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 Josh on June 27, 2017 at 2:59 pm

So we will be moving from Alaska to Nevada. I see there are some places in BC that ban Pit Bull type dogs. Our trip will cross the Yukon territory then head down BC to Washington state. I get get any definitive rules on just traveling through. Any help or direction to look would be greatly appreciated.

By on June 27, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Hi Josh, thanks for your question.

Since laws vary from one part of Canada to another and there doesn't appear to be an outright ban in British Colombia, we simply advise that you keep all relevant paperwork handy as you drive (proof your dog has an up-to-date rabies vaccine, etc.) and that you keep your dog properly restrained at all times.

If you want to be absolutely sure you won't run into any trouble, we recommend reading over the Canada government website carefully and/or contacting them directly with your question.

Hope this helps! Good luck and have a safe trip.


By Austin on December 14, 2017 at 12:30 pm

IN the UK, American Pit Bulls and their mixes are banned, but Staffordshire Bull Terriers and their mixes are accepted. I have a mixed dog that is clearly one of the two mixed with possibly an Australian shepherd. He matches the AKC criteria for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier much more closely than American Pit, but lacks any documentation of that.Given that the two breeds (APB and SBT) in question are extremely similar, how can I tell (before shipping the dog from America) whether or not he will be accepted?

By on December 14, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Hi Austin,

Thanks for your question! You will need to send a photo of your dog standing in a natural position from the front, side, and top, and send it to This is the email for DEFRA (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), and they will let you know whether your dog is banned. It’s mainly based on looks, so this is an important step to take before you start planning your dog’s move.

Hope this helps!

By Meg on December 22, 2017 at 8:57 pm

My spouse is in the USAF, and we're up for our second move next year. This will be our first move since getting my pitty service dog. Are there exceptions made for service dogs versus pets?

By on December 26, 2017 at 9:42 am

Hello Meg,

Unfortunately when it comes to breed bans, there are not any known exceptions for service dogs. As mentioned above, the bans are largely based on appearance and not the behavior of the dog in question. However, not every country in the EU is against Pit Bull breeds - Italy and the Netherlands, for example, do not have any bans against these breeds. We would encourage you to look into these types of countries first, if at all possible.

We wish we had better news for you, Meg. Best of luck to you!

By Johan on December 26, 2017 at 4:46 am

HiMy wife and I are planning to relocate to Texas from Dubai. We have four rescues. We are specifically worried about our pit bull and American bully. We are planning to buy a ranch and live outside Austin. Is there any breed bans we should be aware of? Any advice would be great.ThanksJohan

By on December 26, 2017 at 10:47 am

Hello Johan,

The United States does not currently have any import bans on Pit Bulls or American Bully breeds. You will just need to follow the import requirements laid out here.

However, you may run into some airlines that require a special crate (called a CR-82) for your dogs to travel. We recommend reaching out to several airlines to determine the best and most efficient way to move your dogs.

Good luck with everything and let us know if you need help!

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