Dangerous dogs: Which breeds are banned and other laws dog owners be aware of
Dogs that are dangerously out of control have the potential to seriously injure or even kill. The Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced to help protect the public and to ensure that dogs do not pose a risk to the community.
But which breeds are outlawed in the UK and how would a court decide if a dog was dangerous?
Here's everything you need to know about what the law says on dangerous dogs.
It’s against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control anywhere. This includes both public and private places including the owner's home.
This law applies to all dogs regardless of their breed.
Your dog will be considered dangerously out of control if it injures someone or makes someone worried that it might injure them.
A court could also decide that your dog is dangerously out of control if it attacks someone’s animal or if the owner of an animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal.
Legally, a farmer is allowed to kill your dog if it’s worrying their livestock.
What penalties could I face if I own a dangerously out of control dog?
You can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to 6 months (or both) if your dog is dangerously out of control.
You may not be allowed to own a dog in the future and your dog may be destroyed.
If you let your dog injure someone you can be sent to prison for up to five years or fined (or both). If you deliberately use your dog to injure someone you could be charged with ‘malicious wounding’.
If you allow your dog to kill someone you can be sent to prison for up to 14 years or get an unlimited fine (or both).
If you allow your dog to injure an assistance dog (e.g. a guide dog) you can be sent to prison for up to 3 years or fined (or both).
In the UK, it’s against the law to own certain types of dog. These are the:
- Pit Bull Terrier
- Japanese Tosa
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
It’s also against the law to:
- sell a banned dog
- abandon a banned dog
- give away a banned dog
- breed from a banned dog
Whether your dog is a banned type depends on what it looks like, rather than its breed or name.
If your dog matches many of the characteristics of a Pit Bull Terrier, it may be a banned type.
If you have a banned dog
If you have a banned dog, the police or local council dog warden can take it away and keep it, even if it isn’t acting dangerously or there hasn’t been a complaint.
The police may need permission from a court to do this.
If your dog is in a public place, the police don’t need a warrant. If it is in a private place, the police must get a warrant.
Although if it is in a private place and the police have a warrant for something else (like a drugs search), they can seize your dog
A police or council dog expert will judge what type of dog you have and whether it is (or could be) a danger to the public.
Your dog will then either be released or kept in kennels while the police (or council) apply to a court.
You’re will not be allowed to visit your dog while you wait for the court decision.
You can give up ownership of your dog but you can’t be forced to. If you do, your dog could be destroyed without you even going to court.
Going to court
It’s your responsibility to prove your dog is not a banned type.
If you prove this, the court will order the dog to be returned to you. If you can’t prove it (or you plead guilty), you’ll be convicted of a crime.
You can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to 6 months (or both) for having a banned dog against the law. Your dog will also be destroyed.
Index of Exempted Dogs (IED)
If your dog is banned but the court thinks it’s not a danger to the public, it may put it on the IED and let you keep it.
You’ll be given a Certificate of Exemption. This is valid for the life of the dog.
Your dog must be neutered, microchipped, kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public, kept in a secure place so it can’t escape
As the owner, you must take out insurance against your dog injuring other people, be aged over 16, show the Certificate of Exemption when asked by a police officer or council dog warden, either at the time or within 5 days and let the IED know if you change address, or your dog dies.