FL SB 942 / HB 941 to End Outdated Breed Restrictions Passes Florida Legislature
Best Friends Animal Society is thrilled that the Florida House unanimously passed Senate Bill 942, filed by Senator Alexis Calatayud and substituted for Representative Demi Busatta-Cabrera’s identical House Bill 941. The bill, when signed by Governor DeSantis, will prevent local governments and public housing authorities from adopting ordinances or policies designating a dog as dangerous based solely on the dog’s breed, weight, or size. Florida is one of 22 states which prohibits local dangerous dog ordinances from being breed-based, with only Miami-Dade and Sunrise having grandfathered breed-specific ordinances.
“Of the more than 30,000 animals surrendered to Florida shelters in 2020, housing was the number one cited reason. Let’s not allow baseless barriers in government housing contribute to this crisis longer,” said Kelsey Gilmore-Futeral, legislative attorney for Best Friends Animal Society.
Breed-specific legislation (BSL) refers to laws that ban or regulate ownership of certain types of dogs based on their perceived breed. Regulating certain types of dogs shifts the focus away from reckless owners and dangerous dogs that don’t fit the profile, and instead causes hardships for responsible owners of well-behaved dogs. Arbitrary pet restrictions invariably impact people of lower economic means more acutely because they have less purchasing power to choose to live in more pet-inclusive places. A family’s economic status should not prohibit them from keeping their well-behaved dog, regardless of its breed.
Breed bans also make it difficult or impossible for taxpayer-funded animal shelters to place dogs into new homes. In a survey of Public Housing Authority pet policies across Florida, 60% of policies restricted pets based on their breed and included breeds like German Shepherds, Boxers, and Huskies. Of the policies reviewed, 100% restricted pets to under 40 pounds, making it nearly impossible to adopt a shelter pet in Florida and access affordable housing.
“Best Friends is at the ready to help Miami-Dade and Sunrise replace their current ordinances with comprehensive, breed-neutral ordinances that restrain and restrict dangerous dogs while protecting people’s constitutional property rights,” Gilmore-Futeral continued. “Breed-neutral reckless-owner laws are effective and supported by the American Bar Association, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the American Veterinary Association, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, and the National Animal Care and Control Association because they focus on the dog’s and the owner’s behavior. In America, responsible owners should be allowed to own whatever breed of dog they choose.”
Studies have shown that breed does not dictate behavior. Best Friends knows that all dogs are individuals, and recent research proves this. In April of 2022, a study published in Science by Kathleen Morrill, a dog geneticist at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, and her colleagues compared genetic and survey data of nearly 2,000 dogs, including mixed-breeds and purebreds, with 128 breeds represented. They found that “dog breed is generally a poor predictor of individual behavior”, and most behaviors did not have a strong genetic component. When it came to dog breeds, personality varied widely within the same pedigree.
Even if breed could predict behavior, there is nothing “specific” about breed-specific legislation. Numerous peer-reviewed studies, including two published in 2009 and 2013, compared adoption agencies’ visual breed identifications of mixed-breed dogs against DNA analysis and produced “compelling evidence” that visual breed identification is unreliable at best, and “reckless” at worst. Breed-specific regulations and policies serve only to separate pets from their loving families and overburden taxpayer-funded animal shelters.
“We are so grateful to Senator Calatayud and Representative Busatta Cabrera for their leadership on this issue and pleased it will soon be before Governor DeSantis. We look forward to his signing into law more protections for people with well-behaved, big dogs,” added Gilmore-Futeral.
Advocates can take action and show their support for responsible dog owners here.