Pros / Cons: Dog Breed Laws Punish Responsible Owners As Abusers Continue To Abuse


To address this problem, many lawmakers have turned to “breed-specific legislation,” a proposal or regulation that prohibits or places severe restrictions on owners of a particular breed of dog or dogs with certain physical characteristics.

Unfortunately, the evidence repeatedly shows that breed-specific legislation is ineffective and even compounds the problem by obscuring the problems associated with irresponsible ownership while creating a false sense of security for the community.

The reality is that any race, put in a threatening situation, is capable of biting. By profiling dogs solely on the basis of breed or appearance, breed-specific legislation unfairly penalizes dog owners responsible for well-behaved dogs without holding owners of truly dangerous dogs accountable.

There are many problems inherent in breed specific legislation. On the one hand, it is extremely difficult to apply. Banning or restricting dogs solely on the basis of their appearance or breed punishes responsible dog owners, including sometimes even those who have well-trained service and working animals. This forces responsibly held pets in local shelters from which they cannot be adopted and results in unnecessary euthanasia. Meanwhile, irresponsible dog owners are free to simply choose another dog and continue to put the community at risk.

In many cases, breed-specific legislation requires animal control officers to become breed identification experts to determine if a specific dog is on the list of regulated breeds. Some communities have attempted to define a dangerous dog as any dog ​​with certain specific physical characteristics. Both approaches ultimately focus on appearance rather than behavior – and unsurprisingly, both usually result in a vague or inaccurate identification.

In November 2020, Denver residents voted to overturn their city’s 30-year breed ban. Previously, it was estimated that animal control officers performed up to six breed identification assessments per week, time that could have been spent on real animal control issues.

Breed-specific laws also mean increased costs to the community if owners abandon pets at local shelters because they are no longer allowed to own them or comply with strict new regulations. In many cases, the owner is forced to choose between moving to another city or forgoing a pet. As a result, many dogs end up in municipal shelters where they must be housed and / or euthanized at taxpayer expense rather than staying in loving homes. Denver’s breed-specific laws cost the city $ 6 million per year to implement.

In Wyandotte County, Kansas, Kansas City Animal Services spent 25% of their annual budget of $ 1 million to enforce a breed ban. Additionally, the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City was forced to spend extra money on pit bulls at their shelter, as they could only adopt these dogs from people not residing in the county, which forced these dogs to spend more time in the shelter than other dogs. .

When Wyandotte County repealed its ban in 2019, the cost savings gave county animal services a boon that they used to modernize animal housing, hire additional staff, and microchip every animal in the shelter not chipped before. to repatriate it.

The bottom line is that breed-specific legislation just doesn’t address the real issues of irresponsible dog ownership and community safety. The best approach is still the simplest: Look at the act, not the race.

All dog owners, regardless of their dog’s appearance, should be held responsible for the behavior of their pets. Comprehensive, breed-neutral and dangerous dog laws provide animal control and law enforcement with clear, measurable guidelines and appropriate penalties for any irresponsible owner or owner of a dangerous animal.

Race-specific laws may seem like an easy fix, but in reality, they do more harm to the community. Comprehensive, breed-neutral and dangerous dog laws are more complex, but they are paying off exponentially when it comes to protecting responsible dog owners and communities.

Jennifer Clark is the Director of Legislative Outreach for the American Kennel Club (, headquartered in New York City.


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