78 UMKC L. Rev. 839 (2009-2010)
Irrationality Unleashed: The Pitfalls of Breed-Specific Legislation

handle is hein.journals/umkc78 and id is 845 raw text is: IRRATIONALITY UNLEASHED: THE PITFALLS OF
Kristen E. Swann*
A young woman struggles with an overfull trash bag in a chilly, hissing
rain. Hefting the bag into the trash bin behind her apartment building, she hears
weak but insistent mewling. Seven impossibly tiny puppies huddle in the wet
detritus behind the container. The woman whistles several times to summon the
pups' mother. No dog appears. The listless dogs cannot survive in the damp
cold. She retrieves a basket lined with towels from her apartment and carefully
scoops the helpless pups into it. Within an hour she delivers them to an
emergency veterinary clinic. There, a vet examines the orphans, finding them
hypothermic and dehydrated, but otherwise stable.
Without knowing the orphans' parentage, the vet cannot pinpoint their
breed. The week-old puppies exhibit few telling breed characteristics, so the vet
records them as mixed breed in their charts. The veterinary staff describes the
pups as mixes when they solicit shelters to foster the strays. By the next
afternoon, two shelters agree to take in the black-and-white puppies (four boys,
three girls) once their eyes and ears open.
This unremarkable dogs' tale replays countless times each week in cities
across the United States. For these puppies, however, it is a pivotal moment.
The strays were abandoned in Pittsboro, a mid-sized city which, like many
others,' restricts the ownership of pit bulls2-a phenomenon known as breed-
specific legislation (BSL).3 Had she thought the pups resembled pit bulls, the
vet's breed determination might alter the courses of their lives. They may have
remained homeless and eventually been euthanized. Identified as mutts, the
dogs' options are not yet limited, but neither are they out of jeopardy. As they
grow into their adult sizes, attributes, and personalities, their lives will change.
How they are perceived will change. Their breed identity will change.
As it follows two of these hypothetical puppies in becoming companion
animals (and perhaps outlaws), this Note will illustrate the hazards and
shortcomings of breed-specific legislation.    Part II will delve into the
misconception that the pit bull is a breed, explore the breed as a construct, and
* J.D. candidate, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, May 2011; M.A. English,
University of North Carolina, 1998; B.A. English, Carleton College, 1995. The author is grateful
to Prof. Allen Rostron for his insight and guidance. The author thanks her husband and family for
encouraging her to tenaciously champion the causes of underdogs. Finally, she dedicates this Note
to the late, great Puck, her constant companion throughout its creation.
These cities include Aurora, Colorado; Morgan, Louisiana; North Salt Lake City, Utah; and
Yakima, Washington. Devin Burstein, Breed Specific Legislation: Unfair Prejudice & Ineffective
Policy, 10 ANIMAL L. 313, 317 (2004). Additionally, many counties ban or limit pit bull ownership
and breeding. Jamey Medlin, Comment, Pit Bull Bans and the Human Factors Affecting Canine
Behavior, 56 DEPAUL L. REv. 1285, 1290 (2007).
2 As Part II will discuss, the term pit bull is a problematic catchall term encompassing several dog
breeds (and dogs of similar appearance).
3 Burstein, supra note 1, at 315-16.

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