Navigating Breed Specific Legislation when Traveling with Pit Bulls

Pit Bulls and Breed Specific LegislationWhat is Breed Specific Legislation and How Does it Affect Pet Travel?

If you pay much attention to news about dogs or pet travel, you may have heard the phrase "Breed Specific Legislation," rules and regulations that 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, we love all breeds (our CEO even has a Staffordshire Bull Terrier), 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. 

For now, here are some tips on how to plan ahead if you're going to be traveling with a breed that is frequently discriminated against:

Research the Rules

Many countries have outright bans on the import of Pit Bulls, American Staffordshire Terriers, Cane Corsos and other types of dogs they view as "aggressive," so it's important to do your research before traveling or undertaking a pet move.

For example, Denmark and parts of Canada currently do not allow Pit Bull type breeds. To research whether your destination is affected by breed specific legislation, start with this comprehensive breed specific legislation Wikipedia page and/or check 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 should state it on their pet import requirements page.

Seek out Possible Exemptions

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.

Double Check the Airline Rules

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.

Think Ahead and Find Housing

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. 

The Future of Breed Specific Legislation

While breed specific legislation can be frustrating and unfair, the unfortunate fact is that many people wanting to move or travel with their dogs will have to comply with 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 an 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!


(Photo credit: Jason Bacon/Flickr.)


PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Airlines, Ask the Experts





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By Stephen Lavergne on March 14, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Do you have a current list of countries that allow pit bulls?

By Hannah on July 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm

They ARE allowed in basically everywhere in Africa and Asia. Although I would avoid parts of Asia, one they eat dogs, and two most dogs there do not have the basic needs and medicine that our dogs do. So in some places disease does run rampant. Europe is very strict on any dog that resembles a pitbull, I would honestly avoid big cities if you have to bring them to Europe. America is very chill when it comes to traveling with your pitbull, but living in certian municipals and communities do not allow people to own pitbulls in those areas. You can find those cities BSL laws at beware though the site is not very nice to see if you love your pitties. However it does give an insight on what states in America have BSL laws. Canada stay away!! South America countries are very lenient. Australia states and territories who does not care what breed specifically your dog is but they will quarantine any animal usually coming to Australia because they have never had rabies detected and they want to keep it that way. Also make sure you do your research on airlines!! Some do not allow pitties

By Ron Lovo on March 27, 2017 at 7:37 am

Hi. Great site. I am planning on Driving from states to Brazil. I need to bring my dog, blue nose pit. He is a 75 lb lap dog. Seems every country needs VET PAPERS. NOT A PROBLEM. My concern is. Will he be pulled out of the vehicle and paraded around at customs? He has many anxieties he is a rescue. And just the best. Any and all advice would be sweet. Maybe I will get him a lab costume? Thanks Ron.

By Miss Cellany on June 8, 2017 at 11:34 am

If he's aggressive best not to take him as if he bites anyone in another country he'll have to be quarantined for at least 10 days and there may be a court case and he may be kept in animal control until after the result of the case.I've crossed borders in Europe with my dogs multiple times and they've never taken the dog out of the car (nor given more than a cursory look at their passports) - but my dogs were / are all herding breeds (obviously not any kind of banned breed) so I don't know if the law works differently for potentially dangerous breeds or in other non-EU countries.

By Brian on June 13, 2017 at 10:44 pm

Hello,My wife and I live in Puerto Rico and got ourselves a blue pit while we were here. We initially heard about certain bans of pitbulls in Puerto Rico and weren't sure if it was even legal to have her, but after talking with a few pet agencies they told us they believe the ban that previously existed was lifted to only restrict importation of pitbulls to Puerto Rico. We were just wondering if you might be able to elaborate on what the rules might be for Puerto Rico, as the information regarding the exact law is impossible to find online. We haven't had any issues with our dog so far, and registered her with the vet as a lab mix to avoid future issues. However, my wife would like to travel back to the states with our pup and I'm worried that once she leaves the island she might not be able to come back in due to whatever the ban may be.Any information would be greatly appreciated.Regards, Brian

By on June 14, 2017 at 9:10 am

Hi Brian, thanks for reaching out.

Unfortunately, to our knowledge Pit Bulls are officially prohibited in Puerto Rico -- you can read more about it here. That being said, sometimes the reality of a ban is different than what it sounds like on paper (you said you've had no trouble going to the vet, etc.), and registering her as a Lab mix will likely make life easier.

As for whether or not you can travel back into the country, however, we don't have any way of offering certain guidance, as it will all depend on Puerto Rico's officials and the customs process as you arrive (and probably how strong your dog's Pit Bull features are). We advise referring to a more official source to be sure.

Hope this helps at least a little bit! Good luck with everything and let us know if you'd like to talk further.


By edith sauve on July 3, 2017 at 8:21 am

I flew from Ft Lauderdale to San Juan with my rescue pitbull. All I had was her health certificate on which I asked the vet to list her down as lab mix. Then I called a psychologist and got a letter of recommendation to have an ''emotional support animal''. Got her a nice red back pack to wear at the airport so she looks more like she's ''working'' although she not a ''service dog'' there's a difference, most people at custom don't seem to understand the difference and I think the attire helped. Emotional support animals fly in the cabin and with jetblue it's least it used too, it was in 2012. TSA in Lauderdale didn't really seem to know how to proceed with her, they had me take her OFF LEASH through the metal detector but with all of the commotion and noises she was stressed out and took off walking in the airport...That wasn't good but it apparently isn't the procedure, They usually just pat down the dog to make sure they are no sutures and that you aren't smuggling using a dog. One we arrived in PR, it was a breeze! Airport staff only looked at my dog to tell me how pretty she was and I left the airport. There might be a pitbull ban here but it isn't enforced. They are very popular here. I've been here 4 years and never had a problem!

By Brian Acuna on August 15, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Edith,This is great news. Would you mind if I could get in touch with you somehow to ask a couple tips/questions? We live here in Northwest PR and if you have a recommendation of psychologist for the same process we'd really appreciate it.

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