By: Phil Guidry, AKC Senior Policy Analyst
As the name implies, breed-specific legislation (BSL, for short) is any legislative attempt to ban or place severe restrictions on owners of a particular breed of dog or dogs with certain physical characteristics, regardless of whether or not their particular dog is a problem in their community. Like racial profiling for dogs, BSL summarily penalizes responsible dog owners without holding owners of truly dangerous dog accountable. This is why the American Kennel Club opposes BSL. Along with a host of other respected national organizations, the AKC brings to light the inequities and inherent fallacies of such policies, and promotes the “Deed Not Breed” slogan.
The AKC plays an active role in promoting breed-neutral policies. Since 2005, the AKC has vigorously opposed more than a dozen state initiatives to enact BSL. More importantly, it and allied organizations have successfully advocated for state laws that prohibit local governments from passing BSL in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia.
The trend away from BSL continues. Through the first two months of 2014 alone, the AKC has supported seven additional state efforts to prohibit breed-specific laws. They include:
- Georgia HB 409, which would prohibit counties, municipalities, and local authorities from banning the sale or ownership of any specific breed of dog.
- Maryland HB 422, which is pending in committee, states that a dog may not be declared potentially dangerous based solely on its “breed, type or heritage”, and prohibits counties and municipalities from enacting laws prohibiting ownership of specific breeds. It also states that a homeowner or tenant may not be prohibited from owning, or being evicted or denied occupancy because of the specific breed of dog owned.
- Missouri HB 1116 would prohibit municipalities from enacting breed-specific laws. It has passed one legislative committee, and is currently pending in another.
- South Dakota SB 75 would prohibit local governments from enacting, maintaining, or enforcing regulations on certain dog breeds. The bill has been approved by both the House and Senate, and is awaiting Governor Daugaard’s signature.
- Utah HB 97 would prohibit municipalities from adopting or enforcing any breed-specific rule, policy or ordinance; and declare any current breed-specific rules and policies void. The bill has passed the House and is currently pending in the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee.
- Vermont HB 775 would prohibit municipalities from banning certain breeds of dogs. The bill is pending in the House Government Operations Committee.
- Washington HB 2117, which is pending in the House Judiciary Committee, would amend the state’s dangerous dog law and prohibit local governments from banning possession of a particular breed or declaring a specific breed of dog to be dangerous or potentially dangerous.
Do you reside or participate in dog events in these states? If so, contact the state legislature and ask them to join the trend against BSL by supporting these measures. For talking points, visit the AKC Government Relations Toolbox and read Why Breed-Specific Legislation Doesn’t Work.
Watch the AKC’s BSL video: