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The Dangerous Dogs Act

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What is the Dangerous Dogs Act?

The Dangerous Dogs Act first came into force in the UK in 1991 to protect members of the public from dog attacks.

Section 1 of the Act prohibits ownership of four types of dog: the Pit Bull Terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro.

This may come as a surprise given that there are still so many pit bull terriers, for example, in the UK. One reason for this is that the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997 gave courts the right to add prohibited dogs not thought to pose a risk to the public to the Index of Exempted Dogs, rather than having them destroyed.

The UK Dangerous Dogs Act classifies dogs by “type”, not breed. And that means dogs with physical characteristics that match the description of a prohibited “type” could also be affected.

Another reason, however, is that many dogs of this type are kept illegally – although this should become more difficult under government plans for all dogs to be micro-chipped by 2016.

The specified breeds mentioned in the legislation are not the only dogs affected, though. 

The UK Dangerous Dogs Act classifies dogs by “type”, not breed. And that means dogs with physical characteristics that match the description of a prohibited “type” could also be affected.

Only a court can decide whether or not a dog matches a prohibited “type” or not.

Under Section 3 of the Act, which was revised in 1997, it is also an offence for an owner to allow his or her dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place, whatever the breed or “type”. And that does not have to involve a dog attacking someone.

Dangerously out of control has been defined as: "Any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that a dog will injure any person". Charges could therefore be brought against an owner even if his or her dog does not actually injure anyone.

How could it affect me and my dog?

One of the main disadvantages of owning one of the breeds mentioned in the Dangerous Dogs Act is that you will be unable to get pet insurance for it.

Insurers are too concerned about costly damages claims to cover dogs of this kind of breed, meaning that you will have no choice but to cover any vet’s bills yourself.

Should the dog injure another dog, a person or cause an accident of any kind, you will also have to cover any related costs – which could be very significant indeed.

As explained above, you also risk the dog being destroyed if the courts decide that it poses a threat – whether it is a pure breed or simply conforms to one of the “types” mentioned in the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Even if you are allowed to keep the dog because it is placed on the Index of Exempted Dogs, it will have to be muzzled and kept on a lead in public, as well as neutered, tattooed and micro-chipped.

Finally, all dog owners could be affected by Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act, which relates to dogs being “dangerously out of control” in public.

Should your dog harm someone, or there be reasonable grounds to suspect that it could have harmed someone, both you as the owner and anyone in charge of the dog at the time could face charges as a result.

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