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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

A High-level Overview of Breed-Specific Laws in Tennessee

Dog owners have a variety of breeds to choose from as they seek to acquire a companion. While these animals can be incredibly friendly and offer a measure of protection, they can also be a source of serious injury to others.

Annually, more than 300,000 people need to be taken to emergency rooms for treatment because of dog attacks. These are typically young adults and children.

While there can be dangerous dogs of just about any breed, some are viewed with a bit more scrutiny than others, which stands to reason considering their history. In Tennessee, pit bulls are at the top of this list.

While there is no dog breed targeted at the state law level, cities have included specific dog breeds in certain legislation. Bear in mind though that even if a specific dog breed is not captured by any city litigation, state law requires all dogs be kept under control. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys has more insight on dog vaccinations required by law in Tennessee as well.

What Does Breed-specific Legislation (BSL) Look Like in Tennessee?

What Does Breed-specific Legislation (BSL) Look Like in Tennessee?


The pit bull dog is at the center of much of the legislation. For reference, "pit bull" here speaks to any American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Bulldog. Certain breeds may be mixed with these, so the law also includes any dog with a 50% lineage from any of these breeds.

Some cities allow pit bull ownership but there will be special restrictions that apply to the dogs and their owners. For example, pit bull owners in Mt. Juliet cannot take their animals to dog parks.

Brownsville is even more rigid with pit bulls needing to be muzzled while being taken for a walk and being required to be microchipped.


Some of the breed-specific laws automatically decide some vicious dogs based on their breeds. Regulations are then issued to owners so that any first attack occurrence can be prevented. An animal attack lawyers in Nashville can give more details.

The requirements that go hand in hand with these dangerous breed declarations can vary and include:

  1. Muzzling when in public

  2. Additional microchipping

  3. Higher registration fees

  4. Mandatory sterilization

  5. Greater liability insurance

  6. Warning signs on premises

Some of the places with breed-specific legislation in place are:

  1. Lafayette

  2. Lookout mountain

  3. Puryear

  4. Jefferson City

  5. Adamsville

  6. Ripley

  7. White Pine


Some cities may simply have a permit requirement for those who wish to own certain types of dogs. South Fulton is a perfect example of this, requiring a permit for any owner of German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, pit bulls, and Rottweilers.


So far, the controls discussed have allowed ownership to take place once certain established rules are followed. Bans do exist in some cases, which are the most restrictive form of breed-specific legislation that exists.

A ban prohibits dog owners from ownership, reproduction, or breeding of various breeds. Pit bulls are the most common dogs here.

If there are existing pit bulls, many of the bans will allow the dog's owner to keep it. However, the conditions that accompany the ownership are pretty heavy and notable, which is to be expected considering the potential for injury.

Breed ban legislation will sometimes aim to reduce future pit bulls, which means that the existing ones may need to be sterilized. Active pit bull bans can be found in any of the following places:

  • Hardeman County

  • Selmer

  • South Pittsburg

  • Middleton

  • Dyer

  • Etowah

Dangerous Dog Violations

As indicated before, any dog owner in Tennessee is expected to maintain reasonable control of the animal. This rule will apply regardless of whether the breed falls under any breed-specific legislation or not. Should a dog attack a human being, there can be felony charges brought against the owner.

Of course, the more severe the injury, the greater the likelihood that a higher class of felony charge will be applied. If a dog were to attack and kill someone, for example, the owner is looking at a class C felony and time behind bars.

Note, however, that there are some exceptions to this, which are as follows:

  1. Whoever the dog killed or injured was a trespasser on the owner's property

  2. The dog that committed the act was under the command of the military or police

  3. The injury was the result of an attempt by the dog to protect its owner or someone else against the injured party

  4. The injured person provoked the dog which led to the attack

Strict Liability in Tennessee Dog Bite Cases

Tennessee's dog bit law works under a principle known as strict liability. This means that the dog owner has total liability for any injury that the animal may inflict under any of the following circumstances:

  • The dog was running at large

  • The owner did not keep the dog under reasonable control

Remember that an owner is not just someone who purchased a dog. The definition recognized by the state sees an owner as someone who exercises control over or keeps a dog or someone who regularly harbors a dog. Such circumstances needed to be true at the time of the injury. If the circumstance is temporary, the definition does not apply.

Dog Laws: The One Bite Rule

Dog Laws: The One Bite Rule

If someone who is invited onto a dog owner's property is bitten, the one-bite rule clause will apply. In this case, the victim will need to be able to prove that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous. Without being able to prove this, it would not be possible to hold the owner liable. Another name for this is "Residential Exclusion." Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also help with questions such as Who gets Pet custody in a Tennessee divorce?

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Competent Tennessee Personal Injury Attorney Today

Even with all the established legislation at the state and city levels, it doesn't change the fact that there are animals that attack people who are not provoking them or causing any issues. Owners are often simply negligent and victims should be fairly compensated.

Has someone else's dog bitten you? Were you injured? You may be entitled to compensation! Let the team at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys go to war for you! Schedule a free consultation!


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