A dog is for life, not just for Christmas – especially if you end up with a banned breed

The Dangerous Dog legislation has been the cause of much controversy and criticism. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (amended in 1997 and 2014) was introduced due to many high-profile dog attacks on people.

Section 1 of the act prohibits the ownership of the following breeds:

  1. Pit Bull Terrier
  2. Japanese Tosa
  3. Dogo Argentina
  4. Fila Braziliero

A Pit Bull Terrier is not recognised as a breed in the UK but they are known as a “type known as a pit bull terrier” and is the most common “type” seized by police. Many owners who are charged with a prohibited dog offence are unaware that their dog is a pit bull type and have purchased him or her under the pretence that they are a cross breed. They may live happily as part of the family without incident and do not always come to police attention as a result of aggression.

If the police expert determines that your dog is a pit bull type, that means they believe that your dog has a “substantial number of characteristics” which can be attributed to the American Pit Bull Terrier standard. This usually means that they believe they have at least 60% of the same characteristics. It is likely that your dog will be seized and kept in kennels until the case is heard in court.

If someone accuses you of owning a banned breed, the burden of proof is on you to prove that the dog is not a banned breed. It can be difficult to determine whether the dog is a type known as a pit bull terrier and there is certainly room for individual interpretation. This can be challenged by other experts. We work closely with dog breed and behavioural experts in these types of cases.

If a court determines that your dog is a banned type then you will also be responsible for any associated costs which includes kennelling costs. These are calculated at approximately £18 per day. With lengthy delays in both the Magistrates Courts and Crown Courts you may find yourself responsible for kennel fees in their thousands

The maximum sentence that can be imposed for possession of a prohibited dog is 26 weeks imprisonment. The court will then order that the dog is destroyed unless they are satisfied that the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety. If they are satisfied that the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety then they will make a contingent destruction order. Conditions that are likely to be imposed as part of any order are that the dog is registered on the index of exempted dogs (IED), micro-chipping, neutering, insuring the dog and conditions to keep the dog under control; such as muzzling and being kept on a lead in a public place.

Importantly, it is a criminal offence if you buy, sell, exchange, gift, breed from or advertise any of these breeds. So if you become unable to look after a pit bull type dog that is registered to you, because of the law on gifting, selling and advertising, you cannot transfer ownership to someone who is willing to take them on. There is a very narrow provision to allow someone with a pre-existing connection to the dog to become the keeper, this must be more than an occasional visitor and they must also be deemed a “fit and proper” person. If this cannot be satisfied then the court will order destruction of the dog.


Nicole Burt is a Solicitor based in our St Albans office. If you would like further advice on the issues raised in this article, please contact Nicole at info@reeds.co.uk or contacts us here.