What Does the Law Say about Prohibited Dogs?
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was introduced following a series of high profile dog attacks on children. One of the provisions of the Act makes the possession of the following four types of dog illegal.:
- Pit Bull Terrier
Originating in England, the Pit Bull Terrier was bred to be used in blood sports such as bull- and bear-baiting and dog fighting.
- Japanese Tosa
As the name suggests, the Japanese Tosa is originally from Japan. Also known as the Japanese Mastiff, similar to the Pit Bull Terrier, it was originally bred for blood sports.
- Dogo Argentino
The Dogo Argentino is a big, muscular breed of dog that was developed in Argentina for big-game hunting.
- Fila Brasileiro
Originally from Brazil, the Fila Brasileiro is a large working dog breed. Similar to the Dogo Argentino, it was originally bred to hunt big game, such as puma and wild boar.
The banning of certain types of dog based on their looks is known as breed specific legislation which has been contentious one since the introduction of the legislation. Those who support such measures say these rules are in place to keep the general public safe, but others believe that a blanket ban is ineffective and that it is unfair to destroy/restrict a dog simply because of the way it looks. .
A parliamentary committee reviewed the legislation in 2018 and recommended a number of changes, including a relaxation of the rules on prohibited dogs, but the Government has announced that it has no plans to change the legislation. Therefore, it is important that existing and would-be dog owners are aware of the legislation and know where to turn for accurate and reliable advice in the event that their dogs are identified as possible prohibited types in order to minimise the risks of seizure, prosecution and worst of all, destruction, and also to help reduce the number of dog attacks in the UK.
Identifying a Prohibited Type of Dog
Since the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991, many pet owners have unwittingly found themselves falling foul of the law because they did not know that their dogs might fall within the definition of one of the four prohibited types of dog. Because the courts are concerned with type rather than breed, a dog can be classified as a prohibited type according to its appearance rather than its breed name, genetics or parentage. For example, a dog that is a Staffordshire bull terrier crossed with Labrador could fall within the definition of a pit bull type dog.
If the police deem your dog to be a prohibited type, the onus is on you to prove that your dog is not prohibited and expert evidence will be required to prove this. If you are prosecuted for being in possession of a prohibited type of dog, you could be ordered to pay an unlimited fine and/or imprisoned. In addition, your dog could be seized and destroyed. If you are not prosecuted, then you would still have to go to court via civil proceedings in order to be able to apply for a Certificate of Exemption.
Bear in mind that if your dog is a prohibited type, the police or local authorities have the power to take it away, even if no one has filed a complaint or your pet is not acting dangerously. Dogs suspected of being banned are usually held in police kennels and examined by a police expert. This process can be quite stressful and, even if your dog is returned to you , owners often report changes to it’s health and behaviour.
If your dog has been seized, or if the police have said they want to seize your dog, , we recommend that you seek the assistance of a lawyer who specialises in UK dog law, such as one of our team here at Wheldon Law, without delay. With our expert advice we can often avoid a criminal prosecution and ensure that your dog is returned to you at the earliest opportunity.
What Can You Do to Make An Illegal Dog Legal?
Naturally, it can be quite worrying to discover that you own a prohibited type of dog, but remember, it is the same dog that you know and love, it is just that his measurements may mean that he falls foul of the draconian effects of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Provided your dog is of good temperament and does not pose a danger to the public and provided you are someone the court would consider to be a fit and proper person to have a dog of that kind, you should be able to go through the legal process of obtaining a Certificate of Exemption which means your dog will be legal provided the conditions of exemption are complied with.For your dog to be exempted, it has to be:
- Covered by third-party insurance
- Registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs
How to Ensure Your Dog Remains Legal
Your dog’s Certificate of Exemption can last for the duration of its life. However, there are continuing criteria that you and your dog need to satisfy in order to keep the certification and exemption in place. Under the Dangerous Dogs Exemption Schemes (England and Wales) Order 2015, you must:
- Keep your dog at the same address as the bearer of the certificate.
- Inform DEFRA of any proposed changes to your address.
- Notify the authorities if your dog dies or has been exported.
- Ensure that your dog’s third-party insurance remains in force.
- Muzzle your dog and keep it on a lead when in public.
- Keep your dog in a secured location to prevent it from escaping.
- Provide proof of your dog’s insurance when asked to do so by the authorities.
- Provide access to your dog for microchip reading.
- Produce your dog’s Certification of Exemption when required.
What Happens If You Do Not Comply With The Requirements of Exemption?
If you do not comply with the conditions of exemption, then possession of your dog ceases to be lawful and your dog is at risk of being seized again by police and you are at risk of being prosecuted for possession of a prohibited type of dog. The court would again have to consider whether your dog posed a danger to the public and whether you were a fit and proper person to have a dog of that type. If the failure to comply with the conditions was a flagrant one or one that occurred recently after exemption was granted, then your dog could be at risk of destruction and you could be at risk of being disqualified from keeping dogs. It is therefore vital that you comply with the conditions of exemption. In particular, it is very important to remember to renew the third-party insurance each year which is one of the biggest causes of failing to comply with the rules of exemption.
Always Ensure Your Dog’s Safety by Getting the Right Advice
It can be alarming for a pet owner to learn that their dog might be an unlawful type and therefore at risk of seizure and the owner at risk of court proceedings. . Therefore, if you suspect that your dog is a prohibited type, you should seek expert legal advice as soon as possible..
Here at Wheldon Law, we are all dog lovers and in fact most of us are dog owners. We have a proven track record of successfully defending clients and saving their dogs from being put down. As we specialise in dog law, we can provide the best possible outcomes for our clients and their pets. We offer free preliminary legal advice so if you have a legal problem relating to your dog, please do not hesitate to get in touch and we will do everything we can to help you.