Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

Dangerous Dogs Amendment Act 1997

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Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 Overview

In 1991, due to the rising tide of dog attacks on people, often children, parliament introduced the Dangerous Dogs Act. This was to help govern and control the ownership of certain breeds of dog that were getting a lot of attention by the media. It was also designed to show the general public that the government was taking matters seriously and that action was being taken. What was included though in this Dangerous Dogs Act and how did it affect dog owners?

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 made it illegal to own certain dog “types” It is important to point out the difference between a type and a breed of dog. Legally they were looking for certain criteria for dogs to fall into to determine whether they were illegal or not. This was so the dogs would be judged individually and not as part of a breed. If a Pit-Bull style dog fitted a majority of type criteria, then it would be banned. This criterion was also used with cross-bred dogs, as well a dog whose parents were not banned dogs but their puppies may still have enough characteristics of a banned type to mean that it is banned.

There is the possibility of keeping even a dog of a banned type, if it can be added to the Index of Exempted Dogs (IED as it is often referred to). This could only happen following a court order. To ensure a dog is put on the IED, it would have to be neutered, tattooed, and kept on a lead and muzzled at all times in public places. These dogs would also have to be micro chipped, have insurance to cover against injury to other people and kept in a secure place. The cost of this would be borne by the owner and the owner is the one liable for any damages to property or persons.

The owner must also adhere to specific guidelines including:

The dangerous dogs act 1991 itself has come under fire. Many felt at the time and still do that this legislation was actually rushed in without proper thought and consideration being put into its development. It was also suggested that it was used as a cheap vote securing tactic by the government at the time. Another controversial side to the act is that it deals with dogs based on breed characteristics and not an individual dog’s action. It has long been proven by people like Caesar Milan, that all dogs can be dangerous if not trained and socialised correctly. While the bite of a Pit bull may be worse than that of a spaniel, a well trained Pit bull is less likely to bite you than perhaps a badly trained Spaniel.

So what can happen if your dog is a banned type or meets the banned dog characteristics? Well, it can be taken by the police without question, particularly if in a public place, even if it isn't acting dangerously or regardless of there being a complaint or not. In a private place the police will need to obtain a warrant before taking your dog. Your dog will be kept in police custody until a decision has been made in court whether to release or destroy the animal. This process can take as long as months to come to any result and you will not be allowed to see your dog for its duration.

There will be a council or police canine expert who will judge what type of dog you have and whether it is deemed to be a danger to the general public. Once a decision is made, your dog will either be released or kept in kennels while the council or police apply to the court. It is not mandatory to give up ownership of your dog, though doing this could result in your dog being destroyed without any court proceedings.

If you want to, you can go to court to prove that your dog is not a banned type. This is your responsibility and yours alone. If the court finds that your dog is a banned type or you plead guilty to owning a banned dog type, then you will receive a criminal record and be charged with a criminal offence. It is worth noting that you may be entitled to legal aid. If convicted, you could face up to 6 months imprisonment as well as, or instead of £5,000 fine.

The court will decide on whether to return your dog, if it's proven that it's not a banned dog. If it is proven to be a dangerous and banned dog type it will be destroyed. If it is deemed to be that of a banned type, but the judge does not feel it poses any threat, it may be granted exemption and added to the IED.