Educating the Veterinary Students of Tomorrow
Dangerous Dogs Act
The Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in 1991 in response to dog attacks. This legislation has made it illegal to have a dog ‘dangerously out of control’ in public places and other areas the dog is not permitted to be.
Dangerously out of control dogs include those that have injured another person or given someone reasonable apprehension that it may do so. This can include things such as chasing, barking or jumping at a person or child if it leads to a complaint.
Consequences include potential fines, prison sentences or a ban on dog ownership. When dogs are seized, dogs are usually destroyed unless a good case is made in court to prove a dog is not a danger to the public.
In 2014 the legislation was also extended to include dogs on private property. It also bans certain breeds including the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasiliero. These dogs were typically bred for fighting. It is illegal to sell, abandon, give away or breed from a banned breed of dog.
Whether or not a dog is considered a banned type does not depend on its breed name but instead on what it looks like and its characteristics. If a dog fits the characteristics and appearance of a Pit Bull Terrier, it could be considered a banned breed.
If somebody owns a banned breed, the police and dog wardens have the right to remove your dog from you, even if it is not acting dangerously and there hasn’t been a complaint. However if on private property, they will required a warrant to seize the dog.
Once seized, experts will determine what breed type it is and whether it has been or has the potential to be a danger to the public. Dogs can be returned to their owner if not deemed to be dangerous but they may be included on the ‘Index of Exempted Dogs (IED)’. This will provide you with a lifelong Certificate of Exemption and you must ensure the dog is neutered, microchipped, muzzled and on a lead at all times when in public. It must also be kept in a secure place where it cannot escape. The owner must be over 16, have insurance against the dog injuring others, produce the certificate within 5 days of being asked by police or a dog warden and inform the IED if they move house of their dog dies.
How Successful has the Act Been?
The Dangerous Dogs Act is heavily criticised as often behaviour is heavily determined by the way a dog has been brought up by its owner and by its breeder, not necessarily its breed type.
Many Pit Bull Terriers kennelled for being a banned breed are friendly in nature and Battersea Dogs and Cats home has estimated 71% of the 91 Pit Bull Terriers they took in in 2016 could have been rehomed. Instead they were destroyed. Breed is not a good predictor of risk of aggression. Despite the legislation, dog bites in the UK continue to increase.
The View of the Kennel Club:
“The Kennel Club believes Government should act to 'deal with the deed, not the breed' and that it is unacceptable to ban an entire breed or type of dog based on the actions of a single animal. Dog ownership has many health and social benefits, but all dog owners must take responsibility for their dogs as any dog in the wrong hands has the potential to be dangerous - as is proven by the number of biting incidents involving dogs that are not classified as dangerous under current legislation.
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 has proved that demonising certain breeds makes them more attractive to people who want to flout the law and use dogs in this way. This contributes to the problem of creating so called 'status dogs'. The Kennel Club firmly believes that doing away with breed specific legislation would lessen the appeal of these dogs and also reduce cases of animal cruelty.
The problem of dangerous dogs is a social one and needs to be tackled through the enforcement of effective legislation that seeks to curb irresponsible owners of all types of dog and better educate the dog owning public to prevent incidents before they occur. The Kennel Club believes that preventative legislation should be based on the principle of 'deed not breed' and centre around the introduction of dog control notices (a form of statutory improvement notice for dog owners of all types of dog).”