At least 26 communities in Michigan, including Waterford and Grosse Pointe Woods, regulate breed-specific dogs. That includes 14 towns that actually ban residents from owning certain breeds, most often pit bulls, to prevent dog bites and maulings by the breed.
Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is created when a municipality or a county believes a certain breed of dog poses a hazard to the public health, safety, and welfare.
Some municipalities and counties believe that certain dog breeds pose a hazard to the health, safety, and welfare of their inhabitants. For example, in the Melvindale, Michigan's legislative findings, the city asserts that pit bulls, due to the severity of their bite, pose an undue risk to its inhabitants. So, in order to protect their residents, municipalities and counties may pass an ordinance that prohibits certain breeds within their jurisdiction. These ordinances are known as Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL).
The most commonly banned breeds are:
American Pit Bull Terriers,
Staffordshire Bull Terriers,
American Staffordshire Terriers, and
Other breeds known to be banned by BSL include:
Canary Island Dogs, and
In addition to banning specific breeds, municipalities or counties will often ban dogs that contain some lineage of the banned breed. For example, a municipality or county, like Fruitland, Idaho , may ban any dog mixed with a banned breed that contains an element of the banned breed so as to be partially identified as being a banned breed. Likewise, a municipality or county, like Cameron, Missouri , may also ban any dog that has the appearance and characteristics of being predominately one or more of the banned breeds. While some ordinances, like those of Melvindale, Michigan , may create guidelines or may use American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club standards to help determine which dogs are banned, the overall vagueness in defining which dogs are banned by an ordinance is often what makes BSL so controversial.
Some animal welfare experts suggest blanket bans and restrictions don't work and endanger human safety by ignoring individual animals that do bite.
"They are challenging at best to enforce," said Matt Pepper, president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Humane Society. "They have not been proven in any community to impact public safety.
"... The Michigan Humane Society is against breed-specific legislation because they are ineffective," he said. "Enforce the existing laws that address animal care and control."
Michael Reaves, Port Huron director of public safety, said in an email the city has "a problem when dog owners do not control their dogs — regardless of the breed."
Why Breed-specific Legislation Is not the Answer
Imagine you were told you weren’t allowed to live somewhere or do something because had a specific “look” about you that some people didn’t like. Or maybe you look like someone who did something bad, even though you haven’t done anything bad yourself. Imagine someone who’s never met you decides that you’re a bad person and a danger to society. They won’t let you live in their neighborhoods or walk in their parks or streets. Is that acceptable?
It’s not acceptable, but it’s happening to dogs in our country and around the world. Breed-specific legislation (or BSL) targets specific breeds of dogs that are thought to be dangerous and makes ownership of these dogs illegal. This type of legislation might even mandate that shelter or stray dogs that fit a certain “look” be euthanized instead of placed in homes regardless of their background or temperament. Several cities and towns across the United States and Canada have adopted breed-specific measures, ranging from placing restrictions and requirements on dog owners to outright bans on owning any “pit bull-type” dogs.
Frequently breed-specific legislation focuses on dogs with a certain appearance or physical characteristics instead of an actual breed. “Pit bulls” are the most frequent victims of breed-specific legislation despite being a general type rather than a breed, but specific breeds are also sometimes banned including Rottweilers, Dobermans and boxers. Breed-specific laws can be tough to enforce, especially when a dog’s breed can’t easily be determined or it is of mixed breed. A recent study showed that even people very familiar with dog breeds cannot reliably determine the primary breed of a mutt, and dogs are often incorrectly classified as “pit bulls.” By generalizing the behaviors of dogs that look a certain way, innocent dogs suffer and may even be euthanized without evidence that they pose a threat. Responsible dog owners are forced to give up their dogs or move. Cities and states spend money enforcing restrictions and bans instead of putting that money to better use by establishing and strictly enforcing licensing and leash laws, and responding proactively to target owners of any dog that poses a risk to the community.
Read literature review to see what the science says about the association between dog breeds and the risk of dog bites.
Any dog can bite, regardless of its breed, and more often people are bitten by dogs they know. It’s not the dog’s breed that determines risk -- it’s the dog’s behavior, general size, number of dogs involved and the vulnerability of the person bitten that determines whether or not a dog or dogs will cause a serious bite injury. Dogs can be aggressive for all sorts of reasons. A dog that has bitten once can bite again, and a dog that has never bitten could still bite.
Don’t rely on breed stereotypes to keep yourself safe from dog bites. A dog’s individual history and behavior are much more important than its breed, and since you don’t always know a dog’s history or behavior, it’s not a good idea to make assumptions. Instead, concentrate on prevention: educate yourself, teach children about proper interactions and behaviors with dogs, and learn how to recognize risky and escalating situations with aggressive dogs. These steps -- not breed-specific legislation -- will lead to fewer dog bites.
Law would prohibit communities from banning pit bulls
Michigan Senate Bill SB741 would end BSL in Michigan
Link to legislation: