“He’s a Pit Bull!” Just those four words can ignite a storm of controversy. Some people might respond with an “Aww!” and ask to pet your dog. But often, those words will be met with a step back. Parents might warn their children to stay away. And in some areas of the United States, you might be met with a call from city officials telling you that your dog is illegal.
There are no US states where Pit Bulls are banned from the entire state, but many cities have breed bans that prohibit Pit Bulls and other breeds considered dangerous. If you have or are considering getting a Pit Bull, it is important to research your area’s laws to make sure that you won’t lose your dog.
What Makes a Pit Bull a “Pit Bull”?
Pit Bull bans are made more confusing because Pit Bull isn’t a breed. In fact, there is some debate about which breeds are considered Pit Bulls.
Generally speaking, “Pit Bull” refers to a category of dogs that were historically bred for dog fighting and are muscular, compact dogs with short snouts and powerful jaws. They usually have square heads, short coats, and ears that are naturally floppy but often cropped. Some breeds that might be considered Pit Bulls include Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Bulldogs, and other related breeds. Often, mixed breed dogs that have these characteristics are considered Pit Bulls too.
Pit Bulls are often banned because of the assumption that Pit Bulls are inherently more dangerous and aggressive than other dog breeds. Pit Bulls do make up a higher-than-average proportion of serious dog attacks, but the reasons for this are complex. Pit Bulls have the size and strength to cause serious damage to humans, and they are often poorly socialized. They are also the most common category of dogs used for illegal dogfighting, where aggression is trained into puppies from a young age. But Pit Bulls that have been raised well aren’t any more likely to attack you than the average dog.
How Are Pit Bull Bans Enacted?
There are several different forms that breed bans can take. The least restrictive bans are breeding bans or sterilization laws. These require all Pit Bulls to be spayed or neutered in the city or county but allow owners to keep a Pit Bull as a pet.
Housing ordinances can include breed-specific bans as well. In New York City, Pit Bulls are effectively banned because the housing authority prohibits Pit Bulls from living in any property in New York City. These bans may allow you to bring your dog through the city without trouble while blocking residents from owning a Pittie.
At its most restrictive, Pit Bull bans can prohibit specific breeds from even passing through an area. Miami-Dade County is an example—it is illegal to even bring a Pit Bull into the county.
States Without Any Breed Bans
Because breed bans are ruled at the state and local level, there are many states where Pit Bulls are fully welcome. In some states, there are laws that prohibit cities and counties from banning specific breeds. In others, there are no breed-specific laws currently on the books.
These states include:
Sometimes, you’ll see Maine, South Carolina, Florida, Colorado, and California added to that list, but each of these states has exceptions or grandfathered areas that allow some breed-specific laws to be enforced.
How to Find Your City’s Breed Bylaws
If you are unsure what the laws are in your area, or you are moving to a new town with a Pittie, it’s vital that you are informed of your area’s breed-specific laws. If you live in any of the states without breed laws listed above, you’re in the clear.
For other areas, the surest way to check if Pit Bulls are welcome in your town is to contact any relevant city or county offices. Sometimes, laws regarding pet ownership can be found on the relevant government website. Although there are legislation lists online, these are often incomplete, and it’s best to go straight to the source.
Whether you’re for or against breed bans, we can all agree that it’s important to know where your community stands. If you’re a Pit Bull owner, moving to the wrong town can cause deep heartache, and many owners may find that they’re forced to choose between moving and giving up a beloved pet because they assume that owning a Pit Bull in their area is okay.
Featured Image Credit: Caroline Ziemkiewicz, Unsplash