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Pet Travel Plans Must Consider Breed Discrimination Laws

We bloggers spend a lot of time with words. I don’t know how many of you sit blankly staring at your monitor, scouring your brain for just the right term to capture your thoughts, but I imagine many of you do. The words we choose to express our ideas and feelings are important – and in some cases the difference could be life and death.

Last week, in a post titled “Let’s call breed bans what they are: Death sentences,” Edie Jarolim suggested that the commonly-used term “Breed Specific Laws” is so vague that it does nothing to indicate the impact of laws. And the acronym “BSLs” is even worse – it takes a vague term and gives it even less meaning.

I appreciate Edie for raising this issue, and I agree with her. In hopes of being part of the solution, I will heretofore refer to these laws “Breed Discrimination Laws” – and I won’t be abbreviating it.

Restricted Breed: German Shepherd

Restricted Breed: German Shepherd

As it relates to traveling, the effects of Breed Discrimination Laws range from annoying to killer – literally. On our travels, we’ve come across campgrounds where we were not allowed to stay because the county or municipality had restrictions on German Shepherds. It’s annoying, but I didn’t want to spend my time or money in a place that didn’t appreciate Buster anyway.

In other jurisdictions it’s a lot worse. Denver, Colorado will confiscate a pit bull from your possession and execute it, even if it has never hurt anyone. The province of Ontario, Canada operates much the same way. It’s unthinkable, I know – but it’s a pet travel reality. And, when you’re traveling with your pet you need to be aware of what could happen.

Affected Breeds

So, what breeds of dogs fall prey to these laws? We find the most affected breeds to be the Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and German Shepherds, but Akitas, American Bulldogs, Chows, Huskies, Mastiffs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Shar-Pei are also targeted. In fact, I once started a list of all the affected breeds, but gave up when it passed 100. To make matters worse, some of these laws have very broad language that include restrictions on mixes of the targeted breeds and other dogs that LOOK LIKE the targeted breeds!

Types of Restrictions

If you have an affected breed – or a dog that looks like one – what kinds of restrictions should you expect? Some jurisdictions require owners to carry proof of liability insurance, others say restricted breeds must be muzzled when in public, and some cities, states and provinces have gone so far as to ban dogs of certain breeds from living within their borders. Penalties for violating these restrictions range from fines, to jail, to the confiscation and execution of the dog.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Dog from Breed Discrimination Laws

Here are some steps you can take to avoid any possible conflicts while you are traveling:

  • Check the following websites for maps of the localities with Breed Discrimination Laws to determine which breeds are restricted:
  • If you will be traveling to or through a jurisdiction with a breed discrimination law, call the local animal control office to get the most current information about the restrictions and requirements.
  • Remember that these websites may not be up to date as the laws are changing constantly, so plan for the unexpected. If your dog is an affected breed, or could be mistaken for one, always be prepared to comply with muzzle, leash, and proof of insurance requirements.
  • If your dog looks like one of the affected breeds, you might consider carrying DNA results from your vet proving your dog’s lineage.
  • If you find that you have inadvertently violated a breed discrimination law, be polite and do your best to bring yourself and your dog into compliance – even if that means immediately leaving the jurisdiction.

Before you plan your next trip, use the links above to pick a location where you and your pet will both be welcome. It could save your pet’s life!

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