What is BSL?

BSL is an ethical failure. BSL is a public safety failure.


Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is a law that bans OR restricts certain types of dogs based on their appearance, usually because they are perceived as “dangerous” breeds or types of dogs.

**It is a common misconception that BSL refers only to breed bans. BSL is seen in two forms: bans and restrictions.**

A breed ban usually requires that all dogs of a certain appearance (“targeted breed”) be removed from the municipality wherein the ban has been implemented. After the effective date of the ban, dogs in the municipality that are identified as targeted breeds are usually subject to being killed by animal control, though in some cases, such dogs may be saved if relocation is an option. Breed bans may have grandfather clauses that allow dogs of targeted breeds to stay in the ban area (provided they are registered with the municipality by a certain date, and likely subject to various breed-specific restrictions).

Breed-specific restrictions may require an owner of a targeted breed do any of the following or more, depending on how the law is written:

  • Muzzle the dog in public
  • Spay or neuter the dog
  • Contain the dog in a kennel with specific requirements (6′ chain link walls, lid, concrete floors, etc.)
  • Keep the dog on a leash of specific length or material
  • Purchase liability insurance of a certain amount
  • Place “vicious dog” signs on the outside of the residence where the dog lives
  • Make the dog wear a “vicious dog” tag or other identifying marker

Breed-specific legislation applies only to dogs of a certain appearance, not to any and all dogs. It does not take into account how the owner has raised, trained, or managed the dog. It does not take into account the dog’s actual behavior.

“Breed specific” is something of a misnomer. Some breed specific laws don’t target specific breeds, but rather, a loosely defined class of dogs (e.g. “pit bull” or “shepherd”). Almost all BSL also includes a “substantially similar” clause: “or any dog with an appearance or physical characteristics that are substantially similar to the aforementioned breeds.” In other words, targeted dogs are often subject to BSL not because they are in fact a specific breed, but because they simply look similar to a particular breed or have a general physical appearance that someone might consider “targeted breed-like.”

BSL is sometimes known by another acronym: BDL, or breed discriminatory law.

Why Is BSL Wrong?