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





Add a Comment

By Dana Cook on January 25, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Has anyone ever arrived by sailboat to the Bahamas with a Pit Bull? We recently sold our home, bought a boat and were planning to circumnavigate. That was until I started looking into where to travel first. Everywhere seemed to ban Pit Bulls, When I initially investigated which countries to visit, I wasn't able to find any breed restrictions listed for the Bahamas. So we decided to go there and travel around the islands for 3 - 4 mos. However, when I went to get a Int'l Health Cert through a vet in Florida, which is where we are leaving from, he said Pit Bulls were prohibited in the Bahamas. I don't want to "alert" the Bahamian Government with my questions if they can be answered here. Any help is greatly appreciated!

By on January 25, 2018 at 4:48 pm

Hi Dana,

Your veterinarian is correct that Pit Bulls are a banned breed in the Bahamas, in addition to the Cane Corso, Presa Canario, American Bully, and Staffordshire Terrier. It is technically not legal to import your dog there, so we do not advise doing so. Sorry to be the bearer of this news!

By Carrol Conrad on February 11, 2018 at 8:03 am

Hi there we are from South Africa and thinking of immigrating to New Zealand. We are planning a holiday to go and have a look . We have a gorgeous pitty which is only 9 months old. Are there any exceptions to their restricted pet rule?. He is part of the family. Thx in advance. Carrol

By on February 12, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Hi Carrol! Unfortunately, it is difficult to get around breed restrictions. The language in the New Zealand guide to importing dogs and cats states that the dog must not belong “wholly or predominantly to 1 or more of the breeds or type of dog listed”, which means if you can provide evidence of a breed mix you may be able to bring him with you. Hope this information helps!

By su on February 27, 2018 at 8:59 am

We live overseas and have a rescue (raised by non pitbull mother so pitbull by fathers' blood only). We are looking to move back to Jacksonville Florida within the next 6 months. She is not "snub nosed" so no health restrictions for the airlines. Question is, what are the restrictions importing in this case? I called the 301 8513300 as suggested and they put me on to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) despite asking about breed not disease. The CDC didn't see an issue but I feel they're not the right department. Can you help please.

By on February 27, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Hi Su! The only place in Florida (to our knowledge) where you would be affected by breed-specific legislation is Miami-Dade county. So all you would need to do is fulfill the import requirements for importing a dog to the United States. They’re pretty straightforward and can be found here. Hope this helps and happy travels to you and your pet!

By Louise on March 11, 2018 at 10:49 pm

Good day.We are planning to immigrate to Australia and have a pitbull. She is sterilized and i have other two mix dog breeds. I see that they are banned in Australia is this correct. I realy dont want to Immigrate without one of my dogs

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