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Animal Law: Primary Sources

City Ordinances

Over 700 cities have restrictions on ownership of pitbulls and other breeds, so it is quite impossible to list every one on this guide. You may find it difficult to locate a resource that has effectively and neatly compiled all municipal laws in one place. Municode state by state search, Google, and the Animal Legal & Historical Center are good places to begin your search.  Not all ordinances expressly prohibit ownership of pitbull breeds, but rather certain ownership restrictions such as mandatory sterilization. 

1) Denver, Colorado § 8-55 Pit Bulls Prohibited (enacted in 1989).

2) Ashland, Missouri § ™27.180 Keeping of Pit Bull Dogs Prohibited.

3) Miami-Dade County § 5-17 Confinement of Pit Bull Dogs.

    "Because of the pit bull dog's inbred propensity to attack other animals, and because of the danger posed to humans and animals alike by a pit bull dog when running loose or while naming together in a pack, pit bull dogs must at all times be securely confined indoors, or confined in a securely and totally enclosed and locked pen, with either a top or with all four (4) sides at least six (6) feet high, and with a conspicuous sign displaying the words "Dangerous Dog."

4) San Bernadino County § 32.1501: Mandatory Sterilization of Pit Bull Dogs. 

5) Yakima, Washington § 6.18: Keeping of Pit Bulls Prohibited.

Current Bill Proposals to Preempt BSL

The "Proposed & Enacted Legislation" search in Westlaw is useful in tracking bill activity state by state. Click the "Bill Tracking" tab at the top of the page to see the movement of the bill through committee, in the house or senate, etc. 

1. 2013 Rhode Island S.B. 1011.

2. 2013 New Mexico H.B. 63.

Case Law about BSL

Though there is a growing dissatisfaction with breed specific laws, courts have regularly upheld their constitutionality and enforceability. Below are a sampling of cases upholding BSL and striking down parts of BSL. Citations are from Westlaw

1. American Canine Foundation vs. City of Aurora, Colorado, 618 F.Supp.2d 1271: Holding that prohibition of certain breeds is rationally related to a legitimate interest in protecting the public health of a city's residents.

2. Hearn v. The City of Overland Park244 Kan. 638: Dog owners sought to enjoin city from enforcing ordinance regulating ownership of “pit bulls.” Owners who acknowledged that their dogs were “pit bulls” could not complain of allegedly vague nature of ordinance;  owners of dogs once registered as “pit bulls” but subsequently reidentified as other breeds had standing to challenge vagueness; difficulty in attempting to identify particular dog by breed with absolute certainty did not render ordinance unconstitutionally vague; and ordinance did not violate equal protection by singling out one breed of dog for regulation.

3. American Dog Owners Association v. County of Dade728 F.Supp. 1533: at ordinance sufficiently defined “pit bull” dogs by specifically referencing three breeds recognized by kennel clubs, including description of characteristics of such dogs, and providing a mechanism for verification of whether a particular dog was included under statute.

4. American Dog Owners Association v. City of Des Moines469 N.W.2d 416: portion of ordinance applicable to Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, or any dog with appearance and characteristics of being predominantly Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier, or American Staffordshire terrier was not unconstitutionally vague; portion of ordinance applicable to mixed breeds or breeds commonly known as pit bulls, pit bull dogs, or pit bull terriers other than Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier, or American Staffordshire terrier was unconstitutionally vague;

5. Toledo v. Tellings114 Ohio St.3d 278: Holding that the state and city had a legitimate interest in protecting citizens from dangers posed by pit bulls and pit bull mixed breed dogs; statutes and city ordinance were rationally related to city's and state's legitimate interest in protecting citizens;the laws did not violate the procedural due process rights of pit bull owners; and the laws did not violate substantive due process and equal protection rights of pit bull owners. 


Example Preemption Statutes

In 19 states, the response to Breed Specific Legislation has been to preempt municipalities from regulating dangerous dogs based on breed alone. These 5 represent examples of what state provisions preempting municipal authorities from regulating dogs on a breed-specific basis looks like. Citations are from Westlaw. 

1. Pennsylvania: 3 § 459-507 A(c):

(c) Local Ordinances: Those provisions of local ordinances relating to dangerous dogs are hereby abrogated. A local ordinance otherwise dealing with dogs may not prohibit or otherwise limit a specific breed of dog."

2. Texas: 10 § 822.047(1):

Local Regulation of Dogs: 

"A county or municipality may place additional requirements or restrictions on dangerous dogs if the requirements or restrictions: (1) Are not specific to one breed or several breeds of dogs".

3. New York: 69 § 107(5):

Agriculture and Markets: 

"Nothing contained in this article shall prevent a municipality from adopting its own program for the control of dangerous dogs. provided, however, that no such program shall be less stringent than this article, and no such program shall regulate such dogs in a manner that is specific to breed."

4. Colorado: 18-9-204.59(a)(b):

Unlawful ownership of a dangerous dog: 

"(a) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a municipality from adopting any rule or law for the control of dangerous dogs; except that any such rule or law shall not regulate dangerous dogs in a manner that is specific to breed.

 (b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to abrogate a county's authority under part 1 of article 15 of title 30, C.R.S., to adopt dog control and licensing resolutions and to impose the penalties set forth in section 30-15-102, C.R.S.; except that any such resolution shall not regulate dangerous dogs in a manner that is specific to breed." 

5. Illinois: 510 § 5/15 Animal Control Act: 

Vicious dog determination: 

"No dog shall be deemed “vicious” if it is a professionally trained dog for law enforcement or guard duties. Vicious dogs shall not be classified in a manner that is specific as to breed."


1) Home-rule cities are excepted from the state law in the state of Illionis. For more on the distinction between a home rule and a general laws city is, see here. 

2) Florida is an example of a state with a grandfather clause that does not eradicate BSL ordinances passed prior to Oct. 1, 1990. 


Example of Non-Breed Specific Ordinance-Columbia, Missouri

2.3.11 Vicious Dog: 

Any dog of any breed which without provocation or command demonstrates a pattern of unequivocal viciousness, bites or injures a human being or exhibits a pattern of behavior of biting or attacking or attempting to bite or attack human beings at any location or inappropriately attacks animals off the owner’s or possessor’s property. No dog shall be defined or considered vicious if the dog is working for a law enforcement agency or any law enforcement officer in the performance of law enforcement work, or is protecting its owner or possessor’s person or premises from someone committing a crime. No dog shall be defined or considered vicious solely because of its breed.