Breed Specific Legislation and Policies

In 2012, a law was signed in Massachusetts that set forth a statewide dangerous dog law and specifically prohibited regulation based on breed. No Massachusetts municpality may have a breed-discriminatory ordinance. Click here to read about the law. However, private entities, such as landlords and insurance companies, may still continue to discriminate.

Why Ordinances and Policies That Focus on Specific Breeds Don't Work

A highly praised article from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) called “A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention” provides important information. The multidisciplinary Task Force that wrote this report had as its goal to create “a well-planned proactive community approach” to address dog bite concerns. Another AVMA document is the Role of Breed in Dog Bite Prevention.

We understand the struggle to comprehend and deal with public safety issues and how difficult it can be for entities to address societal problems resulting from individual behavior. It is important that we examine the issue of dog bites carefully and thoroughly because, as with many issues, prevention is more complicated than simply focusing on one measure -- in this case on one breed of dog. Examining the animal control laws and their enforcement must happen, because focusing efforts on specific breeds, rather than on dealing with the true cause of these threats to public safety -- pet owner responsibility -- will not work.

We can’t begin to holistically address this problem without going beyond news articles and finding out what is really happening and why. There can be a tendency for the media to report on “pit bull attacks” and not others. It has been said “Dog bites man isn’t news, but Pit Bull bites man is.” Similarly, certain breeds can be over-represented in statistics, as they are more likely to be reported, when bites by other breeds are not.   

As stated in the JAVMA article, “Although this (specific breeds as dangerous) is a common concern, singling out 1 or 2 breeds for control can result in a false sense of accomplishment. Doing so ignores the true scope of the problem and will not result in a responsible approach to protecting a community’s citizens.” 

Additional Resources