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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 its 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 to seize it
•    a private place, the police must get a warrant to seize it
•    a private place and the police have a warrant for something else (like a drugs search), they can seize it

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 will  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 but you can’t be forced.  Should you choose to give up ownership of your dog, the 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:

•    neutered
•    microchipped
•    kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public
•    kept in a secure place so it can't escape

As an owner of a banned type of dog with a Certificate of Exemption, 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 your address, or your dog dies.

Related questions


If you find an injured or sick animal, you can phone a local vet who will be able to provide advice.

If you wish to catch and transport the animal, a vet will also be able to advise you how to do this safely. See the link in Related Information to find a local vet.

For larger injured wildlife, phone the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 and do not try to catch the animal yourself.

The following animals cannot be handled or transported by the public:

    • an injured deer
    • seal
    • wild boar
    • otter
    • badger
    • fox
    • snake
    • bird of prey (including owls)
    • swan
    • goose
    • heron
    • gull


You could speak to your neighbour about the problem as they may not be aware it is happening.

Unless there is any evidence of the dog being mistreated then the RSPCA will not be able to help. If you do believe that the dog is being mistreated, you can contact the RSPCA via their telephone number 0300 1234 999.

The noise could be classed as a noise nuisance so you would need to report it to the Environmental Health department of your local authority.

See the website in related information to find your local authority.


It is not advisable to force entry to the vehicle yourself straight away. Depending on the level of distress, your first step should be to call the police on 101, or 999 in an emergency.

If the police don't have time to get there, then you have to decide if you should take action by forcing entry. Make sure you tell the police what you intend to do, why and, where possible, take images/footage of the dog and the names and numbers of witnesses to the incident. The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if:

'at the time you believed that the person whom you believe to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question . . . .would consent to it if s/he . . . had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances' (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).
(this legal reference is slightly modified for clarity)

Do not do this without fully assessing the situation, and being prepared to defend your actions in court, in the event of any legal action being taken against you.

The RSPCA can offer guidance on information on cruelty via their cruelty line at any time on 0300 1234 999. See further advice from the RSPCA on the website in related information.


There have been decisions in the past by courts and authorities to suggest that it is the nature of a dog to kill and wound small animals. As such, unfortunately there is no certainty that the police could take action, in the event of your pet being killed or wounded by a dog.

The police will however take action if the dog was dangerously out of control (see Q653 for more information on this).

If the police cannot take action under the circumstances, the other possible alternative is to pursue civil proceedings against the dog owner. In this event, we would recommend contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau for further guidance on this process.

This answer does not take into account deliberate attacks or dog fights which are separate offences.


Here are some of our top tips to help find your lost dog:

    • You should phone the database that your dog's microchip is registered with and report them missing.
    • Contact your local dog warden service, details of which can be found in Related Information.
    • Notify your local vets of the situation regarding your lost dog.
    • Visit places where you regularly take your dog for walks.
    • Posting on social media that your dog is missing can be a very effective way of alerting family and friends that are close by.

Please see the websites in Related Information for more help and advice.

Contact your local police force

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