Rhode Island Introduces Statewide BSL Measure

Rhode Island Introduces Statewide BSL Measure


Two bills have been introduced in Rhode Island that would regulate all “pit bulls” (or dogs believed to be “pit bulls”) and impose numerous requirements on the owners.  The bill would also require every kennel, veterinary office, and commercial breeder, among others, to post a sign notifying people of the new law and providing contact information for someone to report a dog owner who is not in compliance.

AKC strongly encourages Rhode Island residents to contact the committees where these bills have been assigned and ask them to oppose these measures.


H 5287 and S 178 would regulate all “pit bulls” in the state.  “Pit bull” is defined as any dog that substantially conforms to the American Staffordshire Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Pit Bull Terrier standards.  Testimony by a veterinarian, zoologist, animal behaviorist, or animal control officer that states the dog has these physical characteristics creates the rebuttable presumption that the dog is in fact a “pit bull”.

The bills also contain “legislative findings” that in part state that these breeds were developed for the purpose of fighting and that breeders have “selected and maximized” certain traits, including an “unusually aggressive temperament towards human beings and animals” and “an extraordinary directness in their method of attack that does not include common warning signs such as barking or growling.”

Those who own dogs that meet the definition of “pit bull” must always keep the dog securely confined indoors, in a locked pen, or muzzled.  Exceptions are made for when dogs are participating in dog shows or hunting.

Among other requirements, all veterinary offices, kennels, commercial breeders, commercial animal establishments, pet shops, and dog groomers must post a sign highlighting the pit bull law and local animal control contact information to report anyone who is not abiding by these laws.  A kennel is defined in law as any establishment where dogs are kept that are not owned by the kennel owner.

The American Kennel Club strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be "dangerous" based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs. We support laws that: establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as "dangerous" based on stated, measureable actions; impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners; and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proven to be dangerous.

Talking Points:

Read AKC talking points on breed-specific legislation
Read AKC Issue Analysis "Why Breed-Specific Legislation Doesn't Work"
View a sample letter that you can personalize: Word | PDF | Text

What You Can Do:

AKC strongly opposes these bills and encourages Rhode Island residents to contact the members of the House Committee on Judiciary and Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture and ask them to not allow these bills to advance (click on the links to access contact information).

AKC Government Relations will continue to monitor these bills and provide more information as it becomes available.  For questions or more information, contact AKC Government Relations at (919) 816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.