Advice about UK Prohibited and Dangerous Dog ownership

Prohibited Dogs – (Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991)

There is a total of four banned dog breeds or types in the United Kingdom: The Pit Bull Terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasiliero. When it comes to these four, it’s important to know why the ban came into place and it what it means when it comes to owning these dogs.

The Pit Bull Terrier

The most common prohibited type in the UK, the Pit Bull Terrier was bred for blood sports. Their name even harkens back to that origin, referring to ‘bull baiting’, a sport where packs of dogs were set against a bull in a pit.

The Japanese Tosa

The Japanese Tosa was bred for dog fights in Japan, where the rules regulate against barking, growling or whimpering. Naturally this means that there’s a high risk that the dog won’t growl it’s feeling defensive, eliminating one of the most important warning signs of a potentially aggressive animal.

The Dogo Argentino and the Filla Brasileiro

For the Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro, the concern in the temperaments of the breeds. Both are fearless animals, bred to be bold enough to chase down creatures that might threaten livestock such as wild boar, jaguars and even humans.

Why These Four?

To stop illegal dog fighting, restrictions were placed on the ownership of these four as the most dangerous animals when trained into aggressive temperaments. This means that there are very stringent restrictions against owning these dogs.

It is important to know that it’s the characteristics of the breed that are banned, not the breed itself – for instance, a dog with the features of a Pit Bull Terrier (appearance, dimensions, skin type, attitude) might be a banned breed even if it isn’t a thoroughbred.

Can I Own a Banned Dog?

It is possible to own a banned dog, but to do so your dog must be issued an exemption by the court, issued a certificate by DEFRA and be put on the Index of Exempt Dogs (IED). This certification of exemption it provides, will show that your dog was acquired lawfully, is neutered, microchipped, kept on a lead and muzzled when in public, kept in a secure place, insured against injuring other people and that owner (and those who walk it) are over 16 years of age.

If you are no longer able to look after your dog or if the court does not consider you a suitable person to own a prohibited dog, under limited circumstances it may be possible to appoint a person to be the registered keeper for your dog however, it can be very difficult to do this.

Failure to comply with these conditions can lead to your dog being seized and you facing prosecution. All offences under s1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 can only be dealt with in the magistrates’ court and carries a maximum sentence of 6 months’ imprisonment. Legal aid may be available if you are charged with a criminal offence under this section. However, it will not be available if civil proceedings are started under this section.

What Happens when a Dog is Seized?

The Police and Local Council Dog Warden can take away any dog that is a banned type, even if it isn’t acting dangerously and there hasn’t been a complaint. It is then down to you to provide your Certificate of Exemption.

When a dog is seized, it is up to the police or council dog expert to judge what type of dog it is and whether it is a danger to the public or not. The best result is that it won’t be considered a danger and be released back to you, but if it is it will be kept in the kennels whilst the authority applies to the court.

Section 4B Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

Section 4B of the Dangerous Dogs Act is the civil alternative to a prosecution it allows the police to apply to the magistrates’ court for a destruction order, or a contingent destruction order. The advantage of this section is that the owner avoids prosecution. This section only applies when the owner accepts that his dog is a prohibited breed and where the police are satisfied that the owner is responsible.

We can offer a service where one of our experts assesses the dog’s behaviour and prepares a report for the court which significantly strengthens any application. Please note legal aid is not available for any S4B applications, however we are able to help and can take on your case on a fixed fee basis. We understand that expert assessments can be expensive; however, we are in regular contact with several charities who may be able to assist with funding for cases where legal aid is unavailable.

Don’t Sign, Get Advice

It is vital when your dog is sized to speak to a solicitor who specialises in dog law. Do not sign anything should the police come to take your dog. In our experience, some people have unknowingly signed a form conceding that their beloved dog is illegal and allowing the police to put their dog to sleep. Only the court can order the destruction of a dog, so get advice and do not sign.

We understand that it upsetting to have your dog seized and encourage you to get in touch today if you need any help at all.