In 1991, the UK government brought in legislation prohibiting certain dog breeds. This was in response to a number of incidents involving sometimes unprovoked attacks by certain breeds of dog, on humans.
The legislation is known as breed specific legislation. This breed specific approach is questioned by some people, because the training a dog receives and how it is brought up can be just as important. So, what are the illegal dogs in the UK? And why are they illegal?
The Dangerous Dog Act 1991
The Dangerous Dog Act is an act created by the government on the 25th of July 1991, to prohibit a person from owning a dog belonging to certain breeds that had originally been bred for fighting. It also makes it illegal to sell, breed, give away or abandon one of these dogs. In addition, it is a criminal offence for the owner or person in charge of the dog to allow the dog to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public place or be in a place where it is not permitted to be.
If the dog injures a person, it may be seized by the police, and penalties can include a personal sentence or a ban on keeping dogs. The original legislation ordered the mandatory destruction of dogs on the banned breed list. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1997 amended this mandatory destruction order so that a dog found guilty of looking like a banned breed could be exempted if it passed a behavioural assessment.
Why are some breeds banned in the UK?
Certain dog breeds developed reputations for being more aggressive and responsible for more serious injuries to people than others. Breed specific legislation, banning certain breeds, was brought in to try and prevent or at least reduce the number of dog attacks on people.
What dogs are illegal in the UK?
There are currently four illegal dogs in the UK. Those are Pit Bull terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro.
The Pit Bull Terrier
For centuries Pit Bulls were bred for blood sport, usually these were fights to the death like bull and bear baiting, where a group of dogs were set against bigger animals in a pit. These ‘sports’ were made illegal in 1835. However, the Victorians bred Pit Bulls to take part in dog fights. As a result, the breed gained a reputation, which many people now argue is unfairly based upon the actions of a handful of unethical breeders. Unfortunately, it was a series of attacks involving the Pit Bull breed that ultimately led to the instigation of the 1991 Act, therefore pronouncing the breed and its variants one of the illegal dogs in the UK.
The Japanese Tosa, was and still is, a popular fighting dog in Japan. Japanese rules meant that dogs were not allowed to make any noise in the pit, so the Tosa is said to have been able to fight in complete silence.
In the 1800’s the Tosa was bred with various other breeds such as the Bulldog and Mastiff to produce a dog that was heavy, agile, and powerful. Its breeding as a fighting dog has led to the breed being banned in the UK. The Tosa is also banned in many other countries.
The Dogo Argentino was bred for big-game hunting, as well as for its bravery and protective instincts. These behavioural traits, together with its large, muscular, powerful build, led to the Dogo Argentino being banned in the UK. However, this dog is not for any first-time dog owner - due to the dog’s stubbornness, intelligence and domineering tendencies, it needs to be kept by an experienced owner. This is another reason why the Dogo Argentino isn’t just illegal in the UK, but in several other countries worldwide.
The Fila Brasileiro, which is more commonly known as the Brazilian Mastiff, is a large dog bred in Brazil. Whilst the breed is commended by Brazilians for its loyalty, the Fila Brasileiro is also known to have aggressive tendencies, and it is intelligent and very strong.
The breed was used originally as a hunting and working dog. They are not known to be attack dogs, but catch dogs, meaning they can catch their prey and hold it at bay until the hunter arrives. The breed is still used on farms to protect herds and to catch predators. The Fila Brasileiro’s primary instinct is to protect but it can become very anti-social if not trained properly during its prime development years and its strong hunting and protecting instincts have resulted in it being banned in many countries.
What if I own a banned breed in the UK?
If you own a banned dog in the UK then the police can take it off you, even if it’s well behaved. If you’re convicted of owning a banned dog or a dog of a mix of banned breeds, you can expect a fine, a six-month prison sentence, or both. If the dog has caused a nuisance or worse, the sentence will reflect the seriousness of the offence.
However, if you can provide evidence that the dog is safe, despite it being a banned breed, then you can get a certificate of exemption. This means you will be allowed to keep it, but you have to have special insurance. You must be over the age of 16, and the dog must be muzzled in public at all times.
The subjects of the Dangerous Dog Act and what makes dogs ‘dangerous’ are heavily debated. It has long been suggested that irresponsible owners are to blame for the tarnishing of some breeds, while others argue that generations of breeding for behaviours such as aggression, result in certain breeds being inherently more dangerous than others. These differences in opinion will continue to be discussed, although it seems unlikely that the current illegal dogs in the UK will be allowed to re-enter the UK anytime soon.
That’s our guide on what dogs are illegal in the UK. If you want to know more about specific dog breeds why not take a look at our article, top 10 most popular dog breeds, next.