Best Friends Blog

More good news about bad laws against pit bulls

Last summer, Best Friends and our members and friends in Massachusetts helped the Massachusetts SPCA pass a statewide bill preempting the passage of local breed-discriminatory laws – laws that ban or place special restrictions on certain breeds of dogs and their mixes based on the discredited theory that all members of certain breeds are inherently dangerous regardless of the behavior of the individual dog.

The passage of the preemptive statute was a big win for the animals. The first positive ripple effect of its passage hit the news on November 12 with the announcement by the Lowell, Massachusetts, city solicitor that sections of that city’s Responsible Pit Bull Ownership Ordinance will no longer be enforceable because they were based on the breed or assumed breed of a dog according to appearance rather than behavior. The city’s prior existing dangerous dog ordinance is based on the behavior of individual dogs of whatever breed or size and is enforceable.

The current canine targets of breed-discriminatory legislation tend to be pit-bull-terrier-type breeds – pit bulls, Rottweilers, Cane Corsos, mastiffs and their mixes – but that wasn’t always the case. In the late 1800s, blood hounds were the stuff of nightmares. After World War I, there was a movement to ban German shepherds who were described as “vicious wolf dogs.” Their reputation was saved by Rin Tin Tin, who coincidentally also saved Warner Bros. Pictures from the brink of bankruptcy. At that time, the pit bull terrier was America’s dog, having served valiantly in World War I. The breed was valued for a stable and faithful nature. The Little Rascals’ dog, Petey, was a pit bull from a famous breeding line. Following World War II, the Doberman was the devil dog of choice — a reputation that lasted up to the ’80s. If you’re old enough, you may remember a James Garner movie titled “They Only Kill Their Masters,” referencing some Dobies in the film. And then the evil-eye breed discrimination turned toward pit-bull-type dogs, where it has remained due mainly to fear mongering and media sensationalism.

The truth of the matter is that there is as much variation of behavior within a breed as there is between different breeds. Pit bulls raised as social family pets routinely outperform golden retrievers in behavior comparisons. Cumulative data from the American Temperament Test Society gives pit pulls an 86.8 percent pass rate versus 85.2 percent for goldens. However, when a golden retriever flips its lid and seriously bites someone, it isn’t front page news, whereas pit bull bites are usually in the headlines.

Breed-discriminatory laws have resulted in the needless killing of tens of thousands of family pets for no other reason than their appearance. Effective dangerous dog laws should focus on behavior and responsible ownership, not on fictitious assumptions based on breed or appearance.

Best Friends pit bull initiatives, led by Ledy VanKavage, Best Friends chief legislative analyst and current chair of the American Bar Association Animal Law Committee, have had tremendous success in both altering the public’s understanding of pit-bull-terrier-type dog breeds and, most importantly, in leading and supporting legislative campaigns to roll back or preempt breed-discriminatory laws that land animals in shelters due to bans or onerous requirements on the owners of pit-bull-type dogs, again not based on behavior but on appearance. This year, Ledy and her team have positively impacted the lives of over 380,000 dogs through legislative action or proactive engagement with communities considering such laws and by helping them to develop more effective public-safety ordinances based on dog behavior and owner responsibility rather than breed.

A final note on Massachusetts: Despite the success at the state level, the city of Boston can exempt itself from that decision based on the principle of home rule. The mayor there is pushing to maintain a city law that puts unnecessary burdens on the owners of pit-bull-terrier-type dogs. If you live in Boston, please let your city councilors know that you support Massachusetts’ new, progressive law.


Francis Battista


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  • I live in Haverhill were there arealot of pits and I as one of those responsible owners..I walk my dog daily all around downtown and never ever had a problem with any business or patron.. thank u Haverhill, and all other Ma cities for understanding, and standing tall for all our misunderstood breeds….

  • Risa Russell

    We have BSL all over Arkansas. Benton, Little Rock,North Little, Sherwood, Gravel Ridge, Jacksonville for a few. My son got caught with his 1 year old female pit bull.she was UTD on all shots, spayed and microchipped . They took her away to the shelter. My son, husband and I would go to shelter & sit with her for a while daily. Son went to court and Judge Hale fined him $1080.00. He did let us find her a home with a great man and his son out in the country in Lonoke.
    I had one for 13 years till she died of brain tumor. In town one time an animal control officer was going to take her away. I told her it would be over my dead body. Now we rescue a little abused red nose from Compassionate Hearts rescue in Memphis. I can take her out of my car at the vets and she is always welcome on Little Rock Air Force Base where I slop and walk her. Really makes me angry. I never want another breed but pits. I love them

  • Janet

    I love these dogs the picture of the gray with white I owned one just like him and he was the best dog, I miss him so much, i’m glad to hear you all are helping the breed, keep up the good work,

  • beckie

    This is wonderful news and many great people are doing great work for this awesome breed!!! One thing that I am most concerned about it housing though…I live in CA and we have pretty good dog laws and almost no BSL but renting with a pit bull is a nightmare. What can we do to make landlords want to rent to people with pitties more? how can we protect landlords from liability so that they are more willing to rent to people who love the pitties? I think this issue is just as urgent as the city/county/state laws. Just my thoughts on the issue:-) Thank you for all your hard work for my favorite dogs!!

  • We here in Ohio have passed HB 14 a law that has banned BSL in the state, but unfortunately there can still be local ordinances banning certaiin breeds. The state law has had an impact in changing local stands on this issue.

  • Stephanie R.

    We need this in our area! A town nearby recently passed a law banning a breed within the city limits. All currently owned dogs in existence were “grandfathered” in to stay, but no puppies can be born in the city limits, and I don’t know what will become of any unowned dog of the breed that ends up in the city’s possession. The town is Etowah, Tennessee. There was a group of breed owner’s that opposed it, but didn’t get the support they needed. If you have any advice, I’m sure they would be glad to have it!

  • One state, one province at a time!! This is great news and a huge win for our four legged friend!!!

  • my2girls

    Thanks for making my day with such great news!


    That is wonderful news. All dogs deserve a chance. Good work!

  • Excellent news!!! <3

  • Janet in Cambridge

    Leave it to Menino to continue to believe the myths about BSL. Please join the informed and leave the pit-bull type dogs alone.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent blog. Thanks for all the hard work against discrimination of these dogs.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent blog. Thanks for all the hard work against discrimination of these dogs.

  • Erel Blinn

    Fantastic. Great Job@animalslikeus

  • as a MA resident, we rejoiced at this news!

  • Jean

    Wonderful, wonderful news!