Which dogs are dangerous and which breeds are banned in the UK?
The pandemic has seen a surge in the number of people owning dogs in the UK and beyond.
Unfortunately, this surge has also been accompanied by an increase in dog attacks. Earlier this week, 17-month-old Bella-Rae Birch of St Helen’s was killed in her home by a dog bought by the family a week earlier.
The dog was turned over to the police and was humanely put down.
Officers say the dog will undergo further forensic examinations to determine the breed and whether or not it is a legal breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991).
But which dogs are considered dangerous and which breeds are banned in the UK? Here’s everything you need to know.
Which dogs are considered ‘dangerous’ in the UK?
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991), it is illegal to own any of the following four breeds:
pit bull terrier
The stocky, muscular Pit Bull Terrier was originally bred in England to fight in cruel sports involving bears, bulls, or even rats in the 18th century. When this was banned, they were trained to fight with other dogs.
Shortly before the Civil War, British immigrants traveled to North America with their Pit Bulls, which saw the dogs being renamed American Pit Bull Terriers. The dogs here acted as working and companion dogs and were even used as the national mascot during World War I and World War II.
According to the United Kennel Club (UKC), the essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence and zest for life. Despite its reputation, the UKC adds that “aggressive behavior towards humans is not characteristic of the breed”.
The Japanese Tosa originated in present-day Kōchi and was also bred for fighting. A large, short-haired dog, he is valued for his athleticism, agility and power.
Historically, dogs would have fought silently due to Japanese fighting rules that prohibited noise in the fighting pit.
In Japan, the Tosas are treated with great honor and ceremony.
According to the UKC, the Tosa is normally a quiet, obedient dog with a “calm and watchful demeanor”. He adds that while overtly aggressive behavior is uncharacteristic of the breed, he may react aggressively towards other dogs he considers intruders.
The Dogo Argentino is a large, white, muscular dog breed that was developed in Argentina for hunting big game, such as wild boar and cougars. It continues to be used today as a hunting dog, property guardian, family companion, and versatile working dog.
According to the UKC, the Dogo is “an intelligent and courageous dog with a strong and natural instinct to protect its home and family”. He adds that they make a strong distinction between familiar people and strangers, so it is imperative that they are well trained and socialized from a young age.
Native to Brazil, the Fila Brasileiro is a large, high-energy dog that was originally used by plantation owners to hunt and track livestock and ward off predators.
Bred purely to be loyal to their owners, early socialization and training is vital for this animal. They also tend to view anything smaller as prey and are wired to hunt small animals such as cats and small dogs.
The breed is not recognized by the UKC or the American Kennel Club.
What is the Dangerous Dogs Act?
After a series of major dog attacks, the government introduced the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991.
The law is considered controversial because it focuses specifically on a dog’s breed or appearance, rather than an individual dog’s behavior.
According to the RSPCA, more than a third of people killed by dogs since the introduction of the law have been attacked by legal breeds.
Becky Thwaites, public affairs officer for Blue Cross, said: “Many dogs seized as illegal breeds are actually well-bred dogs with responsible owners, who are just unfortunate enough to have bad measurements.
“Almost as many dogs – not of banned breeds – were seized under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act as under Section 1 last year for being dangerously out of control, highlighting to how important it is for the government to change the legislative direction of a dog’s appearance loves dealing with irresponsible owners of any breed of dog to keep our communities safe.
The charity is calling on the government to end legislation that singles out dogs solely on the basis of their appearance and instead focus on prevention.
How does the Dangerous Dogs Act apply to me?
Regardless of the size or breed of your dog, the Dangerous Dogs Act applies to all dog owners.
Under the law, it is illegal for a dog to “run out of control”, bite or attack someone.
The legislation also makes it an offense for anyone who is worried or fearful (the term is “reasonable apprehension”) that a dog might bite them. It is therefore important to ensure that your dog is under control at all times and in all places; the law includes incidents that occur on private property, such as inside your home and inside a front or back garden.
If a person is found in possession of a prohibited dog, the police or the council are legally entitled to remove it, whether or not it is acting in a dangerous manner.
An expert will then assess the breed type of the dog and whether it poses (or could pose) a danger to the public. The dog will either be kept in kennels while police address the court or released.
Once in court, the owner must prove that the dog is not a prohibited breed and if successful, the dog will be returned.
But if the dog is found to be a dangerous type or if the owner pleads guilty, he could face an unlimited fine or up to six months in prison as well as the destruction of the dog.
In some cases, the court may decide that although the dog is a prohibited breed, it is not a danger to the public.
If this happens, the dog will be placed on the National Exempt Dog Index and its owner will receive an exemption certificate.
The certificate is valid for the life of the dog but must be neutered, microchipped, leashed and muzzled in public and kept in a safe place.
The owner must also insure the dog against injury to others and be over 16 years of age.