I didn’t know much about breed specific discrimination until after I adopted two pitties. Cool Whip and Hercules are the picture of the stereotypical description of “pitbull-type dogs,” – especially Hercules with his big blocky head, thick neck, muscular build, and that set of cropped ears.
Both dogs get a lot of compliments when we’re out and about, but they also get nervous looks. Believing the hype, people cross to the opposite side of the street. Parents pull their kids behind them. And some cities have laws to keep them away.
Breed-specific legislation (BSL) are laws banning or restricting certain dog breeds from a location or activity. These laws, which have been enacted in jurisdictions across the country, affect more than 100 breeds. But the most often targeted breeds are pitbulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Huskies, whether they’re purebred or mixed breeds. And the punishment for breaking one of these laws ranges from a fine to confiscation and execution of the dog.
If you have a dog who’s the subject of discrimination, it feels like dog-friendly messaging suddenly goes from “We love dogs!” to “We love dogs … but not yours.”
It’s an understatement to say that breed discrimination can make traveling with pitbulls —or any targeted breed— rather intimidating.
But we make it work, and so can you!
Herc, CW, and I have covered thousands of miles, traveling through almost every state west of the Mississippi River, and to four Canadian provinces. If you don’t include my poor sense of direction, our travels have always gone well.
You don’t need to plan your route down to each gas station fill-up, but start with a rough map of your route. This allows you to consider which states and cities you’ll be traveling through. A quick search online will give you lists of places where breed discrimination is prohibited and the ones that have passed bans and restrictions.
My go-to pages for BSL information are the Wikipedia Breed-Specific Legislation page and the interactive Breed-Specific Legislation Map from the Animal Farm Foundation. Both pages identify areas that have (or have had) BSL and give an overview of the specific rules for you to review.
If you decide to travel through or stay in an area with BSL, make sure you understand the specifics of the local laws. Are your dogs allowed to stop in the area for potty breaks? Can you stay overnight with your dog? Does your dog have to meet any special requirements while out in public?
During a trip to Colorado, I planned to visit the Denver area. Denver has a strict pitbull ban, as do several suburbs around the city. One allowed people traveling with pitbulls to pass through, but the dogs could not stay longer than 24 hours and had to wear a muzzle when out in public. Another required pitbulls to be contained in a crate inside the vehicle to travel through the city.
Once you know the rules, you can make plans to safely navigate through or around areas with BSL. For this trip, even though I technically could have driven through some of those places, I chose to bypass them altogether.
I prefer to spend my time and money in destinations that happily welcome my dogs. So, I made note of the cities I wanted to avoid and stayed in a hotel in a city that was dog-friendly for all breeds. It was a wonderful, stress-free visit.
Keep in mind that discrimination doesn’t always stop at the state or city level. Some pet-friendly businesses also impose limitations against certain breeds. For example, some hotels and campgrounds have breed restrictions.
Also, some accommodations use weight limits to weed out larger breeds that often get included in breed bans. To be sure you’re not turned away at the door, always call businesses before leaving home to confirm their pet policies.
The same goes for boarding and day care facilities. I was finalizing the details of a day care reservation when I happened to ask if it mattered that my dogs were pitties. When taking my information, the receptionist had asked about the size of my dogs, but not the breed, so I’d initially assumed it didn’t matter.
It turned out that the facility’s insurance did not cover pitbulls, so I had to find another option. It sometimes takes a little extra digging, but asking the most obvious questions can save you a lot of stress once you’re on the road.
I understand how frustrating and disheartening it is when your dog is not welcomed because of his breed or how she looks. Traveling with pitbulls requires additional research to ensure your dog is treated with hospitality, but you CAN get out there and have fun together. And, once you do, you and your dog have the opportunity to be ambassadors for your breed. Show the world that all dogs deserve to be treated fairly!
Cool Whip and Hercules love to meet people, so I’m happy to let people pet them and experience what a pitbull is really like. Aggressive bully breeds? Nah. The white one will promptly plant her bum on your feet and demand scratches. And that squirrely brown fella with little ear nubs thinks he’s a 70-pound lap dog; he gets so excited to see people that he can’t stop licking things.
My hope is that by having a positive interaction with my dogs people will realize that every dog is an individual and should not be judged with blanket assumptions. In a way, breed discrimination inspires me to take my dogs traveling even more. If my dogs can break down even just one negative assumption, the extra work is worth it!
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