prevent dog attacks, are expensive to implement, and unfairly target dogs when it is their owners who should bear the true responsibility. Nevertheless, many communities in the United States have enacted BSL in an attempt to reduce dog-related injuries.


Such legislation can range from outright bans on ownership to restrictions on animals in public locations, or higher fees required for ownership. Most breed specific legislation involves a municipal court deeming that a certain breed is “uniquely dangerous,” and that for the “protection of the public’s health and welfare,” the dog must be banned or restricted in some way.

There are three main categories of Breed Specific Legislation on the books in the United States as of July 2012.

1. Breed Bans

This type of legislation makes it illegal for people to own particular breeds of dogs within the area of jurisdiction. Fines or animal seizures are permitted by law. In some cases, those who had their dogs before the BSL was enacted are permitted to keep their dogs.

2. Breed Labeling

When a breed of dog is labeled as “potentially dangerous,” “dangerous,” or “vicious,” owners of these dogs are subject to additional restrictions beyond those with unlegislated dogs. These dog parents may have to pay higher registration fees, muzzle their dogs when off property, restrict them on property, microchip their dogs for identification purposes, or carry liability insurance starting at around $100,000.

3. Mandatory Spay or Neuter

In an attempt to reduce populations of specific breeds, some communities have enacted laws that require owners to spay or neuter specific animals. This can reduce specific breed numbers in public, as well as the number of unwanted dogs that wind up in shelters. Pit Bulls can sometimes make up to 50% of shelter dog populations.


In the great majority of cases, BSLs by city or county refer specifically to Pit Bulls -- either by deeming them dangerous, or by restricting them in some way.

For example:

  • 50 Missouri counties deem Pit Bulls to be vicious or dangerous, or place an outright ban on them.
  • 39 Kentucky towns made similar rulings, with most banning Pit Bulls entirely.
  • In Massachusetts, 27 counties have deemed Pit Bulls to be dangerous or vicious, and have restricted them in some way.

In other cases, some counties are extra zealous in their breed specific legislation.

For example:

42 states, including Washington D.C. and certain Native American territories, have some sort of breed specific legislation on the books.

These are not necessarily outright bans, but do include limitations of some sort. In almost all cases, limitations and bans are declared at the municipal level -- in counties and villages -- as opposed to being accepted statewide.

To check for BSL in your area, visit

More on Dog Breeds

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All About Small Dogs
The Best Dogs for Children
Your Large Breed Dog

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