Animal Law Review


Will Lowrey

First Page



Across the United States, thousands of pit bull type-dogs are legally discriminated against by laws that punish them based solely on their appearance. For over three decades, dozens of towns and cities across the country have overwhelmingly blamed dog bites and public safety concerns on one particular type of dog. These laws take various forms, from complete bans to public muzzling to fencing requirements, but all invariably subject pit bulltype dogs to conditions and requirements not imposed on most other breeds. Through dozens of legal challenges, advocates for pit bull-type dogs have attempted to use the Constitution to attack the validity of these laws. Virtually all of these challenges have failed and many of the accompanying court opinions read as a sensationalized editorial against these animals. The Constitution is no friend to pit bulls. Despite these setbacks, advocates have sought other avenues to mitigate dog bites and reduce the stigma around pit bulls, including education, outreach, and proactive legislation. First, the Note explores the historical, legal precedents that paved the way for breedspecific legislation – a pair of Supreme Court cases establishing dogs as property, subject to the police powers of the state. Next, the Note explores the origins and types of breed-specific legislation most prevalent in the United States. Then the Note examines a wide array of mostly unsuccessful constitutional challenges brought to overturn this legislation, including examination of over twenty cases from all across the county. Finally, the Note explores true correlation between dog bites and breed specific legislation and highlights future avenues for advocates seeking to stem the tide of breed discrimination.

Included in

Animal Law Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.