What is Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)?
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was rushed through Parliament in response to media and public pressure following a string of high profile dog attacks. Under the Act ‘Breed Specific Legislation’ (BSL) prohibits the ownership of certain ‘types’ (the dogs are not a recognised ‘breeds’ in the UK) of dogs the most popular prohibited ‘type’ is the pit bull terrier.
What is the RSPCA’s position on BSL?
There is no evidence to support the notion that some breeds or types of dog are, by their nature, more dangerous than others. BSL punishes certain types of dogs for the way they look and fails to consider a dog’s individual behaviour when determining whether or not they are dangerous. As a result, dogs whose behaviour poses no risk are branded 'dangerous' just because of their appearance. The RSPCA want to see an end to breed specific legislation. Dogs can’t help who their owners are, yet the law unfairly places the onus of responsibility on them, rather than the irresponsible actions of the owner.
The RSPCA sees the impact of BSL first hand. Some dogs brought into our centres, as part of cruelty investigations, are later identified by the police as a prohibited type. Despite many of these dogs being friendly, well socialised and perfect candidates for rehoming to responsible owners, the law doesn’t allow them to be rehomed. This causes much heartbreak for our staff who form very strong bonds with these dogs, particularly as many of them have only ever known violence or neglect from their owners.
Does Breed Specific Legislation work?
In short, no. BSL has not prevented attacks on people, animals or discouraged irresponsible ownership. It has also failed in other countries where it has been evaluated, such as the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark. The law was intended to phase out these types of dogs. However, experts in this area suggest that, the introduction of breed specific legislation simply made the prospect of owning a banned ‘dangerous’ dog more desirable to the type of people who encourage their dog to be aggressive.