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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ODU chapter.

source: Rock City Kennels [9]

  When pit bulls come up, many minds instantly go to the word aggressive. The breed definitely has bad branding, but that’s not the dogs fault. Many end up in animal shelters and it takes months to be adopted because of this negative connotation. Truly, pit bulls are just dogs, and it can be hard to connect such negative feelings to a dog that’s firstly described as clownish when searching for the its characteristics.

  Pit bulls began popping up as a dog breed in the 19th century, where it and many other breeds of the same build were meant to be the best fighting dogs, going as far as creating a dog breed that could “fight silently.” To manage these dogs, which were known to have aggressive incidents where people were often hurt or, in extreme circumstances, killed, legal action was taken. Dog fighting was banned in the United Kingdom, but that did not put a stop to the dog fighting industry, the government deciding to take things even further as a preventative measure. [1]

Breed Specific Legislation                 

 source: Betty Page Styled [10]

  In 1991, The Dangerous Dog Act was put into place in the United Kingdom.[2] Breed Specific Legislation now finds itself in the United States, a threat currently looming over pet owners. Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), are laws that are made in an effort to regulate certain dog breeds in an attempt to “decrease dog attacks on humans and other animals.” [3] Currently, the tristate area is the epicenter for these laws, but there is debate for banning pit bulls from the United States entirely. Some states (Virginia, Florida, and Minnesota, to name a few) have already taken a stance on this issue, banning the breed specific legislation. [4]

  According to the CDC, 40,000 people are treated for rabies/animal bites every year. Despite cats being the main culprits in these statistics, the largest stigma is against dogs.[5] Understanding that the decision of what dog attacks get publicity and their history of dog fighting, it is easy to understand why people have a fear of pit bulls and other bull terriers. However, there will be major repercussions if Breed Specific Legislation would be put into action in the United States.

The Most Likely Effects of Breed Specific Legislation

  Pit bulls already are the most common breed in shelters and BSL would be stuffing even more of them into already overcrowded shelters. This takes away supplies and funds from shelters because there would most likely be nowhere else to house them. In addition to taking a pet away from its owner, it already takes about 5-12 months on average to rehome pitbulls. Many of these pit bulls are the owners of “dog aggressive” and “male (sometimes female) aggressive because their past treatment has lead them to not be 100% trusting of people or other dogs. Even if the dog comes from a loving home, there is a possibility that forcefully being taken from its owner will result in these post traumatic stress reactions. Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavioral disorders dogs have according to Kelly C. Ballantyne,  a veterinary behaviorist at the University of Illinois.[6][7] This condition can “cause emotional distress, can interfere with normal functioning, may result in self-trauma, and increase the dog’s risk of relinquishment or euthanasia.”[6] With pit bulls most likely being placed in shelters, unless another place for them is made, the number of 1.2 million dogs each year is likely to increase drastically.[8]Without a doubt, dogs will suffer under breed specific legislation but pet owners will too. It’s heartbreaking to lose a pet, and even though there will be exceptions to the ban, most pit bulls won’t be able to continue to stay with their owner and others will never leave the shelter again.

What We Can Do

source: ASPCA [11]

  So, what do we do? As citizens, being in the know about current legislative discussion is extremely important. If it comes to a time where BSL is a voting matter, it is up to us to say what we think. Donating money to organizations like the ASPCA, The American Pit Bull Foundation, and Pit Bull Rescue Central helps these organizations optimize dogs’ lives and educate people who may not be aware that the common stereotypes don’t apply to every dog. Spending time volunteering at a local animal shelter helps these dogs get used to new people and overall improve their quality of life in many different ways, aiding them on the road to adoption. And the most obvious way to help is adopt. Before adopting a pit bull, it is hugely important to learn about its possible past and take the time to know if you will have the time and ability to give the dog you have chosen the care it deserves. Pit bulls are commonly returned because their newest owners don’t understand the full need of the dog. If these dogs are normalized and negative stereotypes are repeatedly proven to be wrong, the future of pit bulls will be much brighter.


[1] http://love-a-bull.org/resources/the-history-of-pit-bulls/

[2] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1991/65/contents

[3] https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/dogfighting/what-breed-specific-legislation

[4] http://stopbslintn.tripod.com/id10.html

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsrabies/index.html

[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195561617301523


[8] http://barkpost.com/pit-bulls-shelters-question/






First photo

[9] photo credit: Rock City Kennels http://www.flickr.com/photos/85627904@N07/8727236306″>American Bully Females Playing – Smoky and Cirock via http://photopin.com”>photopin https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)  

Second photo

[10] photo credit: Bettie Page Styled http://www.flickr.com/photos/11795324@N00/3169419262″>JD, red red nosed male via http://photopin.com”>photopin https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)

Third Photo 

[11] https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/aggression


Emma Lane Year:Freshman,C/O 2022 Major:Engineering (modeling and simulation),considering Minor in political science Other Involvements:Phi Sigma Rho National Sorority, Society of Women Engineers Hobbies:Creative writing, drawing, painting,volunteering at animal shelters,spending hours on pinterest making my dream vacation,binging movie adaptations of classic novels, keeping up with The Great British Baking Show,being physically active (swimming, self defense classes, etc), playing and listening to music all day long and spending all my money in movie theaters.