Have you ever visited an animal shelter and noticed a disproportionate number of Pit Bulls available for adoption? Sadly, since American Pit Bull Terriers have gained such a bad rap in recent decades, they often are left languishing in shelters. As a dog lover, it’s difficult to see a misunderstood breed go homeless for so long.
Another reason many Pitties go without homes is legislation regarding Bully breeds in certain cities or states. Breed-specific legislation, or BSL, is present in 37 states. Although legislation generally is not statewide, many cities have banned a list of Bully breeds, including Pit Bulls.
Where Are Pit Bulls Banned?
Pit Bulls and other bully breeds are banned or legislated in hundreds of cities across 37 states. Each of these has some form of BSL. The states listed below have almost total statewide bans on Pit Bulls.
Arkansas bans Pit Bulls and other common “vicious” breeds in 30 cities. These municipalities don’t allow you to own or transport the breeds, so it’s best to avoid them if you move to the state.
Across Colorado, Bully breeds face bans in dozens of cities. City laws prohibit the ownership, transport, or sale of Pit Bulls or other bully breeds.
Iowa has a total of 91 cities with some form of breed-specific legislation. 19 cities ban owning more than one, while the other 72 ban Pit Bull breeds entirely.
90 cities across Kansas have breed-specific legislation in place that restricts Pit Bull ownership. In 77 of those cities, total bans prohibit ownership of a long list of “vicious” breeds.
Multiple cities in Kentucky have strict bans in place for Pit Bulls. Although the ban was initially directed specifically at Pitties, more breeds were added to the list of “vicious” dogs in 2018.
Most cities across Michigan have some type of ban against Pit Bulls and other Bully breeds. Pit Bulls and approximately a dozen other breeds are labeled as “vicious” in many cities and require muzzling when their owners take them out.
Mississippi is on the lower end when it comes to cities with Pit Bull bans. In total, 46 municipalities in this southern state have bans or legislation regulating Pittie ownership.
In Missouri, more than 70 cities have some type of breed-specific legislation that applies to Pit Bulls and other vicious breeds. In certain cities, owning a Pittie is punishable by fines and jail time.
Ohio comes close to Iowa, with more than 80 cities banning Pit Bull breeds. Some towns require dogs deemed aggressive to wear muzzles or special green collars.
More than 60 Wisconsin municipalities have labeled Pit Bulls as “vicious” or banned them outright. In areas where Pitties are considered vicious, owners are required to muzzle them in public.
What States Prohibit Breed-Specific Laws?
The 13 states that don’t have any breed-specific legislation are:
- New Jersey
- New York
These states do not ban Pit Bulls and they also prohibit legislation at the municipal level banning any breeds.
What Other Breeds Are Banned?
Although Pit Bulls get the most attention when it comes to banned dogs, several other breeds face breed-specific legislation. If you own any of the following breeds, be sure to check with your city or state before moving there.
- Alaskan Malamutes
- American Bulldog
- Cane Corso
- Chow Chow
- Dogo Argentino
- German Shepherd
- Great Dane
Why Are Pit Bulls Banned?
Cities across the country chose to ban Pit Bulls and other bully breeds for several reasons. Although some reasons might be based on statistics, others are happenstance or pure myth.
Reason #1: They’re Fighting Dogs
An unfortunate truth about Pit Bulls is that they are the most common breed raised for fighting. Pit Bulls or any dogs raised to fight are often abused and starved and have no proper training. That abuse leads to aggressiveness.
While aggression would result from abuse in any breed, Pit Bulls often suffer the wrath of the public more than others.
Reason #2: Misconceptions About Temperament
Pit Bulls are statistically more likely to bite or attack a human, which is why so many cities have banned them. However, that likelihood isn’t due to the breed, necessarily. Instead, it’s usually a direct result of the lack of training I mentioned above.
You might be surprised to learn that Pit Bulls pass standard temperament tests by 87.5%.
Reason #3: Locking Jaw Myth
A rumor that’s been perpetuated for years is that Pit Bulls have locking jaws. However, the rumor is just that. In reality, Pit Bulls’ jaws are about as strong as your standard German Shepherd.
The only reason a dog would have true lockjaw would be a case of tetanus, which should be checked out by a vet.
How to Identify Pit Bulls?
One of the most frustrating things about breed-specific legislation and Pit Bulls is that a Pit Bull isn’t one breed. Instead, it’s a handful of breeds that share similar characteristics, including:
- Square-shaped heads
- Stocky stance
- Short coats
- Slightly bow-legged
Many Bully or “vicious” breeds often have cropped ears and tails, making them stand out from other breeds. However, traditionally, Pitties have short, floppy ears and long tails.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is the only Bully breed the Kennel Clubs recognize as an actual breed. It has a wide mouth, similar to its Bulldog ancestors; a square head; and a broad, stocky stance. The Staffy is also the smallest Bully breed, reaching a maximum weight of approximately 37 pounds.
American Pit Bull Terrier
The American Pit Bull Terrier is a slender Bully breed. Its snout is a bit longer than the other Bullies, giving its face a more narrow appearance. However, American Pit Bulls still maintain the same square-shaped head as the other Bullies.
Many breeders consider the APBT the only “true” Pit Bull.
American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier, or AmStaff, is a medium-sized Bully that grows to approximately 18 inches tall. The AmStaff is typically what people think of when they hear “Pit Bull.” AmStaffs have a stocky build, pronounced jaw muscles, and a more square face than the other breeds, giving them a tougher appearance.
The American Bully looks a lot like a standard Bulldog. It has a short snout, short legs, and a wide, muscular body. However, it doesn’t have the same underbite or wrinkly face a Bulldog has.
American Bullies are also taller than their Bulldog cousins. They’re a relatively new breed created as companion dogs.
The American Bulldog is an AKC-recognized pup that sometimes falls into the Bully breed category. However, American Bulldogs are best known as working dogs. They have “droopier” faces, wide mouths, and can weigh over 100 pounds.
They’re almost always white or white with patches of color.
What to Do if Your City Bans Pit Bulls?
With city laws and ordinances changing regularly, it’s not uncommon for Pit Bull owners to find themselves suddenly owning an illegal breed. So, what should you do if your city bans your pup?
Know Your Rights
The most important thing about breed-specific legislation is knowing your rights. Many cities that enact Pit Bull bans offer workarounds. These include registering your dog, having your dog’s temperament tested, placing a muzzle on the dog, or getting a waiver.
Rehome the Dog
If your city doesn’t provide an exception to the “no Pit Bull” rule, you can consider rehoming your Pittie to someone outside the city. Rehoming isn’t ideal, especially if your dog is part of your family. But sadly, it might be your best option if moving isn’t a possibility.
Finding someone on your own might help keep your pup from sitting at a shelter. However, you can also surrender your dog to a no-kill shelter for rehoming.
When your Pittie is part of your family, rehoming it might not be possible for you. If that’s the case and your city doesn’t allow exceptions to its Pit Bull ban, moving to a new town might be your only option. You’ll need to weigh your options carefully, but ultimately, a move might be the best choice for your dog.
Pit Bull Bans: Wrapping Up
Pit Bull and vicious dog bans are gradually changing. It used to be that 40 states had breed-specific legislation at some level, but that number is down to 37. Before moving to a new state, you should always check that the city you’re moving to will allow your pup to live safely.
Or, if you’re trying to decide whether a Pittie is the dog for you, make sure your town is Pit Bull-friendly before adopting.