What Actually Happens When a Pit Bull Ban Goes Into Effect?

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on August 20, 2016.

Since the 1990s, breed-specific bans targeting pit bulls have been sprouting up around the world. Claiming that the dogs are dangerous and pose a threat to those around them, the legislation bans people from keeping pit bulls as pets in specific areas. Today, 31 states in the United States have some sort of pit bull ban in effect and even more municipalities consider a ban of their own each day.

But what actually happens when these rules go into effect?

Dog bites don’t actually decline

While the idea behind breed-specific legislation, or BSL, is to reduce dog bites and aggression, there’s no proof that the bans lead to a decrease in dog bites overall.

In Toronto, which banned pit bulls in 2005 and led to a near extinction of the breed in the area, dog bites hit the highest levels in the century in 2013 and 2014.

Dog fighting rings don’t go away either, even though pit bulls are usually chosen to participate in the illegal and heinous act.

“Communities that have instituted such bans often find that the irresponsible owners and the criminals who use dogs for illegal purposes simply switch to another breed,” explains the Pit Bull Rescue Central website.

People get separated from their pets

When BSL goes into effect, sometimes people are forced to relinquish their dogs to authorities immediately. Most often, however, there’s a clause that allows people who already own a pit bull to keep their dog – if they register the animal within a determined period of time.

In Brownsville, Tennessee, for example, people had 60 days to register with the city or their pit bull would be taken away. The problem is that not many people pay attention to local ordinances, so dog owners frequently miss the deadline and have to give up their animals.

“It’s extremely problematic because politics is not an spectator sport,” explains Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative attorney for the Best Friends Animal Society. “Another problem is that many people don’t consider their dog a pit bull.”

Shelters are overwhelmed

Being faced with a rule that prohibits them from keeping their pet, many people try to rehome their dog — but according to the Pit Bull Rescue Central, it takes an average of six to 12 months to find a new home for a pit bull.

That leaves shelters as a common solution.

“Here are dogs that were in people’s homes and now they’re overwhelming a shelter,” says VanKavage. “So they’re euthanized or other dogs that would go in to the shelter can’t come in because they’re full and so they’re euthanized.”

In the city of Miami, pit bulls that end up in shelters can be adopted to people who live outside of Miami-Dade county. But people don’t often visit a shelter in another county to look for a dog to adopt, so the pit bulls are euthanized.

People are blocked from adopting

The shelter problem is even worse because nobody living in a city with a ban will ever be able to adopt a pit bull again — meaning that the number of potential adopters decreases. And all the while, the number of dogs desperate for a home increases.

Dogs who aren’t even pit bulls suffer

To ban a pit bull, one must first identify a pit bull. There’s one little problem with that: Pit bulls aren’t even a breed. What are commonly known as pit bulls are a group of similar looking dogs including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and English Bull Terriers.

Many other dogs look muscular and have short hair like those breeds, so when an official is charged with investigating whether a pet should be banned or not, mistakes are frequently made.

“It’s pretty arbitrary. [The identification process] can be done by the police, who is not trained in breed identification, or an animal control officer, who is not trained either,” says VanKavage. “People call it breed specific legislation but there’s nothing specific about it. You might as well use a Ouija board to determine the breed of a mixed breed dog.”

In fact, a study showed that even shelter workers and people who have been trained in breed identification make a mistake 48 percent of the time.

Cities lose a ton of money

Financially, BSL has also proven to be a huge disaster. Between the cost of enforcing the ban, kenneling and caring for the confiscated pit bulls, euthanizing a portion of them, running DNA tests to determine their actual breed and paying for litigation when an owner challenges a decision on their dog, a city is left with a giant and unnecessary bill that taxpayers end up paying.

According to the National Canine Research Council, Prince George’s County in Maryland spends approximately $560,000 every two years enforcing its ban. The estimated associated costs with Denver’s ban in Colorado add up to almost one million dollars per year.

People become misinformed on dog safety

Perhaps the most damaging of all effects of BSL is that it perpetuates the myth that pit bulls are violent and dangerous. Other cities that may not have outright bans can have apartment buildings that refuse to accept tenants who own pit bulls, and insurance companies may choose not to insure them. The circle of misinformation continues, leading to more unnecessary dog deaths.

Take Action!

Want to stop BSL? There are a number of petitions opposing the unfair legislation. Can’t find a BSL petition where you live? Create your own, and the Care2 community will join you and help make BSL a thing of the past.



hELEN hEARFIELD6 days ago


Theresa Chartrand

Stop giving pit bulls a bad name!!!!!

Georgina Elizab M


Charles Kuehn
Charles Kuehn9 days ago

Nicole Heindryckx - I don’t hate dogs or wish there were no more of [any] breed. I merely find them smelly, overbearing and unpleasant. Neither am I stupid, nor do I “put all the blame on them” (dogs). I do strongly recommend the companionship of a cat, for reasons I enumerated in my prior post.

I do further recommend to you (if you intend to keep posting on national blog sites) that you seek a refresher English course. Your organization of ideas, sentence structure, grammar and punctuation are abysmal.

Sue H
Sue H9 days ago

Thanks for re posting this article.

Kelsey S
Kelsey S10 days ago


Michael F

Signed All, Thank You for Sharing This !!!

Nicole Heindryckx

@ Charles Kuhn : YOU ARE A DOG HATER. You simply wish there were NO MORE DOGS OF EITHER BREED !! that's no a reason in this debate about the pitbulls. If you don't love dogs, so be it, but you are stupid to put all the blame on them !!!

Nicole Heindryckx

@ Gerry W : Really, do you really mean that NO PET IS TRUSTABLE. Then how can you explain that I had 4 rescue dogs, who never have bitten us or anyone else. That my son has had 2 greyhound racing dogs adopted, and not biting incidents, not even with their small daughter. Then how comes my daughter had a rescued pitbull with 2 little girls (2 and 4) when the dog came into the family. NO SINGLE BITING incident either. I certainly can add another 10/15 friends, neighbors, who never had problems with their dogs.
Wouldn't you rather say : 50 % of the humans are NOT TRUSTABLE. That would be more true, then what you said.
You must really have a rough / frightening life with so many dogs in the streets, parks, etc... Or are you living alone on an Island ??

Nicole Heindryckx

This whole discussion is now over 20 years old. We also had one. However, after approx. 5 years, the ban was annulled as there was NO PROOF that pitbulls were a biting race. It was due to their education ! In Holland and Belgium, they concluded that pitbulls were mainly purchased by young people, to look tough, and learned
their dogs to be a biting one. There still are rare accidents with pitbulls, but NO MORE than with other large dogs (German & Belgian Shepherds, labradors, etc...) So why should we ban the pitbull and pitbull like dogs, and not the others. If we ban all dogs ever involved in biting accidents, abt. 40 % of the dogs should be banned !! Idiot ?? YES INDEED !!
A dog just behaves as you have educated him. When beating, kicking, slamming, etc. are daily done, you will have a "bad" happy to bite you or someone else.
According to records by Police Authorities and Hospitals, most biting accidents took place with children of under 5 years, who were together with a dog, WITHOUT the parents being present. If you have (had) children of this age, you know they LOVE to bully them. Pulling them by the tail, the ears, etc.. sticking their finger in their eyers, nose, etc... YOU NEVER HAVE TO LEAVE YR CHILDREN ALONE WITH A DOG !! Are you then surprised that the dogs takes the lead, and "punishes" the child for its bad behavior ??