BREED SPECIFIC LAWS: A BASIC PRIMER
Material on this page © The Animal Council 2006 - 2018
BREED SPECIFIC LAWS designate one or more specific dog breeds, mixes of these breeds or dogs having an
appearance of the designated breeds. These may include:
* Bull breeds – AKC, UKC, ADBA, mixes, appearance
* Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds
* Lesser common breeds – Akitas, Malamutes, Siberians, etc.
* Rare breeds – American Bulldogs, Presas, Tosas, etc.
BREED SPECIFIC LAWS impose prohibitions, restrictions or requirements on keeping the designated dog:
* outright prohibition
* future prohibition with grandfathering, with or without permits, restrictions or requirements
* immediate permits, restrictions or requirements
BREED SPECIFIC LAWS have been enacted by state and local governments (no federal law to date)
* provisions in general animal control provisions; or
* may also be used in the context of a dangerous dog law to impose these permits, restrictions or
requirements on designated breeds, with or without due process provisions.
BREED SPECIFIC LAW ENFORCEMENT is done through licensing, door to door, general surveillance, complaint or
incident driven and may include:
* due process opportunity to show incorrect identification
* destruction with or without opportunity to remove from jurisdiction
* remain in community under permits, restrictions and requirements
BREED SPECIFIC LAW common requirements may include:
* housing: pens, fences, residence or building, warning signs
* handling: muzzles, leash length and strength, age and competence of handler
* transport: vehicle containment, destinations, entering jurisdiction
* activities: public area restrictions
* status: spay/neuter; offspring, identification by photo, microchip or tattoo
* extra costs: permits, enhanced penalties
* insurance or bond: availability, amount, named insureds, notices of cancellation, documentation
* civil and or criminal penalties, destruction of dog for violations
BREED SPECIFIC LAW related consequences:
* housing discrimination for renters or through CC&Rs
* Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation or state service dog laws
* insurance underwriting discrimination
* common carrier discrimination (airline policies)
* travel, relocation, access to services (vet, training, events)
* shelter practices and policies
* prohibition from participation in training, events and activities
* emotional distress to family and others
* distress to dogs impounded, destroyed or badly treated including by
law enforcement (search warrants, probation and parole, emergency response
* underground avoidance of licensing, rabies vaccination, vet care, training, socialization
* confrontational violence potential for owner, family, community
"BSL" emerged in the 1980's and focused on "pit bulls." Enactment was sporadic in the United States but resulted in
state litigation challenging local ordinances on several issues. A number of cases upheld local laws, and the trend to
litigate tapered off with upsurges in new ordinances often following publicized incidents. To date, Ohio is the only
state including "pit bulls" in its vicious dog definition. That statutory provision was successfully challenged for lack of
due process generally, not related to the breed specific reference in 2004. Additional legislation will address this
deficiency and may change the BSL provision.
(State v. Cowan, 103 Ohio St.3d 144)
Another Ohio case in the Third Appellate District, Marion County, State v. Murphy reversed a criminal conviction based
on the statutory inclusion of pit bulls as vicious for lack of evidence presented to the trial court that the specific pit
bulls were vicious and disregard of defendant's evidence that they were not vicious. NEW 12/24/06
2012 Ohio H.B. 14 was enacted, amending the Revised Code to remove "pit bull" from definition of "vicious dog."
UPDATED 7/23/13 Information on legal issues & case law
CALIFORNIA local jurisdictions considered but did not enact BSL during the early to mid-1980s. For example, in 1985 at
the request of a citizen, Contra Costa County considered and rejected BSL in favor of "generic" dangerous dog
provisions. November 4, 1985: Regulation of Dangerous Animals
The first local BSL ordinance in California was enacted in the Central Valley town of Livingston in March, 1987 using a
restricted permit format. Livingston, March 1987
Other jurisdictions quickly followed including Santa Clara County, Woodland, Santa Monica and Union City. The Union
City ordinance was successfully challenged in a trial court decision.
A state BSL bill was introduced but during the legislative process, the BSL provision was deleted and a
comprehensive provision added to a generic dangerous dog law as Food & Agricultural Code Section 31683:
"Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent a cityThis bill was Senate Bill 428, passed by the legislature in 1989 and signed by Republican Governor George
or county from adopting or enforcing its own program for the control
of potentially dangerous or vicious dogs that may incorporate all,
part, or none of this chapter, or that may punish a violation of this
chapter as a misdemeanor or may impose a more restrictive program
to control potentially dangerous or vicious dogs, provided that no
program shall regulate these dogs in a manner that is specific as to breed."
Deukmejian. Governor's Letter
Updated 1/8/2018 Detailed information on state "breed specific preemption" law
Some but not all local California BSL ordinances were repealed but there was no enforcement against individual
owners in the ensuing years. Individual shelter policies and practices varied as to adoption of pit bulls or other types
of dogs considered dangerous. Following a fatal incident in San Francisco in June, 2005, SB 861 modified the
preemption to will allow cities and counties to enact ordinances specific as to breed only pertaining to mandatory
spay/neuter programs and breeding requirements, but no breed or mixed dog breed is to be declared potentially
dangerous or vicious under these ordinances. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 861 which will be
effective January 1, 2006. The remainder of the state statute on dangerous and vicious dogs remains unchanged but
applies only to individual dogs based on specific criteria. California has 58 counties and 478 cities. As authorized,
many have enacted more stringent ordinances pertaining to dangerous and vicious dogs. CALIFORNIA FOOD AND
AGRICULTURAL CODE, Dangerous Dog Law, Breed Specific Preemption (2005) Including amendments effective January
On November 15, 2005 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed 3 related ordinances:
An increase in penalties for failure to license a dog to infraction, fine of $100.
Amendments to the vicious and dangerous dog provisions
New provisions requiring altering all pit bulls, as defined, over 8 weeks unless responsible party meets
stated exceptions allowing keeping unaltered pit bull and/or breeding subject to restrictions.
This will likely be a model for breeding regulations in other jurisdictions.
NEW 10/14/06 San Francisco BSL provisions, codified SF Bite Reports 2nd Q 06 3rd Q 06 (Corr. 10/31/06)
NEW 8/2/07 San Francisco BSL Administrative forms: BREEDING PERMIT & SHOW DOG EXEMPTION APPLICATION,
Fee Reduction and Waiver Form, AFFIDAVIT PROMISING TO SPAY/NEUTER, DETERMINATION OF BREED NOTIFICATION
AND APPEAL HEARING REQUEST FORM, REVOCATION OF PERMIT NOTICE, MANDATORY SPAY/ NEUTER MEDICAL
EXEMPTION AND OTHER EXCEPTIONS
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MARYLAND where a years' long effort to repeal the catch/kill ban on any Pit Bulls not
grandfathered/registered prior to February 3, 1997 failed last year, the County's policy has been slightly amended to
allow out-of-county transfer of impounded Pit Bulls to publicly operated animal control facilities only. Prince George's
County Press Release & commenting Press Release of the Maryland Dog Federation.
NEW 7/13/06 ANIMAL RIGHTS/ANIMAL WELFARE ORGANIZATIONS vary in policies on breed specific issues. Notably, the
Humane Society of the United States now opposes breed specific measures and advocates "Comprehensive "dog
bite" legislation, coupled with better consumer education and forced responsible pet keeping efforts, would do far
more to protect communities than banning a specific breed."
NATHAN WINOGRAD of No Kill Solutions lambasts the humane interests that condemn dogs by breeds in
"Stoking the Fires of Hate: How the Animal Protection Movement is Failing Pit Bulls".
NEW 8/17/06 The Staffordshire Terrier Club of America, parent club of The American Kennel Club recognized American
Staffordshire Terrier, prohibits use of its copyrighted Standard of Excellence for the American Staffordshire Terrier
without its consent and for purposes of determining whether a dog is, in fact, of this breed rather than evaluation of
its comparative quality by Judges approved by The AKC.