BSL Hits Home – A Look at Prince George’s County, Maryland

We recently had to deny our first application due to Breed Specific Legislation. It was heartbreaking. While we can sincerely say that we understand the family’s frustration, we can’t even imagine their disappointment. There is so much confusion surrounding pit bull type dogs in Maryland, particularly following the Maryland Court of Appeals decision and revision.

An already incredibly unfair situation for Maryland families is compounded by existing BSL in places such as Prince George’s County that remain unaffected. While it is our policy not to adopt dogs to PG County residents, it is only because Pit Bulls are illegal there and it is against the law to bring them into the county.

Unfortunately, the amended decision in Maryland does not have any impact on the laws in PG County. Unlike Virginia, Maryland does not have any State level laws prohibiting local municipalities from passing BSL. Because of this, PG County has had it’s own breed ban in effect since February 1997. Below are links and the wording used to describe the dogs included in the ban:

PG County Animal Control Ordinance

PG County Pit Bull Licensing

“Pit Bulls born after February 3, 1997, are illegal and must be removed from the County. Pit Bulls include any and all of the following dogs:

  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed of dogs
  • American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dogs
  • American Pit Bull Terrier breed of dogs or dogs that exhibit the characteristics of a Pit Bull more than any other breed of dog”

The worst part about Breed Specific Legislation is that “pit bulls” aren’t really a breed at all. It has become a slang term that encompasses a number of breeds and mixes that share certain physical characteristics… basically any muscular dog with short hair and cropped, rose or semi-prick ears is now a “pit bull mix”.

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It is not fair that what keeps these dogs and families from being together is the completely subjective opinion of one person.  What’s even worse is asking someone to make that choice. This injustice is exactly what fuels us and our advocacy efforts. The Animal Services department is amazing and works tirelessly to get as many of these dogs into rescue as possible (not a small feat when they can’t be adopted to the public or shared online).  We get emails constantly from Maryland residents being forced to give up their dogs (especially renters) and it breaks our hearts. These are good people, good dogs, and good families that are at the mercy of misinformed or prejudiced lawmakers.

In fact, in 2003 PG County performed one of the most detailed studies to date on Breed Specific Legislation. They recommended repealing their own ban, citing it as expensive, ineffective, and impossible to enforce!

The full taskforce report can be seen here.

We need to overturn unjust laws like this and spread the word to everyone why they are wrong. Lawmakers think that the only people that own pit bulls are criminals – we need to show them that this isn’t true and that responsible ownership is the answer – not breed discriminatory legislation.

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