Fatwire Article Portlet

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)

Muzzled dog Mason because of Breed Specific Legislation © RSPCA

Dog bites continue to rise in the UK -  despite breed specific legislation being introduced 25 years ago.

Learn more about this ineffective law in our FAQs.

Or read our more detailed report: 'Breed Specific Legislation - A Dog's Dinner'.

Breed specific legislation not only fails to protect public safety, but has also resulted in the suffering and destruction of hundreds of dogs, that are deemed ‘dangerous’ simply because of how they look. This devastates the owners who love them. Sign our petition below calling for the UK Government to launch an inquiry into this ineffective law.

Take action for dogs affected by BSL

Do these dogs look dangerous to you?

BSL was introduced 25 years ago as part of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. It's a piece of legislation that bans possession of certain types of dogs based on their appearance, usually because they are perceived as dangerous.

The breeds that have been banned in England and Wales are pit-bull types, Japanese Tosa, Fila Braziliero and the Dogo Argentino. These types of dogs were traditionally bred for fighting. However, there is no research to demonstrate that these breeds are any more aggressive than other dogs.

Dogs suspected of being a banned type are typically seized by the police and can spend significant time in kennels away from their owners during which they are assessed to determine whether or not the dog is a banned type. Whilst some dogs will return home to be kept under strict conditions, sadly some have to be euthanised - just because of the way they look.

They are judged predominantly on their appearance - not on their behaviour.

Take the following cases:


Puppy Fudge who' life was ended because of how he looked © RSPCA

Fudge was just five-months-old when he was destroyed.

His owner, Carole from Liverpool, had rescued him at just six-weeks-old and had no idea he might one day be suspected to be a prohibited type.

But a neighbour, who thought he resembled a pit-bull, reported Fudge to the police.

Carole has said:

BSL was something I knew nothing about until the police knocked on my door late one night.

She was not aware that she could challenge the ruling and apply to have Fudge exempted by applying as a responsible owner. This would have meant Fudge could live, although under restrictions such as being muzzled and on the lead at all times when out of the house.

Now I no longer respect the law that judges innocent dogs on how they look.

I am left with a legacy of guilt for being naive and a fear of ever owning a dog again. The law is proven not to have worked and needs radical change.


Zara confined to a life in a muzzle © RSPCA

Emma, from Durham, adopted Zara from her local rescue centre. Suspicions that Zara might be a prohibited type of dog were first raised by her dog trainer, and so owner Emma contacted her dog legislation officer.

Following an assessment, Zara was found to be of type, but, because she was so well behaved and had good character references from her trainer, she was allowed to stay at home until the day of the court case.

She was returned the following day having been exempted.

The conditions of exemption have impacted on Zara’s health and behaviour. Zara is required by law to wear a muzzle whenever she is outside the home.

Her muzzle rubs against her nose - even though it is the correct size and is covered in fleece. The sores take a long time to heal as she is often required to wear the muzzle daily and for long periods of time. Zara must also be kept on a lead whenever she's outside - which frustrates her as she can’t play with other dogs who are allowed freedom. Emma says:

It does make things difficult as there is no room for error, no mistakes or forgetful moments can be allowed to happen as they could lead to her being put to sleep.

I think that ALL dogs should be treated equally and on their individual behaviour, so the emphasis of the law should be on promoting responsible dog ownership and correct choice of breed.