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What is LifeLine’s position on Breed Specific Legislation?

LifeLine Animal Project mirrors the policies and guidelines outlined by our partner, Best Friends Animal Society. We believe in policies that promote and enable responsible dog ownership and regulate an animal based on their behavior, not their breed. We encourage community-based programs and resources, which aim to enable responsible dog owners to own whatever type of dog they choose, while prohibiting reckless owners from harboring dogs.


What is Breed Specific Legislation?

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is defined as a “law passed by a legislative body pertaining to a specific breed or breeds of domesticated animals. In practice, it generally refers to laws pertaining to a specific dog breed or breeds. In the last few decades, breed-specific legislation has specifically targeted pit-bull type dogs, under the assumption that this particular “breed” is legally vicious or dangerous.” 

In most cases, regulated breeds include pit-bull type dogs, including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and English Bull Terriers or any mix of these breeds. In many areas, regulated breeds can also include American Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers or any mix of these breeds.


Are Breed Specific Laws Effective?

There is no evidence that BSL makes communities safer for people or pets. In fact, many studies and organizations have proven otherwise.

Following a study of human dog bite fatalities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided to strongly oppose BSL. The CDC noted that, among other problems, there is inaccuracy of dog bite data and visual identification of a breed is virtually impossible. 

Additionally, BSL is costly and difficult to enforce. Best Friends Animal Society created an educational BSL fiscal impact calculator, which estimates the cost of implementing Breed Specific Legislation.


Which types of laws are considered Breed Specific Legislation?

BSL includes both breed bans and breed restrictions. Breed bans are the out-right banning of a specific dog breed. This requires the city or county animal control and police to regulate owned and stray dogs, targeting dogs with a certain appearance. With most breed bans, if a dog is of a certain breed, determined through visual breed identification or DNA tests, they are destroyed. 

Breed restrictions include placing mandates on owners of a particular breed. This could include required muzzling, spaying/neutering, liability insurance, containment requirements, etc.

Both breed bans and breed restrictions target a dog based on their breed, not their behavior.


What are the consequences of Breed Specific Legislation?

  • The community suffers. BSL has been shown to compromise, not enhance public safety. Because BSL has been proven ineffective, bite reports and fatalities often remain stagnant or can even increase after BSL is passed.

  • The owners suffer. Responsible owners of properly supervised and well-socialized dogs who just happen to fall within a targeted breed are required to follow local breed laws, despite their dog’s behavior. This can lead to housing issues, legal fees or even surrendering of the animal to a local shelter.

  • The dogs suffer. Breed bans and restrictions can create a climate where it is nearly impossible to live with a certain breed. As this type of legislation goes on, it virtually ensures the destruction of otherwise adoptable dogs by shelters and humane societies.


What are the alternatives to Breed Specific Legislation?

Community-based initiatives and legislation that promote responsible pet ownership have been proven effective in reducing dog bite cases and fatalities.

According to the National Canine Research Council, in fatal dog attacks in the United States:

  • 97% of the owners did not spay or neuter their dogs.

  • 84% of the attacks involved reckless owners

  • 78% of the owners did not maintain their dogs as pets

The following community-based programs have been proven effective to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, fatal dog attacks:

  • Low-cost spay/neuter programs

  • Bite prevention courses in schools and community centers

  • A community-based approach to animal control

  • Responsible pet ownership classes

  • Community resources for those pet owners in need

  • Resources for those looking to re-home their pets

The following legislation been proven effective to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, fatal dog attacks:

  • Laws that promote responsible pet ownership and hold the owner accountable for their animals and the behavior of their animals.

  • Anti-tethering and chaining laws

  • Fines for dogs at-large

  • Restricting reckless owners from harboring dogs

  • Regulations based on a dog’s behavior, not it’s breed

What has LifeLine done to promote responsible pet ownership?

Over the last few years, we have worked closely with both Fulton and DeKalb County to redefine the county Animal Ordinances to include harsher penalties for animal abusers, while making tethering and chaining dogs illegal. These ordinances were revised to define a vicious or dangerous dog by its behavior, not its breed. 

Programs like our Healthy Pets events, Breaking Chains and our low-cost LifeLine Spay & Neuter Clinics, provide resources to those who need it the most. Our goal is to reduce pet overpopulation, while keeping loved pets in their homes and out of the shelters.

And while Atlanta is getting safer each year, there’s still so much work to be done. Our Atlanta county shelters receive an average of 40 - 60 animals per day, which means we need your help to:

  • Ensure the animals in your home and in your community are spayed and neutered. Learn more about LifeLine’s Spay & Neuter Clinic here.

  • Bring outdoor pets, inside. Outdoor, roaming dogs can not only become danger to the community, but they are also in danger of outside elements, including other people and other animals.

  • Call your local animal control. If you see a dog being tethered, roaming the streets or causing harm, please call your county animal control immediately.

  • Educate your neighbors on what responsible dog ownership looks like. Here’s a resource guide to help.

  • Invite LifeLine to speak to your school, neighborhood association, or any other community forum to provide education on a variety of topics, including bite prevention, safety and community resources.

  • Join our efforts. LifeLine works diligently to create a safe community for both people and companion animals.Im in banner3

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LifeLine Animal Project

Founded in 2002 and now managing DeKalb and Fulton County Animal Services, LifeLine Animal Project is the leading non-profit organization working to end the euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats in metro Atlanta shelters. Together, we will make Atlanta a no-kill community.

LifeLine Animal Project is an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

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