What is Breed Specific Legislation | Print |

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) literally means laws which only apply to a section of the canine population.

These laws usually place restrictions on breeds or types. Restrictions may take many forms, though typically include mandatory muzzling and on-lead only exercise in a public places, enforced registration on indexes, breed-specific bans and substantial licensing fees.  Across Europe, the breeds targeted vary greatly, currently encompassing much of the canine spectrum from Corgis to GSDs, Staffordshire Bull Terriers to Border Collies.

In the mainland Great Britain, four breeds are currently subject to BSL under the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA):

  • The Japanese Tosa
  • The Pit Bull Terrier
  • The Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Braziliero

We must, however, also be aware that 'types' of these dogs are also affected. This means that your dog doesn't have to be a Pit Bull or Tosa to be subject to the DDA: it simply has display physical and behavioural characteristics similar to those displayed in breeds covered by the act.

Click the link here to read a leaflet put together by DEFRA describing the banned breeds and their 'types'. The addition of the word 'type' complicates classification, because the guidelines are based predominantly on appearance and are open to misinterpretation, whether deliberate or accidental. According to these guidelines, a labrador could be described as 90% pit bull due to the broadly described physical categories - and no guidelines are offered to help officials decide whether behaviour is synonymous with a breed or type. These guidelines - and the room they leave for interpretation - is a real cause for concern in the climate of fear and paranoia, as under British law it is an offence to own, keep, gift, breed from or sell any of the dogs mentioned above.

However, the 1991 Act was amended by the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act of 1997. This amendment has been widely welcomed, as it acknowledges the fact that not all dogs who are deemed to be of a 'type' mentioned in the Act pose a threat to the public, and as such need not always be put to sleep. We cannot over-emphisise the importance of this amendment: it states that no dog need be destroyed if the court is satisfied that it constitutes no danger to public safety. Instead, once the court is satisfied of their suitable temperament and their owner's commitment to responsible care, dogs may be registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs, microchipped, neutered and returned to their owner's care.

After the introduction of the DDA, many owners applied to add their dogs to the Index of Exemption. In the years that followed, not a single one injured another animal or person. However, in the years following the DDA, the rate of incidents and deaths involving dogs have not decreased: a clear indication that BSL isn't working, and that it's time for a different approach.

But how does this effect you?

If you're the owner of a dog who isn't mentioned in the DDA, sign our petition to support those who are affected: after all, it could be your breed or type next.

If you are the owner of a dog of sound disposition who you are concerned may be seen as a breed or type mentioned on the DDA, we suggest you familiarise yourself with the 1997 Amendment. A full version of is available here alongside the the DDA of 1991. If an Amnesty is in place in your area, make sure you read the Amnesty section of this site, and are as such fully aware of the possible consequences of surrender. Also be as careful and responsible as ever - make a point of keeping your dog under close control at all times. Don't panic, and think carefully about what course of action - if any - you'd like to make.