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June 04, 2017

Delaware adopts 'breed bias' law to prevent dog discrimination

Dog lovers and animal welfare activists scored a victory in Delaware this past Friday when Gov. John Carney signed a bill protecting the rights of pet owners to safely keep any breed or mix, following suit with 21 states that have adopted similar "breed bias" legislation meant to prevent discrimination.

The law, crafted by Democratic Rep. Charles Potter, stipulates that state regulations to protect the public from dangerous dogs cannot define criminal liability based solely on breed specific criteria. By extension, the work of animal control teams and shelters cannot discriminate against certain breeds for purposes of facilitating adoption.

"Findings to deem a dog dangerous will be based on actions of the dog, or an individualized demonstration of vicious behavior," the bill clarifies.

Municipalities will also be barred from enacting any breed-specific ordinances or regulations.

The Delaware Humane Association hailed the law as a "huge win for Delaware dogs," particularly the much-maligned pit bull terrier mix, which has often been singled out as an aggressive breed.

Breed-specific legislation is widely criticized by animal welfare organizations such as the ASPCA, which say there is no evidence proving such laws increase community safety. As an alternative, the ASPCA advocates for stricter enforcement of dog license laws and higher standards to be met by pet owners.