Canine Outcomes and Length of Stay in a Midwestern Shelter Affected by Breed Specific Legislation


  • SK Walker Independence Animal Services, Independence, Missouri, United States
  • L Powell University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States



Breed specific legislation (BSL) is intended to restrict or reduce the ownership of selected breeds of dogs within a municipality. These laws frequently aim at “bully breeds” such as the American Pit Bull Terrier and other pure or mixed breeds with similar phenotypic characteristics which are heavily represented in shelters nationwide. This study describes differences in outcomes and length of stay (LOS) for banned dogs versus dogs of other breeds in a managed admission municipal shelter subject to BSL. It was hypothesized that dogs subject to legislation would have fewer live outcomes and a longer LOS when compared to non-legislated dogs.

Retrospective outcome data from 1/1/2022 through 12/31/2022 was analyzed. The study population included 764 adult dogs of which 118 were affected by legislation. The legislated and non-legislated groups were found to be demographically equivalent considering age group, sex, previous alteration status, and intake frequency, but legislated dogs had a significantly heavier body weight compared to non-legislated dogs. Initial Pearson Chi-Square testing revealed a statistically significant increase in euthanasia for legislated dogs and adoptions for non-legislated dogs. After controlling for body weight, there was a statistically significant increase in adoption for the non-legislated group, and increased return to owner (RTO) for legislated dogs, however there wasn’t a statistically significant difference in total live outcomes. Mann-Whitney U Testing demonstrated a statistically significant increase in LOS for legislated dogs compared to non-legislated dogs in the full study population, but after controlling for weight their LOS was no longer significantly different. In the body weight controlled group however, LOS was still significantly longer for legislated dogs versus non-legislated dogs with adoption and RTO outcomes. Euthanasia reasons were evaluated for 80 dogs whose first outcome was euthanasia. Pearson Chi Square testing showed legislated dogs in this group were no more likely to be euthanized for aggression than the non-legislated dogs.

In this population, dogs subject to BSL were less likely to be adopted but more likely to RTO. It is suspected shelter staff prevented euthanasia of some legislated dogs through heightened efforts to facilitate RTO even though there was not a formal protocol in place to do so. After controlling for body weight, LOS was equivalent between legislated and non-legislated groups, although the legislated dogs did experience increased LOS before live outcomes. Importantly, legislated dogs were not significantly more likely to be euthanized due to aggressive behavior than non-legislated dogs in this population. These findings indicate that dogs targeted by BSL should be considered an at-risk group within the shelter population and shelters should endeavor to develop specific strategies to reduce LOS and provide best outcomes for these dogs. In many jurisdictions, overturning BSL could be a powerful approach to protecting this at-risk population.


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How to Cite

Walker, S., & Powell, L. (2024). Canine Outcomes and Length of Stay in a Midwestern Shelter Affected by Breed Specific Legislation. Journal of Shelter Medicine and Community Animal Health, 3(S1).



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