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Breed-Specific Policies: No Basis in Science

Neither science nor statistics support policies that discriminate based on breed or physical appearance

Laws and policies restricting certain breeds may break up families, but they won't make a community safer. Photo by Diane Lewis

Experts agree that breed-specific legislation (BSL) and similar policies that restrict dogs based on appearance do not reduce dog bites in communities or enhance public safety.

American Bar Association

“…the American Bar Association urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific provisions.” Read the full resolution.

American Kennel Club

“The AKC strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be “dangerous” based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs.” Read the position statement.

“Regulations that target specific breeds force law enforcement officials to focus their valuable time on breed identification. This task requires expert knowledge of the individual breeds and can be compounded when the law includes mixed breeds. It is very difficult for public officials to enforce such provisions in a fair and effective manner.” Read more here.

American Veterinary Medical Association

“Dog bite statistics are not really statistics, and they do not give an accurate picture of dogs that bite. Invariably the numbers will show that dogs from popular large breeds are a problem. This should be expected, because big dogs can physically do more damage if they do bite, and any popular breed has more individuals that could bite. Dogs from small breeds also bite and are capable of causing severe injury. There are several reasons why it is not possible to calculate a bite rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds.”

“Statistics on fatalities and injuries caused by dogs cannot be responsibly used to document the ‘dangerousness’ of a particular breed, relative to other breeds, for several reasons.” Download the full report.

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior

“Any dog may bite, regardless of the dog’s size or sex, or reported breed or mix of breeds. The AVSAB’s position is that such legislation—often called breed-specific legislation (BSL)—is ineffective, and can lead to a false sense of community safety as well as welfare concerns for dogs identified (often incorrectly) as belonging to specific breeds.” Download the position statement.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC recommends against using breed as a factor in dog-bite prevention policy and states: “Any dog of any breed has the potential to bite.”

Current Breed Specific ordinances have proven ineffective in reducing the number of pit bulls in Topeka or the number of dog bites. Breed Specific Legislation, i.e. targeting a particular breed such as American Pit Bull Terriers, has generally been discredited in actual experience of cities, professionals and academic research as being both ineffective and expensive.” — City Attorney’s Office, Topeka, Kan.

National Animal Control Association

“…breed specific legislation may create an undue burden to owners who otherwise have demonstrated proper pet management and responsibility…Agencies should encourage enactment and stringent enforcement of dangerous/vicious dog laws.” Read the guidelines.

National Canine Research Council

“The trend in prevention of dog bites continues to shift in favor of multifactorial approaches focusing on improved ownership and husbandry practices, better understanding of dog behavior, education of parents and children regarding safety around dogs, and consistent enforcement of dangerous dog/reckless owner ordinances in communities. Effective laws hold all dog owners responsible for the humane care, custody, and control of all dogs regardless of breed or type.” Read more from the NCRC.

MC Residential

“Pets are part of people’s lives. As opposed to restricting pets, we look for better residents. Most fears apartment operators have are myths.” — Eric Brown, Vice President of Marketing for MC Residential, an apartment management company in Ariz., Okla. and Texas

Obama Administration

“We don’t support breed-specific legislation—research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources." Read the statement.

State Farm Insurance

“We do not ask nor do we care what breed of dog is owned by a person. So when we are writing home owner’s insurance, rental insurance, or renewing policies, it is nowhere in our questions what breed of dog is owned.” — Heather Paul, Public Affairs Specialist

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD recognizes that breed is an irrelevant factor to ensuring the general public health and safety of a housing community by asserting that all breeds of domestic dogs can be assistance animals regardless of any state or local breed bans and states: "Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal. A determination that an assistance animal poses a direct threat of harm to others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others must be based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal's actual conduct—not on mere speculation or fear about the types of harm or damage an animal may cause and not on evidence about harm or damage that other animals have caused."

The U.S. Department of Justice

Similarly, the DOJ requires that places of public accommodation grant service dogs access to the premises regardless of breed: "Municipalities that prohibit specific breeds of dogs must make an exception for a service animal of a prohibited breed, unless the dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Under the "direct threat" provisions of the ADA, local jurisdictions need to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal’s actual behavior or history, but they may not exclude a service animal because of fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave."

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