History of Breed Specific Legislation

Pit Bull

Pit bulls weren't always feared. Remember Petey from Our Gang (The Little Rascals)? He was the faithful sidekick of the children throughout the course of the television show (and subsequent movies).

So how did the pit bull become so scary? What about the other 74 breeds that have been subject to BSL, like Malamutes, English Bulldogs, Chow Chows, and a long list of others?


In 1987, four major magazines published negative stories about pit bulls and dog fighting, effectively convincing the American public that this breed was vicious. In the years following, news stories about dog bites by pit bulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds were reported much more frequently than ones by mixed breeds or more "family friendly" breeds such as Golden Retrievers, although these occurred just as often.

To make matters worse, criminals were drawn to the breeds that the media focused on because they were "vicious," which created more negative news about dog attacks by these breeds in particular.

Bulldog Chow Chow Malamute Dalmation


To protect their citizens from these terrorizing dogs, municipalities decided to pass laws stating that certain dog breeds would not be allowed or would be heavily restricted within city limits. The first to pass BSL in the United States was Hollywood, Florida, requiring pit bull owners to buy special liability insurance. A town in New Mexico was the first to ban pit bulls altogether, and allow authorities to seize and euthanize any found within the city limits.

Many cities and towns across the country have followed suit in some way. In fact, at this time, 38 of the 50 states have BSL in place in some form. For more information, check out our Map page.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that these laws have no effect on the number of dog bites in the area. In several cases, the number of bites rose significantly after BSL was in place.