What is the legal definition of “dangerous dogs” and what breeds apply to this law?
The broad definition of a dangerous dog is one who inflicts unjustified, serious injury or poses an imminent threat of unjustified, serious aggression toward people or other animals.
However, “dangerous” is defined differently by each jurisdiction. It is up to the court to decide whether a particular dog satisfies the definition.
Terms used to define other symptoms or levels of canine aggression include “potentially dangerous” and “vicious.”
However, Breed Specific Law (BSL) is an entirely different thing. BSL is the blanket term for laws that either regulate or ban certain breeds completely in the hopes of reducing dog attacks. Some city/municipal governments have enacted these laws. Regulated breeds include not just American Pit Bull terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, English Bull Terriers and Rottweilers, but also a variety of other dogs, including American Bulldogs, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, or any mix of these breeds—and dogs who simply resemble these breeds.
Many question the effectiveness of BSL. In fact, one example, Prince George’s County, MD, spends more than $250,000 annually to enforce its ban on Pit Bulls. However, a study conducted by the county in 2003 noted that “public safety is not improved as a result of the ban.
Even the Center for Disease Control decided not to support BSL after a thorough study of human fatalities resulting from dog bites, citing the inaccuracy of dog bite data and the difficulty in identifying dog breeds (especially true of mixed-breed dogs). The CDC also noted the likelihood that as certain breeds are regulated, those who exploit dogs by making them aggressive will replace them with other, unregulated breeds.
Many states (including New York, Texas and Illinois) favor laws that identify, track and regulate dangerous dogs individually, regardless of breed, and prohibit BSL.