The Dangerous Dogs Act
You have probably heard of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. This act banned certain types of dogs in the UK and was aimed at protecting people from dangerous animals which have been bred to fight. Unfortunately, the legislation is far from perfect as there can be confusion over what is and what is not a banded breed.
To make matters worse, since the act was brought in, over a third of the people who have been killed by dogs were attacked by legal breeds.
Which Dogs Are Banned?
The banned breeds are the Pit Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino Japanese Tosa and Fila Brasiliero. The Pit Bull was originally bred for fighting and for bear bating both of which took place in pits. The Japanese Tosa was also bred for fighting whilst the the Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero were originally hunting dogs in South America but were then used for fighting in the UK. All four breeds are illegal to own, breed from or sell.
The trouble is that the decision as to whether a dog is a banned breed is made on the basis of its looks. If your dog matches any of the characteristics of a banned breed, then it could be considered to be a dangerous dog. The responsibility is then on you to prove that it isn’t. Dogs which are deemed to be a banned breed can be taken away from their owners whether they have been aggressive or not.
Animals can be seized in public places but a warrant is required to remove a dog from your home. If you can prove that your dog is not a banned breed it will be returned to you. If you can’t, then the dog will be destroyed and you could face a custodial sentence and an unlimited fine. On rare occasions a court may rule that a dog is a banned breed but does not pose a threat. It will then be issued with a Certificate of Exemption. This certificate is valid for the life of the dog but the animal must be neutered, microchipped, kept on a leash, muzzled in public and kept in a secure place.
The Dangerous Dogs Act and All Owners
Even if you definitely do not own a banned breed, you still have responsibilities under the Dangerous Dogs Act which you should be aware of. Section 3 of the Act applies to every single dog owner in England and Wales. This makes it a criminal offence for the person in charge of a dog to allow it to be ‘dangerously out of control’. Here, ‘dangerously out of control’ can mean threatening behaviour as well as biting.
In 2014 some changes were made to the act and it is important to be aware of these. The legislation now covers incidents which take place on private property as well as in public places. This includes your own house and garden. It is also now an offence for your pet to attack as assistance dog such as a guide dog or hearing dog.