Q651: What type of dogs are illegal and what could happen if I own one?
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, it is illegal to own certain types of dog. These are - a pit bull terrier type, a Japanese Tosa type, Dogo Argentino type and a Fila Braziliero type. Whether a dog is banned depends on its appearance rather than it's breed or name.
For example, if you owned a dog that had many characteristics of a Pit Bull Terrier, it may be a banned type. It is also against the law to sell, abandon, give away or breed from a banned dog.
The police, with the permission of a court, may seize a banned dog even if a complaint hasn't been made and the dog isn't acting dangerously. If a banned type of dog is in:
- a public place the police don't need a warrant
- a private place, the police must get a warrant
- a private place and the police have a warrant for something else (like a drugs search), they can seize your dog.
When a banned dog is seized, a police dog expert will then judge what type of dog you have and whether it is, or could be, a danger to the public. Depending on their decision your dog will either be released or kept in kennels before the case goes to court. If it goes to court, you cannot visit your dog until a decision has been made.
If it does go to court, it would be your responsibility to prove your dog is not a banned type. If you are successful, your dog will be released to you. If you are not, you will be found guilty of owning a banned type of dog. You can choose to give up ownership of your dog which would mean it could be destroyed before even going to court.
If the courts do not consider a banned type to be a danger to the public, you may be allowed to keep it. You will be given a Certificate of Exemption and your dog must be:
- kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public
- kept in a secure place so it can't escape
For more information on dangerous dogs, please see Q653.
You're not allowed to visit your dog while you wait for the court decision.
You can give up ownership of your dog but you can't be forced to. If you do, your dog could be destroyed without you even going to court.
As the owner, (of a banned type) you must:
- take out insurance against your dog injuring other people
- be aged over 16
- show the Certificate of Exemption when asked by a police officer or council dog warden, either at the time or within 5 days
- let the Index of Exempted Dogs know if you change address, or your dog dies