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What is the Dangerous Dog Act and How It Can Affect You

The Dangerous Dog Act was introduced in 1991 and is one of the most controversial pieces of legislations in the UK.

What is the purpose of the Dangerous Dog Act?

The main reason for introducing the act was to make it illegal to have a dog that is “dangerously out of control” on public places. This includes dogs that attack people or other dogs, or simply when a person feels that the dog might be a threat for the public and raises a complaint.

The act was rushed after a series of incidents with dogs attacking people and a number of illegal fights being reported that year. It was seen as a quick solution taken by the Government to cope with the problem.

The most controversial part of the Dangerous Dog Act is the “Specially Control Dogs” clause, also known as banned breeds. The four banned dog breeds are Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasiliero.

What does the Dangerous Dog Act mean to dog owners?

It’s illegal to own, sell, breed or abandon one of the banned dog breeds. The worse part is that it doesn’t matter what’s your dog’s breed, but whether it looks like one of the banned dogs.

And after the changes in 2014 when the law was extended to private properties, as well, it literally means that if you own a dog that slightly resembles one of these four breeds, you might be in trouble.

Can police take your dog if he’s not a danger to the public?

Yes, they can and that’s why the Dangerous Dog Act is one of the most criticised legislations in this country. Police and dog wardens can come and take your dog even if he never acted dangerously, only on the ground that he looks like one of the banned breeds. They will need a warrant to seize your dog, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that there has been a complaint. Probably someone just “reported the dog”.

Once the dog is seized, she’ll be sent to a shelter or kennel where police and dog experts will decide what type of dog she is and whether she’s a danger to the public. Dog owners are not allowed to visit the dog, the most optimistic thing would be to let the dog on a “doggy bail” until the court decides what’s the verdict.

If they decide that your dog is a banned type, but not dangerous for the public, they may put it on the Index of Exempted Dogs (IED). You can keep your dog, if he’s always muzzled and held on a leash in public. You’ll also need to microchip and neuter him, if he hasn’t been.

No surprise the act has been heavily criticised by a number of dog organisation and public figures. There has been a number of cases of dogs put to sleep because of the controversial and unclear tactics of how dog experts determine if the dog is a danger to the public.

A dog abruptly taken from his home and closed in a kennel is very likely to behave confused and protective when being examined. Battersea Dogs and Cats home estimated that 71% of the pit bulls that were taken last year could have been rehomed due to their friendly nature. Instead, all 91 of them were put to sleep…

Many dog experts and owners still find it shocking that a dog could be banned just because of its breed, without taking into consideration his personality and behaviour.

There’re a number of petitions that you could sign to support the change of the law.