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Copyright (c) 2010 Curators of the University of Missouri
UMKC Law Review

Note: Irrationality Unleashed: The Pitfalls of Breed-Specific Legislation

Spring, 2010

UMKC Law Review

78 UMKC L. Rev. 839


Kristen E. Swann*



A young woman struggles with an overfull trash bag in a chilly, hissing rain. Hefting the bag into the trash bin behind her apartment building, she hears weak but insistent mewling. Seven impossibly tiny puppies huddle in the wet detritus behind the container. The woman whistles several times to summon the pups' mother. No dog appears. The listless dogs cannot survive in the damp cold. She retrieves a basket lined with towels from her apartment and carefully scoops the helpless pups into it. Within an hour she delivers them to an emergency veterinary clinic. There, a vet examines the orphans, finding them hypothermic and dehydrated, but otherwise stable.

Without knowing the orphans' parentage, the vet cannot pinpoint their breed. The week-old puppies exhibit few telling breed characteristics, so the vet records them as "mixed breed" in their charts. The veterinary staff describes the pups as mixes when they solicit shelters to foster the strays. By the next afternoon, two shelters agree to take in the black-and-white puppies (four boys, three girls) once their eyes and ears open.

This unremarkable dogs' tale replays countless times each week in cities across the United States. For these puppies, however, it is a pivotal moment. The strays were abandoned in Pittsboro, a mid-sized city which, like many others, 1 restricts the ownership of "pit bulls" 2 -a phenomenon known as breed- specific legislation ("BSL"). 3 Had she thought the pups resembled pit bulls, the ...
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