Breed Specific Legislation and Policies

The MSPCA is opposed to policies and laws that are based on a dog’s breed. We believe that these policies are not effective; instead, strong laws that prevent bites — from all breeds — should be implemented.

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 municipality may have a breed-discriminatory ordinance.  However, private entities, such as landlords and insurance companies, may still continue to discriminate. Click here to read about the law.

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 aimed to create “a well-planned proactive community approach” to address dog bite concerns. More recently, in 2014, the AVMA published an article on the role of breed in dog bite prevention which explores the many other factors that may contribute to an individual dog’s level of aggression.

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. Rather than focusing efforts on specific breeds, it is crucial to examine animal control laws and their enforcement. Furthermore, it is important to encourage pet owners to recognize the ways in which they are responsible for public safety and their pet’s behavior.

Media and reporting bias is a large contributing factor in the discrimination against certain breeds. For instance, the media tend to report on “pit bull attacks,” rather than general “dog attacks.” Additionally, some breeds can be over-represented in statistics regarding dog behavior. A bite from a smaller breed, which may not cause as much damage as a bite from a larger one, may not be reported; however, this does not mean that an animal of the smaller breed is any less aggressive.

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