Breed Specific Legislation - FAQs
What is BSL?
Breed specific laws restrict the ownership of certain types or breeds of dog deemed to be dangerous to people. In the UK, BSL bans the ownership of four different types of dogs traditionally bred for fighting: pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero.
A criminal offence is committed if a prohibited type of dog is owned or kept, bred from, sold or given away. This means that it is illegal for the RSPCA or any other rehoming centre to rehome a prohibited type of dog.
Why does the RSPCA believe BSL to be ineffective?
- Studies show that BSL has not reduced dog bite incidents in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Netherlands or Belgium.
- Since 1991 in the UK, 36 people have died in dog-related incidents - 27 of which involved dogs not prohibited by BSL.
- In England, dog bites recorded by the government have increased by over 76% over the past 10 years despite the prohibition of certain types of dogs.
Weren’t pit bulls bred for fighting due to being naturally aggressive?
There is no specific research to demonstrate that dogs bred for fighting are naturally aggressive towards people or that they are unique in the way they can bite.
Whether or not a dog is aggressive can be influenced by factors such as how they are bred and reared and experiences throughout their life. Breed is not a good predictor of risk of aggression.
How does BSL compromise dog welfare?
- Dogs suspected to be of prohibited type are taken away from their owner and held in kennels . Many dogs find the process of seizure and kennelling very difficult to cope with and can result in undesirable changes in health and behaviour.
- Whilst away from their owner, the dog will examined by an expert using a set of standards which are largely appearance based. Genetics or the dog’s parentage is not taken into consideration which means that many dogs are unnecessarily subjected to stressful processes - just because of how they look.
- Dogs found to be type can be lawfully kept and exempted from euthanasia if he/she doesn’t pose any risk to public safety and the owner is considered fit and proper - but conditions must be met for the rest of the dog’s life which can be detrimental to their welfare. For example being muzzled and on-lead whenever in a public place.
- Sadly, many dogs will have to be euthanased and thousands have died because of BSL since 1991.
So what would prevent dog bites?
We believe that a three pronged approach is needed to better protect public safety:
- Effective legislation and enforcement to tackle dog-related issues regardless of breed or type and based on their behaviour.
- Education particularly targeted at children, who are most vulnerable from dog bites.
- A better understanding of why dogs bite.
Ways to effectively protect public safety have been explored in other countries and it is clear that much of the focus is on encouraging responsible dog ownership and education. BSL has been reviewed in many countries worldwide and the trend is to repeal this type of legislation. This has been achieved in the Netherlands, Italy and Lower Saxony, Germany as well as many US administrations.
What should the government do to address the issues with BSL?
We want to see the government launch a parliamentary enquiry into the effectiveness of BSL, assess other options to improve human safety and dog welfare, and ultimately repeal the breed specific part of the legislation.
What can I do to help?
Sign our petition to call on the government to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the effectiveness of BSL.