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Navigating Breed-Specific Legislation when Traveling with Pit Bulls

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 by Pet Travel Questions

If you pay much attention to news about dogs or pet travel, you may have heard the phrase "Breed-Specific Legislation," rules and regulations thatBruno place restrictions on pit bulls and other types of dogs from being imported into or living in a certain area of a country or city.

These laws are controversial to say the least, and they arose primarily due to oftentimes inaccurate beliefs about community safety as well as (some would say unbalanced) patterns of media coverage. Pit bulls carry the stigma of being tough and aggressive, but many pet owners have pit bulls and other so-called "aggressive" breeds who are as sweet and loving as any other dog.  

Here at PetRelocation.com, we love all breeds (our CEO even has a Staffordshire bull terrier - that's big Bruno giving one of our customers we relocated to Japan a ride!), but we often encounter hurdles when it comes to shipping certain kinds of dogs. Since we always try our best to stay on top of the latest rules and restrictions, feel free to contact us if you ever have any questions about a specific city or country's regulations when it comes to importing these breeds.  Here are some tips on how to plan ahead if you're going to be traveling with a breed that is frequently discriminated against:
  1. Many countries have outright bans on the import of Pit Bulls, American Staffordshire Terriers, Cane Corsos and other types of dogs they view as "agressive", so it's important to do your research before traveling or undertaking a pet move. For example, places like Montreal and Colombia do not allow pit bull-type breeds.   To research whether your destination has BSL, start with the country of import's agriculture and veterinary ministry page.  You can usually find this by searching for the name of the country and the word "agriculture" until you find the governing website for the country's ministry of agriculture (sometimes called a department of agriculture).  This is typically the department that oversees the import and export of live animals, including pets.  If the country has breed-specific legislation, they will state it on their pet import requirements page. Understand-a-Bull also has a great list they've put together of countries that have BSL.
     
  2. Look for ways to find exemptions to breed-specific legislation.  For example, Switzerland has a ban on dogs with cropped ears or tails, however will allow them to be imported if their owners can provide a signed letter stating they are moving there for work purposes.  Also, pit bulls are not actually a breed, but rather a type of dog often identified by a broad set of physical characteristics - which can lead to inconsistencies in treatment and rule enforcement.  Many countries that ban pit bulls will accept the dog if a DNA test is done in advance to show that the dog does not have a high percentage of pit bull terrier.
     
  3. In addition to country restrictions there are airline rules to consider, as well. These change fairly frequently and often depend on the time of year (due to temperature restrictions) so it's best to double check with your airline before you book your own flight or your pet's.
     
  4. Consider your pet's quality of life after the move.  Many times owners of pit bulls and other frequently banned breeds can also have trouble finding housing that will accept these types of dogs.  Also, several countries require breeds they view as being aggressive to wear muzzles when in public spaces. 
While BSL can be frustrating and unfair, the unfortunate fact is that many people wanting to move or travel with their dogs will have to comply by these rules and regulations.  In the meantime, educating others on alternatives is the best way to create progress in helping all our four-legged friends live equally.  The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes BSL, as do several other official institutions like Best Friends Animal Society.  Here's what the AVMA had to say in a recent op-ed:

"A dog of any breed can become dangerous when bred or trained to be aggressive," Dr. Jeffrey Sacks, epidemiologist for the CDC, said. "Fatal attacks represent only a very small proportion of dog bite injuries and shouldn't be the primary factor driving public policy regarding dangerous dogs." The AVMA's dog bite prevention campaign continues to inform the public about techniques for avoiding dog bites, and to promote responsible pet ownership. Breeds don't need to be banned, but dog owners' irresponsible behavior should be.
 
Do you disagree with breed specific legislation? Many organizations are working on fighting these laws. Read a state by state run-down of BSL and learn about what you can do to help overturn legislation in your area.

If you have a pit, a staffie or another breed that tends to be discriminated against and are planning an international pet move in the future, let us know if you need any assistance -- we're always happy to help in whatever way we can in order to keep these great dogs out of shelters and in their loving homes where they belong!

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