Annual Update: Estimated U.S. Cities, Counties, States and Military Housing with Breed-Specific Laws (2019-2020)

US estimate - breed-specific laws 2020
The top three regulated dog breeds: pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf-dog hybrids.

BSL Estimate 2019-2020 - Since 2011, we have maintained an estimate of breed-specific laws across the United States, including breed-specific policies governing military housing. A decade ago, all three major military divisions -- U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force -- banned a group of dangerous dog breeds, chiefly pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf-dog hybrids, due to the "unreasonable risk to the health and safety of personnel in family housing areas" these dog breeds pose.

In 2018, Delta Airlines became the first airline to ban pit bulls as service and support dogs, citing "untrained" pit bulls as a "potential safety risk."1

Our estimate is updated each December. Currently, over 1,100 cities, towns and villages regulate specific dog breeds for safety purposes and 40 counties have enacted countywide breed safety laws too. Jurisdictions in 39 different states have enacted breed-specific ordinances. Our estimate also tracks international breed-specific laws. Currently there are jurisdictions in at least 53 countries with breed-specific laws. In 42 of those countries, the regulation is a national-level law.

Many U.S. municipalities with breed-specific laws are concentrated in the Midwest. Other states, primarily preemption states, have virtually no breed-specific laws. In the early 1980s, cities began enacting breed-specific laws in response to grisly pit bull maulings. By 1992, dogfighting and dog breeder interests had pushed through preemption laws in ten states, including three of the most populous, California, Florida and Texas, prohibiting local jurisdictions from adopting pit bull laws.

There have been many horrific fatal maulings carried out by pit bulls and rottweilers in these three states ever since (See: Deaths After State Preemption). The most recent state to pass legislation in this area is Washington, which enacted a mandatory exemption law. The law requires cities with existing or new breed-specific laws to provide an exemption for the owners of regulated breeds if their dog passes the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test or its equivalent.

2019 Legislative News

In 2019, only two states, Michigan and Missouri, faced actual state preemption bills, down from six states in 2018, nine states in 2016 and seven states in 2015. This may be a signal that Wave II of these preemption bills, 2012 to present day, is coming to a close. (Learn more about: Wave I and Wave II). During the 20-year CDC study period (1979 to 1998) pit bulls on average killed 20 people every five years. Now they kill nearly 140 people in a 5-year period, seven times more.

During the 2020 legislative session, South Carolina legislators may again review House Bill 3709 that requires registration to own a fertile pit bull. This is a bill that many states should be studying. Instead of preempting local pit bull ordinances, state legislators should be working to limit the excessive over breeding of pit bulls, which results in a large population of unwanted, unadoptable pit bulls continuously filling up city and county shelters and eventually having to be euthanized.

"Whereas, the pit bull dog is the most desired breed for dogfighting and is dying at a higher rate in local animal shelters than any other breed of dog in South Carolina; and

Whereas, fertile dogs are more likely to be territorial and therefore more likely to bite. Most dog bite fatalities are committed by dogs that were not altered; and

Whereas, requiring registration to own a fertile pit bull dog would provide a safety component for the public and the dog." - H 3709, 123rd Session, 2019-2020

Going against the "humane alliance," which typically opposes all breed-specific laws, Joe Elmore, CEO of Charleston Animal Society, supported the bill last year. "(The pit bull is) a wonderful dog, I have a pit bull type dog," Elmore said. "But we've got to cut down on the breeding. We've got to spay and neuter these dogs. Across shelters throughout the South, including South Carolina, they are dying at a much higher rate than other dogs because of the prevalence of them," he said.

Rental & Housing Properties

A substantial source of breed-specific policies, which our estimate does not track, are the million-plus rental properties governed by breed-specific leases in all 50 states.3 Rental property and insurance companies access risk. Insurance carriers may refuse coverage for apartments, condominiums and homes if a lease fails to prohibit dog breeds on their blacklist. Private rental properties, HOAs and insurance agencies are typically unaffected by state preemption laws too.

When you combine the many types of breed-specific laws -- municipal ordinances, military policies, Indian reservation and public housing policies, airline policies, insurance blacklists and the tens of millions of Americans living in private rental properties governed by breed-specific leases -- one gains a clearer picture of these safety laws. They are designed to prevent serious attacks by high-risk dog breeds that are well recognized for inflicting severe bite injuries.

Our estimated summary of breed-specific laws is just one source of this prevention. When or if another state passes a preemption law peddled by an out-of-state special interest group, a source of this protection will be removed from that state, but other sources will remain, such as rental leases. Finally, the significance of breed-specific laws worldwide shows that the genetics of a dog breed remain the same, whether the dog lives in the U.S., France, South Korea or New Zealand.

US estimate - breed specific laws 2020

40 years of fatal pit bull attacks in 5-year periods 1980-2019

Deaths inflicted by pit bulls have increased by 670% since the 5-year period of 1995 to 1999.

1Kelli Bender, "Delta Airlines Bans Pit Bull-Type Service and Emotional Support Dogs from All Flights," People, June 22, 2018 (
2The 40 Years of U.S. Fatal Pit Bull Attacks in 5-Year Periods chart is an extension of the 35 Years of U.S. Fatal Pit Bull Attacks in 5-Year Periods chart we released in 2015 when discussing the two waves of state preemption laws.
3We could find no estimate for the vast number of rental properties governed by breed-specific leases, but breed restrictions are common. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, over 43 million households are renter-occupied and comprise over 100 million residents (34% of the U.S. population), all of which are subject to a lease agreement. Nearly one-third of these residents, 27 million, rent a unit within a multi-unit rental property.

Related articles:
12/22/18: Estimated U.S. Jurisdictions with Breed-Specific Laws (2018-2019)
01/01/20: Fatal Pit Bull Attacks - The Archival Record -
01/01/20: Fatal Rottweiler Attacks - The Archival Record -
04/23/18: Fatal Wolf-Dog Hybrid Attacks - The Archival Record -
04/20/15: A Primer on State Preemption Laws and Charts for Advocates by

See also: Breed-Specific Legislation FAQ -

2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bull Kills 44-Year Old Female Owner in Somerset, Massachusetts

somerset woman killed by pit bull
Melissa Astacio, 44-years old, died after being viciously attacked by her pet pit bull.

Pit Bull Kills Owner
Somerset, MA - A 44-year old woman died after being mauled by a family pit bull. Melissa Astacio suffered a seizure Friday evening in her Somerset home. Her daughter called 911 and said that her mother was having a seizure when the dog started to attack her, according to a press release from the Bristol County District Attorney's Office. Police were forced to Taser the dog before they could help the victim. Astacio was rushed to a Rhode Island hospital and pronounced dead.

The family dog is believed to be an 8-year old pit bull. The animal was taken into custody by Swansea Animal rescue, states the release. Photographs from the victim's Facebook page show a family pit bull named Amigo (also referred to as Diego) that is at least 7 years old. Astacio's mauling death marks the seventh adult, ages 40 to 49, killed by a dog this year. The victims are four females and three males. 86% of these deadly attacks (6 of 7) were carried out by pit bulls.

Astacio's death also marks another fatal attack inflicted by a family pit bull, where the attack began after the victim allegedly suffered a seizure. Earlier this year, Homer Utterback, 52, was brutally killed by his pet pit bull of 10 years after suffering a seizure in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. More recently, Dustin Bryan, 21, was killed by pit bulls while sleeping on the couch of the dog owner's home in Modesto, California. A family member blamed the fatal attack on a possible seizure.

GoFundMe for Victim

In a devastating GoFundMe written by one of the victim's daughters, we learned that Melissa Ausmus Astacio was a single parent to three girls of various ages. Elysandra writes, "On Dec. 20, 2019 my mother passed away unexpectedly. She suffered from seizures and the details still are unclear why, our family dog attacked my mother while having a seizure. My 13-year old little sister ran to get help but she passed away due to her injuries. I don't know how or what to do."

WJAR spoke to neighbors, some of whom had known Astacio since she was a little girl. Part of the 911 call is also played in the news video. Astacio was fatally attacked by her pit bull of eight years at her home in the 200 block of Lees River Avenue early Friday evening. A male neighbor who was not identified told WJAR that first responders carried the woman from her home over their shoulders. "They did not wait for a stretcher or anything … she was bleeding pretty bad," he said.

The family pit bull suspected in the mauling death of its owner in Somerset, Massachusetts.

map iconView the Google State Map: Massachusetts Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Related articles:
11/08/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Man Found Dead in Modesto Home, Two Pit Bulls Suspected
07/11/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bull Kills Owner in Uniontown: He Has a Hole in His Head

Baseline reporting requirements:
Law enforcement departments across the United States should release consistent "baseline" information to the media and the public after each fatal dog mauling, including these items.

2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Killed, Another Seriously Injured by Three Pit Bulls in North Houston

Medessa Ragsdale - North houston pit bull attack
Medessa Ragsdale, 44, was found dead after a vicious dog attack in north Houston.

Dogs Kill Woman
Houston, TX - One woman is dead and another severely injured after a vicious dog attack in north Houston, according to police. The attack occurred in the 5500 block of Arlington Street near East Hamilton Road. About 5:45 am police received a call from a man who said his wife was attacked and injured by dogs. Several minutes later, another person called who said he owned the dogs. According to him, the dogs also attacked a second woman, who he thought was dead in a ditch.

HPD homicide detectives are currently at the scene. The surviving woman was transported to a local hospital. All three dogs have been contained and are in the possession of animal control, police said. KTRK reports that all three dogs are pit bulls. The dogs' owner is being cooperative, police said. The case will go to the district attorney's office for review. This appears to be an off-property attack resulting in death and should fall under the Texas state felony dog attack statute.

The Two Female Victims

The injured woman is expected to survive her injuries, reports the Houston Chronicle. By about 9:00 am, the unidentified victim still lay dead in a ditch outside the dog owner's home. Horrifically, in an unrelated attack, a dog lay dead in a ditch across the street. Neighbors said the dead dog had been there for days. Neighbors said the attacking pit bulls had a history of violence, including previously attacking their owner and a home invasion attack on a neighbor a few years ago.

HPD Press Conference:

"This morning we received two separate calls about vicious animals. The first call dropped at 05:48 this morning where the complainant's husband called in and said his wife was attacked by dogs. Officers arrived at 05:52 and met the complainant and the husband at Courtland and Hamilton, where she had multiple dog bites. She was transported to Memorial Greater Heights in stable condition. She's going to survive her wounds.

At 5:55 this morning, the owner of the dogs that did the attack called the police and reported that his dogs had attacked a woman and she was lying in a ditch and she was possibly deceased. Officers tied both calls together and they came back to the scene and they found a woman, unfortunately who was deceased. She was bitten by some animals and that's why we are here.

Homicide was called to the scene and they are doing an investigation. The original investigation is that the dog owners -- when the officers went to the house -- he reported that his dogs probably attacked the lady. She's lying dead in the ditch. He's cooperative, but he's not giving any statements right now until he gets to homicide.

There are three pit bulls that we know. We don't know if they have any shots ... we have them contained. Harris County animal control is en route to take custody of the dogs. That is all we have at this time. We do not know the identity of the deceased lady yet. That is what we are trying to investigate right now." - Assistant Chief Pete Lopez, Houston Police Department

By December 23, the identity of the deceased female was still pending verification by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. The second female victim was 49-years old. "The two women were not walking together at the time of the attack," states the Houston PD website. A friend of the deceased woman said Medessa "was out here in the streets, but she was full of life." She also said the pit bull "with the ears clipped, the big gray and white one" was aggressive.

On January 2, we contacted the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. The office identified the victim as 44-year old Medessa Jean Ragsdale. The cause and manner of death is pending.

North houston pit bull attack

One collarless pit bull at the fatal dog mauling scene being led away by a "twine" leash.

north houston dog attack

Two other pit bulls at the north Houston fatal dog mauling scene before animal control arrives.

north houston dog attack

Houston homicide detectives gather at the scene of fatal dog mauling in north Houston.

Join Texas Dog Bite Victims' Advocacy - Join our Texas email list to stay informed

map iconView the Google State Map: Texas Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Related articles:
08/13/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Texas Teen Dies After Brutal Attack by Three Pit Bulls in Irving
06/24/19: Central Texas Pediatric Study: Pit Bulls Inflicted the Highest Prevalence and Severity...
03/27/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bulls Attack, Kill Owner While in Bite Quarantine Facility

Baseline reporting requirements:
Law enforcement departments across the United States should release consistent "baseline" information to the media and the public after each fatal dog mauling, including these items.

2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Man Killed by Pack of Dogs in Broken Bow, Oklahoma; Family Seeking 'Justice for Cledith'

cledith davenport - broken bow
Cledith Davenport, 79, died after being attacked by a pack of dogs in Broken Bow.

Man Killed by Dogs
Broken Bow, OK - On Tuesday, the McCurtain Daily Gazette reported that a 79-year old man and his dog were killed by a pack of dogs over the weekend. The newspaper is not online, but we were able to obtain some screenshots. McCurtain County deputies were called to the scene at 12:52 pm after a postal carrier found Cledith Davenport lying halfway in a ditch in the 700 block of Canoe Road. The man had been "repeatedly bitten" by the dogs and the pack also killed his small dog.

The postal carrier did not immediately recognize Davenport, reports the Gazette. She ran up to his home and began knocking on the door and shouting his name. After not receiving a response, she returned to her vehicle. Only then did she realize the injured man in the ditch was Davenport. In her statement to police, she said the canines were chewing on him. She then drove toward a neighboring home, where the dogs' owner resides, and called the sheriff's department.

Two deputies responded along with the Broken Bow Fire Department and McCurtain County EMS. They described Davenport as "severely bloodied" and had sustained serious injuries to multiple body parts, including his head, reports the Gazette. While at the scene, both deputies were approached by a cattle-mix dog. As the dog barked at them, a pack of 8 or more dogs ran to the scene. Several of those dogs had red-stained fur on their chests, feet and snouts, officers said.

Today, a family member began a "Justice for Cledith" Facebook page. There were up to 11 dogs involved in the deadly attack, all pit bull-cattle dog (blue heeler) mixes,1 states the page. "Laws need to change. Vicious dogs should not be allowed to roam free. Strict fines and jail time should be enforced for the owners," states the page. "People living their lives on their own property should not have to fear vicious animals coming onto their property and killing them and their pets."

The Owner of the Dogs

We located the dogs' owner on Facebook and confirmed this with a Davenport family member. In early September 2018, the owner's female pit bull-cattle dog mix had a large litter of puppies. There were at least three adult dogs at the home and possibly more. According to the Gazette article, eight of the dogs were seized. Four were sent to the Broken Bow pound and the other four were sent to the pound in Idabel. A dangerous dog hearing is scheduled for January 3, 2020.

Late Wednesday, KXII confirmed many of these details in the first "accessible to all" reporting of this man's mauling death. They also interviewed the victim's son, Aaron Davenport, who said that stricter laws need to be in place to prevent these attacks. "Just to keep people safe," Aaron said. "So this doesn't happen to anybody else -- because I promise you, nobody wants to go through what we're going through right now." Sheriff's officials continue to await the official autopsy report.

On Thursday, the state medical examiner's office determined that Davenport's cause of death was due to canines, reports KTBS. Authorities believe that eight dogs are responsible. The district attorney's office is seeking the destruction of these dogs. Outside of state parks in the county, McCurtain County does not appear to have a leash law. No criminal charges are anticipated. This dog owner is free to continue breeding "packs of dogs" and allowing them roam at large.

broken bow dogs kill

Adult dogs from pack, part pit bull and part cattle dog, seen on the dog owner's Facebook page.

broken bow dogs kill

Adult male and puppies from September 2018 seen on the dog owner's Facebook page.

1In case some readers do not know, the terms cattle dog, blue heeler, red heeler and Queensland heeler are interchangeable. We use the name "cattle dog" when referring to this dog breed.

Related articles:
12/14/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Multiple Dogs Killed Teenage Boy in Hollis, Oklahoma
09/30/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Man Dies After Vicious Dog Attack in Bennington, Oklahoma

Statewide attacks:
Vicious Dog Attacks in Oklahoma by Butch Bridges, a log of Oklahoma vicious dog attacks.

Baseline reporting requirements:
Law enforcement departments across the United States should release consistent "baseline" information to the media and the public after each fatal dog mauling, including these items.