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Breed-Specific Legislation Is All Bark, No Bite

pit bull

Dogs are a product of their environments, and we, as pet owners, have a responsibility to train them properly to ensure the safety of those around us. Bad dogs come from bad owners, yet some breeds, like pit bulls and rottweilers, have been targeted by breed-specific legislation (BSL) that attempts to regulate or ban these dogs in many communities throughout the U.S. However, BSL is ineffective and expensive to enforce. We need to look beyond breed and focus on the owners who encourage bad behavior in their pets. We can start with these steps:

  1. Review existing pet laws. Before rushing to create new laws that could potentially punish good dogs and good dog owners, let’s review what we already have. License and leash laws are widespread and exist to hold owners accountable for their pets. However, in many places these laws appear to be loosely enforced.
  2. Make breed-neutral laws. Any laws regarding pets should be breed-neutral, focusing both on the individual dog and its owner. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study on dogs that found a number of other factors beyond genetics contribute to aggressive tendencies. While genetics have played a role in some cases, these are few and far between and don’t speak for the breed as a whole.
  3. Shelters and rescues should require sterilization. The same CDC study also found that 97 percent of fatal dog attacks and more than 70 percent of all dog bites in 2006 involved unsterilized dogs. As a condition of adoption, new pet owners should have to make sure their pets are spayed or neutered. This is a policy we implement at Peace & Paws, and most of our adoptable dogs are sterilized prior to meeting their new families. For those that aren’t, we provide adopters with information on where to go. Fortunately, N.H. and most New England states have programs to give families an affordable option to alter their pets.

pit bull

We couldn’t possibly imagine life without our pit bull mixes Twinkle, Nugget, Juicy and Dink. Any owner of a “dangerous breed” will tell you that these dogs can be just as caring and loving as any others. BSL laws are passed based on misinformation, and it’s time to place the responsibility back where it belongs: with the owners. Visit the American Humane Association’s website for more information on breed-specific legislation.

Written by By Bo and Melissa Hannon, founders, Peace and Paws

Have you been affected by BSL (breed-specific legislation)?



  1. Team PitAFull says

    All bark and no bite…. except here in Denver where city officials and their MCS 8-55 “Pit Bulls Prohibited” have destroyed over 5000+ animals based on… not dogs or public safety, rather their own political agenda of re-election.
    More so… cities like Denver hide up in their Ivory Tower (aka Home Rule Authority… which supersedes state law)… so until the federal government gets involved… its business as usual here in the mile die city.

    • Carol Bryant says

      That is so dreadful. I followed closely (and became a part of spreading the word) about Dre, if you recall that case. This has to change….the dogs are suffering.

  2. Anne says

    Breed discrimination is as foolish as human discrimination. As someone who is “owned” by a Saint Bernard, I find it ridiculous to think that ill-behaved dogs are innately vicious. Humane training and age-appropriate socialization makes a huge difference in the lives of all of our dogs. Saints are genetically big dogs…not bad dogs.

  3. susan says

    I think if your going to breed a dog you should have lisence…..if not they should make a law to neuter or spay….you are respondable for your pets. Then it would cut down in over breeding…also you should only be able to take one animal to pound…..if they drop off a litter make sure their animals at home are spayed and neutered. It is not the breed it is owner. That a Proven. fact.

  4. Lizzy says

    I don’t have a problem with bully breed dogs, but I also don’t see their appeal. The reason that bully breeds can cause problems are because they have a really strong bite. I absolutely think laws should be breed-neutral, but I could understand having a law that a dog with a certain jaw structure could be classified differently than a dog with a less powerful jaw. Some pit-bull mixes have (relatively) weak jaws, and it’s wrong for them to be classed with strong jawed breeds. And yes, I know that bully breeds are generally very nice dogs and it’s the owners responsibility to train them etc. I’m not going to preach to the choir on that. Strong-jawed dogs are like rifles, while weak-jawed dogs are more like shot guns. Both can cause problems if they have irresponsible owners, but rifles have more inherent power.

    • Martha Kennedy says

      Lizzy – ‘pit bull’ type dogs have no different jaws than any other type of dog. In scientific studies, their jaw strength was measured as less than a german shepards or a rottweilers, though even this is difficult to measure as how hard a dog bites can change with the reasons they bite. Yes, larger dogs can bite harder than smaller dogs, in general. How would you even classify this? Have every dog be tested for bite strength and those over a certain number… be muzzled in public? have insurance? be killed? This makes absolutely no sense.

    • Catherine says

      The problem with that is where do you draw the line on which dogs are considered dangerous and which not. A strong jaw is not as dangerous as a nervous temperament and poor behavior.
      I had a friend whose mother at one point bred pugs and kept them in her kitchen in the winter. One night, a burgler broke into that kitchen- and a pack of pugs took him down. Over fifty stitches between knee and ankle
      I’m not saying at that point, that pugs are dangerous and should face breed specfic legislation. I’m saying that any dog can be dangerous if its owner doesn’t train and control it, or if the owner deliberately trains it to be dangerous

      • Rebelwerewolf says

        I have to admit, the image of a pack of pugs taking down a burglar amused me. Personally, I have a “strong-jawed” dog who would never bite a person. He can crack an antler in half, but he’s also pretty good at “leave it”, and the times when he’s not, we can safely fish whatever it is out of his mouth (usually garbage…. ewww!) On the other hand, our friends have a highly human-aggressive Chihuahua mix who has drawn blood and caused huge bruises on several people. I’m glad they muzzle him around visitors now, because I was afraid he would launch himself at someone’s face and cause serious damage. My point is that all dogs have the jaw strength to cause severe injury to humans. We’re quite squishy as a species. The more important thing is how likely a dog is to bite under certain circumstances.

      • Lizzy says

        Obviously a dog’s temperament and training have a big impact on what would happen if it bit a person. I don’t dispute that, but biomechanically some dogs have more ability to do harm. Someone gave me this link.

        If a pitbull has a bite with similar force to a german shephard, fine. My point was that breed-specificity makes no sense anyway. And as regards legality, I was thinking that it would make things easier for people to show that their dogs were “less-dangerous” so would allow more dogs to live in all places. I’ve heard many small dogs are much more likely to bite anyway because they are high-strung.

        Regarding pugs, they also have smooshy faces which can increase jaw strength. And note that all the bites were on the legs. A large mastiff-type dog would not be limited to that height. Which is why many people are intimidated by large dogs. And it’s easy for people to do stupid things like bend down to check a strange dog’s collar.

        In any case there are plenty of reasons people might not want to allow a particular dog into their living space. Deciding by breed is obviously a flawed method. If there are multiple objective measurements then maybe dogs that do pose a threat can be screened and all other dogs can be left alone. Having a canine good citizen award is an objective measurement.

        • Carol Bryant says

          “Deciding by breed is obviously a flawed method.”
          Oh so true and oh so spot on.

  5. Marrggy says

    Yes, Lizzy you should do your research before you makes blanket statements that aren’t true. I know for a fact that Pitbills have no greater bite strength than any other breed. There jaws are shaped differently and may hold more ( food for sure ) but work the same as the golden retrievers or the little ankle biters who bite more ( on record ) than any others. Also all the rescue organizations I know of do require sterilization of all adopted animals which is so important to them and us. I thank them all for doing a very difficult but important service for us all.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you Melissa and Bo, Peace and Paws got us our precious Ariel and for all the others furrys who’s lives you’ve saved and for the families you’ve completed and contributed to you are again THANKED !

  6. Greg says

    I work security at a local Motel in a not so good town. I see dogs on a daily basis and talk to alot of dog owners. I make it it part of my conversation with ‘pit bull’ owners to ask how they handle their dog in certain situations and advise on ways to handle things better, be it collar choice, leash control or bark control. Everyone i see later thanks me for the advise and says it helped alot. And out of all the dogs i have came into contact with in the last year and a half i have been nipped at once, by a sheep dog. And 90% of the dogs i come into contact with are ‘pit bulls’. I have even reeducated some ‘anti pit bull’ people on how pit bulls really are.