Breed Specific Legislation: No Evidence that It Works

Aug 15, 2016 | Animal Behavior, Training

The following is an excerpt from PPG’s recently released Position Statement on Breed Specific Legislation.


There is little, if any, evidence to support any claims that Breed Specific Legislation has reduced the number of dog bites anywhere it has been implemented

BSL can and does result in the destruction of dogs. Research, however, would suggest that there is no evidence to support claims that BSL makes communities safer for people or companion animals. Indeed, there is little, if any, evidence to support any claims that BSL has reduced the number of dog bites. Here are some examples:

• Denver, Colorado enacted a breed-specific ban in 1989. Citizens of Denver continue to suffer a higher rate of hospitalization from dog bite-related injuries after the ban, than the citizens of breed-neutral Colorado counties (National Canine Research Council (NCRC), 2013).

• A study by Rosado, García-Belenguer, León and Palacio (2007) compared medically treated dog bites in Aragon, Spain for five years prior to and following enactment of Spain’s Law on the Legal Treatment of the Possession of Dangerous Animals (sometimes referred to Spain’s Dangerous Animal Act) in 2000. The results showed no significant effect in dog bite incidences when comparing before and after enactment of the BSL (NCRC, 2013).

• The Netherlands repealed a 15-year-old breed ban in 2008 after commissioning a study of its effectiveness. The study revealed that BSL was not a successful dog-bite mitigation strategy because it had not resulted in a decrease in dog bites (NCRC, 2013).

• The province of Ontario enacted a breed ban in 2005. In 2010, based on a survey of municipalities across the Province, the Toronto Humane Society reported that, despite five years of BSL and the destruction of “countless” dogs, there had been no significant decrease in the number of dog bites (NCRC, 2013).

• Winnipeg, Manitoba enacted a breed ban in 1990. Winnipeg’s rate of dog bite-injury hospitalizations is virtually unchanged from that day to this, and remains significantly higher than the rate in breed-neutral, responsible pet ownership province of Calgary (NCRC, 2013).

Breed bans continue to prove to be both ineffective and costly. In 2003, for example, it was recommended that the breed ban in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which had cost the county $570,000 over two years in kenneling and maintenance costs, be repealed. A task force declared the ban ineffective. Attempts to enforce the breed ban in the UK have proved expensive, with kenneling costs for confiscated animals alone totaling more than £3 million (US$3.9 million) in the first four years (Bradley, 2014).

Overall, the number of reported dog bites has decreased substantially since the 1970s (NCRC, 2013). Nevertheless, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) (2016), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the US annually. Serious bites are, however, relatively rare and no particular breed is more likely to be responsible for them.

In 2007, of the 2,158 dog bites reported to the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, California, only 7.4 percent were classified as “serious.” (San Diego Department of Animal Services, 2007 (cited in Bathurst, Cleary, Delise, VanKavage, & Rushing (2011)). In a two-year period, from 2007–2008, there were 2,301 bites reported to the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety – Animal Control, Indiana. Only 165, or 7.2 percent, of these reported bites were classified as “severe.” The 165 severe bites were inflicted by 34 different breeds of dogs. (Indianapolis Department of Public Safety, 2008 (cited in Bathurst et al. (2011)). In 2007, only 10 (5.5 percent) of all reported dog bites in Washington D.C., were classified as severe. The 10 severe bites were inflicted by “nine different breeds of dogs.” (Government of District of Columbia, 2007 (cited in Bathurst et al. (2011)).

A study in Ireland (Ó Súilleabháin, 2015), found that current regulations cited under the Control of Dogs Act 1998, whose objectives were to “reduce the incidence and severity of bites from specific dog breeds (11 total, including mixes and strains) deemed capable of inflicting injury requiring hospitalisation more frequently than all other breeds,” have not had the intended effect: “The regulation of these breeds should have resulted in a decreased incidence of hospitalisations, whereas a significant increase in incidence was observed.” (Ó Súilleabháin, 2015).

Ó Súilleabháin pointed out that current regulations may actually have been contributing to increases in hospitalizations due to dog bites: “Regulating breeds places restrictions on dogs that pose little risk and ignores the possibility that any breed is capable of inflicting serious injuries; for example, fatalities have been caused by dogs that fall into the toy breed categorisation (Collier, 2006). Ott et al. (2008) indicated that the breeds currently regulated in Ireland do not possess higher levels of aggression in comparison with other domestic breeds. Breed legislation can mislead the general public into believing that unregulated breeds are less capable of inflicting serious and fatal injuries (Clarke et al., 2013).” (Ó Súilleabháin, 2015).


Bathurst, C., Cleary, D., Delise, K., VanKavage, L., & Rushing, P. (2011, August). The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters. Community Oriented Policing Services, US Department of Justice.

Clarke, T., Cooper, J., & Mills, D. (2013). Acculturation – Perceptions of breed differences in behavior of the dog (Canis familiaris). Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin (1) 2:16-33.

Collier, S. (2006, July). Breed-specific legislation and the pit bull terrier: Are the laws justified? Journal of Veterinary Behavior Clinical Applications and Research 1(1).

National Canine Research Council. (n.d.). Our Research Does Not Support Breed-Specific Legislation: Centers for Disease Control and American Veterinary Medical Association Statement.

National Canine Research Council. (2013). Potentially Preventable Husbandry Factors Co-occur in Most Dog Bite Related Fatalities: Co-occurrence Whitepaper.

National Canine Research Council. (2013). Reported bites decreasing.

Olson, K.R., Levy, J.K., Norby, B., Crandalla, M.M., Broadhurst, J.E., Jacks, S., Barton, R.C., & Zimmerman, M.S. (2015, November). Inconsistent identification of pit bull-type dogs by shelter staff. The Veterinary Journal (206) 2 197–202.

Ó Súilleabháin, P. (2015, June). Human hospitalisations due to dog bites in Ireland, 1998-2013: Implications for current breed specific legislation. The Veterinary Journal 204(3) 357-9.

Ott, S., Schalke, E., Von Gaertner, A.M., Hackbarth, H. (2008, May). Is there a difference? Comparison of golden retrievers and dogs affected by breed-specific legislation regarding aggressive behavior. Journal of Veterinary Behavior (3) 3 134–140.

Read PPG’s full Position Statement on Breed Specific Legislation.

Read What the Experts Say about Breed Specific Legislation.