Marine Corps Institutes Dog Breed Ban

on October 10, 2009
Posted in News

An order sent down from the top ranks from Marine Corps headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, has the Marine Corps banning pit bulls, Rottweilers and wolf-hybrid breeds and mixes.

The Dog Breed Ban

This order will impact all families and their dogs currently living in on-base Marine Corps housing. Although a few housing compounds will attempt to apply for an exemption from the policy, such as Camp Pendleton, which is the biggest Marine Corps housing in San Diego County.

The order, which was handed down back in August of this year from General James Conway, the Marine commandant, states the reason for the breed ban as such:

“The rise in ownership of large dog breeds with a predisposition toward aggressive or dangerous behavior, coupled with the increased risk of tragic incidents involving these dogs, necessitates a uniform policy.”

Dog Attacks On On-Base Marine Corps Housing

Marine officials have stated that the breed ban is being imposed in an attempt to “ensure the continued health and safety” of on-base personnel and their families.

According to Capt. Brian Block, an official spokesperson at the Marine headquarters, before making such a harsh decision, the Marine Corps analyzed national statistics and examined the history of dog attacks on all of its on-base housing.

Three dog bite attacks were reported during June of this year at Camp Pendleton, which houses approximately 1,500 pet dogs. Two of the incidences involved a Jack Russell Terrier and a Labrador who both bit their owners’ family members, whilst the third incident concerned a stray Pit Bull that attacked a teenager who had attempted to approach it, stated officials from Camp Pendleton.

Despite these attacks at Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps headquarter officials have vehemently denied that the system wide policy change implementing the ban of certain dog breeds, had anything to do with the dog attacks at Camp Pendleton.

The Pit Bull Ban

Sadly, this is yet another blow against Pit Bulls, which are quickly becoming the most common breed to be found at animal shelters throughout the country.
However, a spokesperson for the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, explains that any breed of dog has the potential to become aggressive and attack.

“It’s dependent on the dog’s previous living arrangement and training,” she said. “It’s not just the breed itself.”

Good Canine Evaluation

Those families who are living in on-base Marine Corps housing and already own one of the dog breeds in the ban, can apply to have their dogs exempt from the ban as long as their dogs pass a ‘good canine citizen; test that is given by a qualified evaluator. Such an exception would expire in October 2012, which is the date when the Corps expects to stop honoring such waivers.

Almost every dog trainer would agree that it is a good idea for dogs who are living in relatively close quarters with both their families and other people and pets, to obtain a ‘good canine citizen’ certificate.

To get such a certificate, the dog has to be able to sit and come on command and also allow a friendly stranger to approach it without the dog snarling or running away. There are, of course, other skills that need to be demonstrated before being awarded such a title.

Although the American Kennel Club does award a Canine Good Citizen title, the Marine Corps has chosen to enlist the help of the ASPCA instead, which opposes breed banning.


A team of animal behavior experts from the ASPCA travelled to Beaufort, South Carolina, to begin behavior assessments of more than 90 dogs that are living in Marine Corps housing units in the South Carolina Tri-Command area.

“Our goal in coming to the Parris Island base is to make sure safe dogs and their families are able to stay together,” says Dr. Emily Weiss, ASPCA Senior Director of Shelter Research & Development, “and so far, the results have been positive.”

The ASPCA uses a specially formulated test called the Safety Assessment for Evaluation Rehoming. This is primarily a research-based test that helps the ASPCA’s animal behaviorists identify any future possibility of canine aggression.

After assessing 85 dogs so far, only two of them showed a high enough potential towards aggression that they had to be removed.

“Two others showed aggressive tendencies, but one will work with a trainer and another will be neutered,” said Dr. Weiss. “The vast majority, however, are well-loved, well-behaved family pets.”

“We’re very excited about the ASPCA’s assessment,” says Army Capt. Jenifer Gustafson, the Officer in Charge of the veterinary clinic on Parris Island. “This is a welcome alternative to the unpleasant possibility of pet parents being forced to give up their dogs or leave base housing.”

The official mascot for the Marine Corps is the Bulldog!

Photo Credit: bobster855

Read also: Long Distance Pet Adoption

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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