Strategies to STOP Breed Specific Legislation

Breed-specific legislation is a type of law that prohibits or restricts particular breeds and/or types of dogs within a community. The legislation can look very different from state to state and even city to city. BSL can be an outright ban on the possession of certain dogs, or restrictions and conditions of ownership. Usually it’s written in a way that suggests the dogs are dangerous or vicious.

An additional and very unfortunate component of BSL is that it targets an exceedingly large population of dogs since it typically includes recognized pure breeds as well as anything mixed with the listed breeds AND/OR anything that possesses any physical characteristics of the listed breeds. Establishing whether a dog is subject to the law is virtually solely based on visual identification alone.

 What does this mean in plain English? It means that there are laws in place all over the country that are based on the theory that how a dog looks predicts its behavior. Which is easy to dispute with science, but unfortunately very difficult to dispute on an emotional and fear-based level. And most BSL was enacted due to an incident that caused significant fear.

There is good news though! Breed-specific legislation is being overturned in states, cities and towns all across America and very little new laws are being put into place. This is happening because people just like YOU are stepping up and starting movements to change laws! Want to know how? Here are some basic steps to get you started:

“I truly believe that it’s only when head and heart work in harmony that we can achieve our true human potential.”

Jane Goodall

Strategies to STOP Breed Specific Legislation

  • Understand the objections. Most are fear-based, and many are fueled by the media. They have NOTHING to do with you personally.
  • Overcome objections. Choose to overcome with unemotional information like the role genetics plays in physical characteristics, ineffectiveness of current legislation, the fact that there is no dog bite epidemic in the United States, etc.
  • Meet people where they are. That’s where you must start. It’s not about you. It’s about their fear. It’s about their misconceptions.
  • Research and plan UNDER the radar. The anti-movement is real, it’s very organized and it’s well funded. Don’t make a spectacle of your efforts. Stay off social media. Don’t draw attention to your cause until/unless it becomes necessary.
  • Learn Your Allies. All the heavy hitters are on this page with links to their position statements. Learn who they are and what they do. Get to know them so when asked you know.
  • Less is always more. ALWAYS. Be BRIEF when corresponding with busy elected officials. This isn’t their only responsibility. Respect their time. Do you enjoy reading 15 pages emails? STOP IT. No one does.
  • Learn to harness your emotions. This is CRUCIAL. We’ve seen cities lose votes because of emotion. We’ve seen perfect town hall meetings turn absolutely upside down because of ONE emotional outburst. If you can’t harness your emotions stay AWAY from the meetings and away from your computer. Or keep to provided scripts. We can’t stress the importance of this. Be honest with yourself for the cause’s sake.
  • Be RESPECTFUL. You win votes when you make friends. When you’re likeable. When someone would feel bad voting against you. Being disrespectful, rude, angry or hateful is the fast track to a vote against you. Put yourself in their shoes – how would you want to be treated? And remember, they likely weren’t even serving when this was enacted. They have to clean up someone else’s big mess.
  • Be prepared to lose. It’s OK to lose a battle on the way to winning the war. Many wins come on the 2nd or 3rd go around.

Allies Against BSL

Visit the Humane Society of the United States to download their Advocate Toolkit. It’s a great resource!