Breed-specific prohibited or restricted ordinances

March 2021

This is a summary of statutory and case law provisions addressing the adoption of breed specific local ordinances and state laws.

For a number of years Ohio had been the only state in the country with breed-specific legislation enacted at the state level. However, in February 2012, the portion of Ohio statute that defined pit bulls as "vicious dogs" was repealed. Several states statutorily prohibit breed specific local ordinances (see below). A review of state case law indicates that a few jurisdictions allow municipalities to adopt breed-specific ordinances. Courts in other states with no specific legislation may also uphold measures that restrict breeds of dogs.

Arizona Allows the County Board of Supervisors to contract with any city or town to enforce the provisions of any ordinance enacted by such city or town for the control of dogs if the provisions are not specific to any breed.
California Allows breed specific ordinances pertaining to only mandatory spay/neuter programs and breeding requirements. Provides that no specific dog breed or mix shall be declared potentially dangerous or vicious in city or county ordinances.
Colorado Municipality may adopt any rule or law for the control of dangerous dogs though it may not regulate dangerous dogs in a manner that is specific to breed. However, pursuant to a state Supreme Court decision, municipalities with home rule can adopt breed-specific measures.
Connecticut Provides that no municipality may adopt breed-specific dog ordinances.
Delaware Holds that no dog shall be considered dangerous or potentially dangerous solely because of the dog's breed or perceived breed. Additionally, prohibits municipal governments from enacting laws, ordinances, or regulations relating to dogs, or restrictions on dogs, based on a dog's breed or perceived breed.
Florida Grandfathers any ordinance adopted prior to October 1, 1990 and prohibits local governments from adopting regulations pertaining to dangerous dogs or the implementation of measures that are specific to breed.
Illinois Local government is prohibited from adopting animal control ordinances or regulations that are specific to breed. Additionally, no dog shall be deemed "vicious" if it is a professionally trained dog for law enforcement or guard duties. Vicious dogs shall not be classified in a manner that is specific as to breed.
Maine Prohibits municipalities from adopting ordinances, laws or regulations that are breed-specific. Any less restrictive municipal ordinances, laws or regulations are invalid and of no force and effect.
Maryland In an action against a person other than an owner of a dog for damages for personal injury or death caused by the dog, the common law of liability relating to attacks by dogs against humans that existed on April 1, 2012, is retained as to the person without regard to the breed or heritage of the dog.
Massachusetts No dog shall be deemed dangerous based on the breed of the dog. Also, no city or town shall regulate dogs in a manner specific to breed.
Minnesota Cities and counties are prohibited from adopting ordinances regulating dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs based solely on the breed of the dog.
Nevada A dog may not be found dangerous or vicious based solely on the breed of the dog.
New Jersey Prohibits breed specific ordinances.
New York Dangerous dog control programs may not be specific to breed.
Ohio State law requires owners of "dangerous" or "vicious" dogs to follow additional guidelines.
Oklahoma Local government is prohibited from adopting ordinances or regulations addressing potentially dangerous or dangerous dogs that are specific to breed.
Pennsylvania Local ordinances dealing with dogs may not prohibit or limit a specific breed of dog.
Rhode Island Prevents cities and town from enacting any regulation or ordinance specific to any particular breed of dog, cat or other animal.
South Carolina An animal is not a "dangerous animal" solely by virtue of its breed or species.
South Dakota Prohibits a local government from enacting, maintaining, or enforcing any ordinance, policy, resolution, or other enactment that is specific as to the breed or perceived breed of a dog.
Texas Prohibits counties and municipalities from placing additional restrictions or requirements on dangerous dogs if they are specific to breed.
Utah A municipality may not adopt or enforce a breed-specific rule, regulation, policy, or ordinance regarding dogs. Any breed-specific rule, regulation, policy, or ordinance regarding dogs is void.
Virginia No canine or canine crossbreed shall be found to be a dangerous or vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed, nor is the ownership of a particular breed of canine or canine crossbreed prohibited.
Washington The state may not meet its burden of proof that the owner should have known the dog was potentially dangerous solely by showing the dog to be a particular breed or breeds.

Breed specific allowed

Court cases – Specific to jurisdiction

Arkansas – Supreme Court of Arkansas found a city ordinance prohibiting the keeping of particular breeds of dogs, including the American Pit Bull Terrier, within the city of Maumelle, was sufficiently definite to withstand challenge as to vagueness. (Holt v. City of Maumelle, 1991)

Iowa – Supreme Court of Iowa upheld a municipal ordinance classifying pit bulls and other breeds as "vicious dogs" and requiring specific licensing and keeping standards for such breeds. (American Dog Owners Association v. City of Des Moines, 1991)

Kansas – Supreme Court of Kansas found a local Pit Bull ordinance 1.) classifying that breed and others as dangerous and 2.) requiring special registration and keeping requirements for such breeds was a legitimate exercise of municipal police power. (Hearn v. City of Overland Park, 1989)

Kentucky – Appellate court upheld a county ordinance banning possession of pit bull terrier as a legitimate exercise of the county fiscal court's police power. The court held that the local ordinance did not deny dog owners procedural due process and did not infringe on constitutional right to travel. (Bess v. Bracken County Fiscal Court, 2006)

Maryland – Appellate court applied strict liability against an owner who owns a pit bull or a pit bull cross who attacks a human. When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous. (Tracey v. Solesky, Maryland Court of Appeals, Sept. 2012) In April 2014, HB 73 was passed stating that in an action against a person other than an owner of a dog for damages for personal injury or death caused by the dog, the common law of liability relating to attacks by dogs against humans that existed on April 1, 2012, is retained as to the person without regard to the breed or heritage of the dog.

Missouri – Missouri Court of Appeals, held as constitutional an ordinance prohibiting the possession of pit bulls, even where such ordinance did not define the term "pit bull." (City of Pagedale v. Murphy, 2004)

New Mexico – New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld a local ordinance banning ownership or possession of American Pit Bull Terriers. (Garcia v. Village of Tijeras, 1988)

Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court found a city ordinance limiting the number of Pit Bulls per household constitutional. (Pit bulls are considered "vicious dogs" with special statutory restrictions such as requiring liability insurance. (Toledo vs. Tellings, 2007)

Washington – local court upheld a municipal Pit Bull/Pit Bull mix ban, finding that it was not unconstitutionally vague. (American Dog Owners Ass'n v. City of Yakima, 1989)

Wisconsin – Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld an ordinance restricting the ownership of "pit bull" dogs as constitutionally sound. The Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to review that Court's decision. (Dog Federation v. City of South Milwaukee, 1993)

Additional resources

Why breed-specific legislation is not the answer

AVMA policy: Dangerous animal legislation

Dog bite prevention

Source: Staff research, AVMA Division of State Advocacy
Contact: State Policy Analyst, AVMA Division of State Advocacy