Dangerous Dogs

It is a criminal offence to breed, sell, give away, exchange or own some types of dog and there are other laws regarding the control of ‘ferocious dogs’ that owners ought to be aware of. There is no law stating that a dog has to bite somebody for it to be considered dangerous.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

The Dangerous Dogs Act was the first law to proscribe some breeds of dog in England & Wales. It gave owners a time limit in which they could choose to register their dogs, making ownership of them legal, but that time limit has now run out and it is no longer possible for a person to voluntarily register a dog.

The Act says that the following are unlawful dogs:

  • Pit bull terrier;
  • Fila Braziliero;
  • Dogo Argentino; and
  • Japanese Tosa

If a person owns one of the above and it has not been registered, then they are committing a criminal offence and a Police Officer or dog warden can seize the dog. Courts can issue warrants that allow the police to enter a building and seize a dog. The ban covers pure breeds and cross breeds that are similar to the above in terms of their appearance and behaviour. The maximum fine for owning one of these dogs is £5,000 or/and six months in prison. The dog may be destroyed.

Pit bull terrier type dogs

Exactly what makes a dog a Pit bull terrier type is not clearly defined and it is not a recognised breed in the UK, but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will often refer the criteria laid out by the American Dog Breeders Association:

  • The dog appears square from the side, and the height of its shoulders is the same distance as from the front of its shoulders to the rear of the dog’s hip.
  • The ratio of its height to its weight is in proportion.
  • Its coat is bristly and short.
  • From the side, its head appears to be wedge-shaped and rounded when viewed from the front.
  • Its head is roughly two thirds of the width of its shoulders, with the width at the cheeks being approximately 25% wider than at the base of its skull.
  • The space between the tip of the nose and the eyes is about the same as the distance from the back of its head to its eyes.
  • Its muzzle is straight and box shaped.
  • Its eyes are small and deep-set.
  • Its shoulders are wider than the eighth ribs.
  • Its elbows are flat.
  • Its front legs run parallel to the spine.
  • Its forelegs are roughly twice the thickness of the hind legs at the point just below the hock.
  • Its ribcage tapers at the bottom.
  • The tail hangs down like the handle on an old fashioned water pump to a point close to the hock.
  • Its hips ought to be broad.
  • The knee joint is in the top third of its rear leg and the bones below should appear to be light and springy.
  • Overall, the dog should appear to be athletic.

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For more information on:

  • Out of control dogs
  • Section 2 Dogs Act 1871
  • Destruction
  • Disqualification