What are the Different Types of Illegal Dogs?

B. Koch

Illegal dogs include any breed of dog that is thought to be especially vicious and dangerous to the general public, regarding which a law has been passed restricting them in some way. There are no national laws that name certain dogs as illegal. There are a number of state, county, and city laws that restrict or ban the ownership of certain breeds of dogs. Frequently banned breeds include the pit bull terrier and the wolfdog.

Boston terriers are illegal in some areas.
Boston terriers are illegal in some areas.

Dog breeds are declared illegal through breed-specific legislation. Breed-specific legislation means that there is a law restricting a specific breed in some way. Such laws are usually enacted when it is believed a certain breed of dog is especially dangerous and poses a public welfare risk. This may involve anything from a specific dog breed needing to wear a muzzle in public or requiring certain breeds to be spayed or neutered. It may go as far as to forbid ownership of certain breeds.

Mastiffs are illegal in some areas.
Mastiffs are illegal in some areas.

Pit bull terriers are frequently declared illegal dogs. They have historically been bred for fighting and today are often used in illegal dog fighting. Pit bulls are also frequently involved in dog attacks. This breed is banned in the city of Denver, Colorado, and Ohio requires all pit bull owners to have $100,000 US Dollars in insurance and to always keep their dogs properly restrained.

A Labrador Retriever, which is illegal in some areas.
A Labrador Retriever, which is illegal in some areas.

Wolfdogs are another type of often-restricted dog. Wolfdogs are the product of any domestic dog bred with a wolf. Many are concerned that these dogs are still wild and do not have enough domesticated traits to be safe around humans. They are often considered wild animal hybrids and in some areas are subject to any legislation that addresses wild animals.

Although pit-bull terriers and wolfdogs are both illegal dogs in some areas, these are not the only restricted breeds. There are over 70 different breeds of dog that are subject to breed-specific legislation in the United States. Many of these breeds have been used as fighting dogs, but others are not. Some of these illegal dogs include the spitz, the labrador retriever, rottweilers and the Boston terrier.

There is significant controversy over breed-specific legislation. Many believe that since certain dog breeds were bred for fighting that they are naturally more aggressive and prone to attacking humans. Others believe that a dog’s aggression is a learned behavior from irresponsible or abusive owners rather than an inherent trait of certain breeds. These advocates also point out that breed-specific legislation encourages negative stereotypes surrounding certain breeds that encourages their neglect and abuse.

A dog bred with a wolf may be illegal or restricted in many areas.
A dog bred with a wolf may be illegal or restricted in many areas.

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Discussion Comments


Here is an odd question, is it illegal to eat dog meat in America? It is not that I particularly want to, I am just curious because we have such a strange attitude to dogs in this country.

I love dogs too but they are just animals. It amazes me that people can get so up in arms about Michale Vick's dog fighting ring and then go out and eat pork for breakfast, chicken for lunch and beef for dinner. Those livestock probably lived lives ten times worse than Michael Vick's dogs and yet they are completely off of our radar. Why do we treat some animals like children and others like bags of meat?

It is really a shame that we have the concept of illegal dogs because in every case it is the owners' fault and not the dogs'. Bad owners create bad dogs. Most dogs are not naturally aggressive or mean, but these traits can definitely be encourage by abusive and neglectful owners who do not care about the well being of the dog.

Some jurisdictions will have regulations on the type of dog you can own in a certain area. They might have restrictions on pit bulls or mastiffs, large dogs that have a known history of aggression.

I cannot blame them. There are certain breeds that I cannot believe that people allow into their homes to keep as family pets. It's like, I don't care if you found the friendliest crocodile in the world, would you take it in to live with your family? Me neither. So why would you want to have a pit bull, a 100 pounds of pure muscle on a tightly coiled spring?

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