No dog breeds are illegal nationwide. However, certain states, cities and neighborhoods may ban breeds that are considered dangerous. The definition of a dangerous dog varies by location, but it generally includes one or more breeds that fall into the broader categories of pit bulls, rottweilers or wolf-dogs. Laws that restrict certain breeds are called breed-specific legislation.
Any law that singles out a specific breed is breed-specific legislation. At times, these laws may only place restricts on who can own these breeds and under what circumstances they can enter public places. Other times, the laws may ban a breed completely. These laws are usually city, county or community laws.
Breed-specific legislation is not the same as legislation that poses penalties on certain dog behaviors, such banning animals that have attacked humans or other dogs in the past. To count as breed-specific, it must target certain dogs on the basis of breed alone.
Those who support breed-specific legislation point to the fact that the majority of canine-inflicted fatalities are caused by pit bulls or rottweilers. They note that pit bulls were selectively bred for their fighting abilities and that this breed, along with other dogs such as rottweilers and wolf dogs, are notoriously unpredictable.
Another argument is that pit bulls and other fighting dogs are often abused for the purpose of making them vicious. When they serve as guard dogs they are frequently restrained in inhumane ways and are often put to sleep at shelters instead of being put up for adoption. Those who point to these facts as justification for breed-specific legislation do so on the grounds that prohibiting people from owning or breeding these dogs will diminish instances of animal cruelty.
Those against breed-specific legislation point out that in most cases, it is dog owners who make their dogs vicious through training, abuse or neglect. They also point out that many of the so-called dangerous dogs can be very loving when raised properly and certain breeds are even trained as service and working dogs. They claim that the media blows the reports of dog attacks out of proportion and that banning certain breeds penalizes the many responsible owners for the failures of the irresponsible few.
On the whole, those against breed-specific legislation are in favor of legislation that penalizes aggressive actions, but believe that a fair law would apply these regulations evenly, instead of discriminating against certain breeds.
Pit bulls, rottweilers, wolf dogs, dogs originally bred as fighters and mutts containing a mix of these breeds are often banned or restricted by breed-specific legislation. Breeds that fall into these categories include, but are not limited to, the American pit bull terrier, the American staffordshire terrier, the bull terrier, the rottweiler, the akita, the chow, the perro de presa canario and any breed of dog crossed with a wolf.
Additionally, certain communities or apartment complexes may ban any dog over a certain weight, which effectively bans common breeds such as Labradors and golden retrievers. Other locations may not ban a breed outright, but may require proof of minimum insurance coverage to own certain breeds. Some insurance companies refuse to insure owners of dangerous breeds or refuse to cover canine-inflicted injuries.
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