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 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 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 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 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!

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 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 Alex on April 23, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Please note that the correct email to send information regarding pit bulls is This is the address given to me by the Animal Health Officer Supervisor at the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre from the older post address. Apparently they are unable to provide advice on pit bull types - this is referred to the Metropolitan Police Status Dog Unit.

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 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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