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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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  • Anil says:

    All dogs are members of the same domesticated (Canis lupus) species – the differences in breeds are generally superficial. Breed restriction laws are entirely too vague to be useful to anyone; any breed of dog can be good or bad depending on the training.

    • Amy Burkert says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Anil. The media, in their quest for viewers, has sensationalized the stories and whipped people into a frenzy. What most people don’t realize is that most dog bites come from Labs, yet I don’t see them on any list of restricted breeds.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Anil. The media, in their quest for viewers, has sensationalized the stories and whipped people into a frenzy. What most people don’t realize is that most dog bites come from Labs, yet I don’t see them on any list of restricted breeds.

  • Very interesting article, Peggy! I would never have expected that so few people are in favor of banning breeds based on the number of breed bans we see in place or being considered around the country. Hopefully the tide will turn!

  • Melspetpals says:

    Wow. Great post. I hadn’t even thought about the dangers posed by travelers with Breeds banned by certain states or provinces. It never even occurred to me that Buster would be banned! That’s sad!

    I missed Edie’s post on Breed Specific Legislation, but I agree BSL doesn’t help to educate or define what it is, so I will used the full wording too.
    This is a really great post. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Mel. Yes, it seems crazy that people’s pets could be removed from their possession even if they’ve done nothing to threaten or harm anyone – but that’s the case! In fact, service animals have been taken away from the people who need them. It’s hard to explain how this could be happening, but there are people in power who are uninformed or simply don’t care that the facts do not support these actions.

  • Thank you for picking up the cry…HOWL…

    Hawk aka BrownDog

  • Edeitz says:

    Great but scary post. I have one of those breeds that is sometimes thrown into that catch-all group – “bully breeds.” With several (English) Bulldogs, I sometimes get hard stares from people with little kids running around. Of course the kids are often less well-behaved than my dogs, but nevermind. The fact the we have a couple of CGC’s and a Delta Certified bullie doesn’t help the situation as people are quick to judge on looks alone.

    • Yes, Edeitz – you’re a perfect example of the people I was hoping to reach with this post! It’s wonderful that you’ve certified your bullie and it’s sad that so many people have such distorted views of these dogs. Keep up the good work, your dogs are changing minds.

  • Kim Clune says:

    Excellent point, Amy. BSL is often touted as a protection for people, burying the fact that this means killing animals based on appearance alone. To say that breed discrimination is deadly to innocent animals offers an entirely different feeling and we humans, in our busy daily lives, operate more often on raw emotion rather than analytical thinking. THIS is why language matters.

    • It’s strange to me that I’d never taken the time to think about it in this way before, Kim. It’s such an important subject and one that the majority of people don’t understand. Using clear language is one way to bring these injustices to light. I mean the media is all over it – ever bite by a pit bull is an “attack.” You don’t hear “Labrador Retriever Attacks Child” even though most dog bites are caused by Labs. Language is a tool – they use it to sensationalize and I will use it to educate.

  • Michele says:

    Thanks for this important post. I was wondering how you traveled with a German Shepherd to some places. It is scary to think that Buster can be taken from you. I’ve recently written about specific breeds that make it impossible to get home owner’s insurance. One way around some of this–not in every case–is to get a Canine Good Citizens certificate run by the AKC. It shows that a dog has been trained. It’s iffy, but a bit of extra insurance.

    • I agree that the CGC is a good thing, no matter what breed of dog you have. Well behaved dogs would be less likely to draw the ire of the local authorities – but for those with banned breeds it’s definitely not a guarantee.

  • […] I was delighted to learn, via a comment on my post questioning the use of the bland acronym BSL, that Rod and Amy Burkert had a page on their GoPet site discussing these laws and their reach, both in terms of geography and the breeds affected.  They gave advice on how to find out whether a place you want to visit has Breed Discriminatory Laws, and  what to do in case you accidentally find yourself in one one of these places with a POODL (Pitbullish or Otherwise Dangerous Looking) dog. In a case of serendipity or great minds thinking alike, after Amy read my  post, she updated the site to reflect her recognition of the blandness of the term BSL and add new information. You can find it all here. […]

  • Maggie says:

    Great and important post. Thanks for calling attention to this. Like you, after I read Edie’s post, I’m ditching “BSL” for breed discriminatory language from now on. It’s a more accurate representation.

    • Thank you, Maggie. Yes, considering how much time I spend being precise with my words, it seems strange that it never occurred to me that “BSL” wasn’t really saying anything. It definitely wasn’t communicating the injustices that are occurring under these laws. “Breed discrimination laws” is more accurate and applies in most cases – but the craziness going on in Denver and Ontario deserve something even stronger, I just haven’t settled on what feels right to me yet.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, Rod Burkert and Kim Clune, Jason. Jason said: Pet Travel Plans Must Consider Breed Discrimination Laws (via @GoPetFriendly) […]

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