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Dangerous dogs


In response to the increase in incidents and fatalities involving XL Bully type dogs, the government In England and Wales decided to ban the breed. From 31st December 2023 it became illegal to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, rehome, abandon or allow an XL Bully to stray or allow a dog of this type to be in a public place without muzzling it or keeping it on a lead contrary to section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Owners of XL Bullys were able to apply for an exemption certificate which would allow them to legally keep their dog. This meant that the dog would be listed on the government Index of Exempted Dogs and the owners would be allowed to keep them. Owners are now under a duty to ensure that they have an exemption certificate but also that they hold third party liability insurance for their dog. Their dog must also be neutered and microchipped.
If you have missed the deadline to get an exemption certificate, you will now need to contact the Dog Legislation Officer at your local police force via 101. Any exemptions after the deadline can only be authorised by a court order, this will mean going through the courts and having your dog deemed not to be a danger to public safety - and added to the exemption register. This may incur costs.
Please see the related links for further information.


Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, it is illegal to own certain types of dog. These are - a pit bull terrier type, an XL Bully 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.


You can contact your local police (via 101) or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 and report the information to them. Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 deals with offences of possession and breeding of dogs bred for fighting such as a Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa and other types of dogs designated by order. Q651 gives more detail on the types of dogs that are illegal to own in the UK.

The police will make any necessary enquiries to identify the type of dog and take appropriate action. If you are concerned over the way a dog is being treated, you may want to make enquiries with the RSPCA who will be able to offer advice.


If a dog has attacked a person or animal, it is a police matter and you should contact them directly. Call 101 (or 999 in emergencies only).

If a dog poses an immediate threat to the safety of the public, the police or other responsible person (e.g. vet/local authority) can order that the dog be lawfully destroyed. It is a criminal offence for the person in charge of the dog to allow it to be 'dangerously out of control' anywhere in England and Wales, whether or not it is in a public place.

The following list explains when a dog may be considered dangerously out of control -

  • if it injures a person or an assistance dog, or
  • it causes a person to worry that it may injure them or an assistance dog, and the person in charge of the dog has no proper control of it.

The court could also decide that a dog is dangerously out of control if either of the following apply -

  • If it attacks another person's animal, or
  • the owner of an animal thinks that they could be injured trying to stop your dog attacking their animal.

If the dog has been established as dangerously out of control but does not pose an immediate threat to the public etc., the police and local authorities now have the power to act early to prevent dog attacks before they occur. These measures could include; attending dog training classes, repairing fencing to their property to prevent the dog from escaping or requiring the dog to be muzzled when out in public. See Q837 and Q835 for examples of orders the police can enforce.


There are various penalties you could face, depending on the circumstances. These could include -

• A fine and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months for having a dog that is dangerously out of control. (Q651 explains this further).

• A fine and/or imprisonment of up to 5 years if you let your dog injure someone

• A fine and/or imprisonment of up to 14 years if the dog kills someone

• A fine and/or imprisonment of up to 3 years if the dog causes Injury to an assistance dog (e.g. a guide dog)

Not only could you be liable for any of the above, you may not be allowed to own a dog in the future and your dog may be destroyed.

Contact your local police force

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