Breed Specific Legislation

Breed Profile


Bedlington Terrier

  • WEIGHT: 17 to 23 lbs
  • HEIGHT: 16 to 17 inches
  • COLOR(S): Sandy, blue, and liver, with tan markings. Pups are born darker, and lighten later in life.
  • BREED GROUP: Terrier

Breed Specific Legislation Relating To Dogs

Breed Specific Legislation Relating To Dogs

by Jack Russell

For centuries, dogs have been man’s best friend. Humans have used them as hunting implements, herding guides, and companions on long, lonely nights. However, as societies became more structured, dogs became less important and once-vigilant owners let their canine companions slip between the cracks. Training was put on the back burner, and attacks on humans and other animals became the norm and not the exception. Breed specific legislation has been implemented in many areas across the country in an attempt to crack down on so-called vicious breeds, although its effectiveness has yet to be seen.

Breed specific legislation focuses on outlawing certain breeds of dog based on their propensity toward aggression directed at humans and other animals. The primary type of dog under scrutiny are known as “bully breeds,” which were originally bred in the 18th and 19th centuries as bait dogs in the sport of bull baiting, biting and holding on to the nose of a charging bull. Bred as stocky, muscular and aggressive, these breeds transitioned into pit fighting dogs when bull baiting became illegal. American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, bulldogs, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, and mastiff-type breeds including Cane Corsos and Dogo Argentinos are the focus of many breed specific laws due to their historical presence as aggressive animals. Breed specific legislation is further divided into two categories: outright bans on owning suspected vicious breeds, and extremely tight restrictions that make owning such breeds nearly impossible. Under the former section, harboring or handling a dog designated as a vicious breed is punishable by steep fines and/or jail time, and animal control seizes the dogs, who are put to sleep depending on the circumstances of the case. Under the second section, owners are permitted to keep vicious breeds if they meet certain requirements, such as fully enclosed protective fencing, hefty liability insurance and keeping the dog muzzled and leashed at all times when off the owner's property. A number of insurance companies refuse to offer liability insurance on banned breeds, making this second option unfeasible for most people.

Breed specific legislation is likened by many objectors to a holocaust, and is a contentious issue for dog owners. Hundreds, if not thousands, of allegedly vicious dogs are seized from their owners and put to sleep each year, based mainly on their lineage. The entire premise of these laws is to ban dogs based off their breeds, and does not take into consideration temperament, handling or training of each animal. Bully breeds were, at one time, bred to be vicious, but many modern breeders are focusing on improving the temperament and disposition of the breed to produce friendly, loyal companion animals. Proper training and socialization are essential for a stable, friendly dog, and even breeds commonly considered as acceptable family companions, such as Poodles and Pomeranians, may become hostile if not properly handled. Owners with vicious breeds often go into hiding, keeping their beloved pets off the radar. These undercover dogs often receive no veterinary care or training, resulting in unhealthy, poorly socialized dogs that perpetuate the vicious dog stereotype.

There are alternatives to breed specific legislation that may reduce anger and tension from owners and victims alike. Breed neutral laws, including stronger punishment for animal abusers and those that promote dog fighting, must be enforced to keep dogs of all breeds away from potentially dangerous owners. Awareness of the importance of proper socialization and training is paramount to reducing the number of breed specific laws. Potential dog owners need to educate themselves on the breed of dog before purchasing a puppy or adopting a dog from a shelter. Rottweilers, for example, are extremely loyal dogs, and may growl and snap if unfamiliar people get too close to their owner or their property. Those interested in Rottweilers should know the breed’s tendencies and begin socialization as soon as they get the dog home, and not keeping the dog at home and ignoring the protective nature of the breed. Conscientious breeders should remove dogs with known aggression issues from their breeding program to reduce the occurrences of heredity aggression. Spaying and neutering dogs that are not being kept for show or breeding purposes reduces aggression-based attacks. Altered dogs do not go through hormone fluctuations, and do not lash out in fear or anger as often as intact animals. While these steps may not alleviate breed specific legislation, educating the public will result in fewer violent dog attacks.

More information on breed specific legislation is available at the following links:

ASPCA Breed Specific Legislation: American Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals site detailing the basics of (breed specific legislation).

New Leash On Life BSL: An overview of (breed specific legislation), including alternatives to the law, presented by the Chicago chapter of New Leash On Life.

Breed Specific Legislation Information: Presented by Pit Bull Rescue Central, this page includes details on BSL, and well as alternatives and educational ideas to remedy the issue.

Prohibited or Restricted Breeds: A compilation of breed laws from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Breed Specific Location Map: A map with links to in-depth information on breed specific legislation laws around the country.

Breed Specific Dog Bite Report: A report from the Centers for Disease Control detailing attack and dog bites by breed.

Special Report on Breed Specific Legislation: A report from the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Medicine on breeds involved in bite injuries.

Breed Specific Legislation: Details from the American Humane Association on (breed specific legislation) and suggestions on preventing dog aggression.

Practicality of Breed Specific Legislation: A paper on (breed specific legislation) from longtime dog enthusiast Diane Blackman.

Circuit Court Ruling on Breed Specific Legislation: An update from the American Kennel Club on BSL laws in Colorado.

UKC Position on Breed Specific Legislation: A stance on BSL from the second-largest dog registry in the country.

Anatomy of Breed Specific Legislation: A breakdown of BSL laws by Dr. Carmen Battaglia, a breeder and licensed American Kennel Club judge.