October 22nd is National Pit Bull Awareness Day. I will be spending it in Auburn, WA, a town with Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Or rather, right outside of town at the facility hosting the flyball tournament. And yes, something strikes me as just wrong about that. Then again, BSL strikes me as just plain wrong anyway.
*Every breed pictured in this post could be restricted or banned under BSL, along with many other breeds and dogs not pictured.
In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Day, I figured a post would be in order about traveling with your dog to areas with BSL. No matter what breed you own, these guidelines should be followed, because in the end, the actual breed of your dog doesn't matter, it is the breed your dog is accused of being (and I have had a Coton de Tulear accused of being a Rottweiler, in seriousness). And, the United States is not the only country with BSL in place by any means.
Tip Number One
Know your route, and check any planed stops and destinations for BSL. Most of the time, these laws can be found on city or county websites under the Animal Control portion. In addition, there are some great websites out there listing all cities and counties with BSL (so far, no states have enacted state-wide bans). Some of these websites to check are StopBSL, Understand-a-bull, and DogsBite.Org.
Tip Number Two
It is important to not only know if BSL is in place, but the specific laws. Some places outright ban certain breeds (generally these breeds will include, but not be limited to: American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinches, German Shepherds, Akitas, Huskies, and mixes there-of, but often will include other breeds or size or weight restrictions). Genereally dogs accused of being a banned breed in these areas can be seized by the police or Animal Control outright, and owners have to fight to get their dog back.
Other places will have restrictions places on certain breeds, including limiting them to being walked by adults only (18+), walked only on a 4 or 6 foot leash, muzzled in public, or additional restrictions. Generally, breeds included in BSL in these areas are not at risk of being seized by authorities (unless the dog is running loose or exhibits aggression), but the owner could receive a ticket or citation for violating the breed specific laws.
Because of these two major differences in basic BSL, it is important to know the laws of the places you will be passing through or stopping in. Some areas are so bad that if you get pulled over with a banned breed (or what someone decides to call a banned breed) in the car, the dog can be seized (Denver is famous for strictly enforced BSL), where as other areas only care if you are a resident or your dog is actively threatening a person or animal's safety.
Tip Number Three
Be prepared to change your plans if you discover BSL along your route. As stated above, some areas are so bad that you could risk losing your dog (and some dogs seized are "accidentally" put down or "lost"). If you must travel to one of these areas, plan on boarding your dog with a friend, family member, or professional boarding kennel, or having a pet sitter watch your pets at home. Sure, it may not be legal for them to seize and destroy your dog, but once it happens, no number of lawsuits in the world will get your dog back for you.
Tip Number Four
When traveling with any dog, of any breed, it is important to always keep your dog on a leash and under control. No matter how good your dog's recall is, don't let them off leash at a freeway rest stop or in a public park. Even the best-trained dog can get spooked and run off. Additionally, many places (Auburn, WA included) will not bother you about your dog's breed unless the dog/owner is breaking a law already, such as leash laws. Consider your leash to be insurance. You may know your dog wouldn't run over and bite someone, or act aggressive, but if you dog is on leash 100% of the time on your trip, you can prove that your dog did not have the chance to do so if someone accuses you.
Tip Number Five
Avoid areas with BSL whenever possible. If you know you cannot drive around a certain town, be prepared to leave your dog at home under good care. However, there are times when you have to bring your dog along, and driving around is just not an option. In that case, call the police department and Animal Control in the county and city where you will be and talk to them. Ask if dogs can be seized from an owner and what they expect you to do with your banned breed while in the area.
I plan on avoiding Auburn as much as possible, but will have to drive into city limits along the outskirts of town to get to the tournament site. I called the city police (as it is a city specific ordinance). They reassured me that their laws only apply to residents owning those breeds and that as long as my dog is in my car or on leash she is not at risk of being seized. I then had them email that statement to me, to print out and carry in the car. Though I don't plan on being in town, something unforeseen might happen where I need to be there (like my car breaking down, etc). I also talked to fellow flyballers and some agility people as well who have breeds covered in the Auburn ban, and not one of them has every had an issue of any kind.