What do you do if you find out your beloved pet doggie is a pit bull cross?
Firstly, why is this an issue? Pit bulls are one of four breeds of dogs banned in the UK under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Owning, breeding, importing or selling them is forbidden by the laws of this country. The government, in consultation with various agencies, believes pit bulls can be dangerous to other people, children and pets.
The Dangerous Dog Act was amended in 1997 in England, Scotland and Wales to remove the mandatory death sentence for dogs identified at pit bulls.
The pit bull isn’t specifically a dog breed. The term refers to a dog of a certain type, one that has common traits and ancestry with breeds such as the Staffordshire bull terrier, a bull terrier and the American pit bull terrier. Pit bull terriers were often used in illegal dog fights and there is a belief that many of them were bred to be aggressive.
The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act doesn’t just apply to pure pit bulls. It can apply to cross-breeds and mongrels. If the police believe your dog is a pit bull type, there is a chance your dog will be seized and could remain in a police-appointed kennel.
There is then a chance that a destruction order could be made.
It is your responsibility to prove your dog is not a banned type. Your local dog registration officer can make an assessment – though if they think the dog a pit bull or even a pit bull cross it is likely to be seized. A vet or show judge can also assess the dog, though identification is complicated.
If the dog is seized, you need to prove it’s either not a banned type or it isn’t dangerous. If the courts believe your dog is not dangerous, then it might be registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs (IED) and you will be allowed to keep it.
Dogs on the IED must be:
- neutered and microchipped
- kept on a lead and muzzled all the time when in public
- kept in a secure place where it can’t escape.
Owners of IEDs must:
- take out insurance against the 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 five days
- let the IED know if you change address, or the dog dies.
In addition, owners can’t advertise, sell or exchange the dog. Ownership can’t change either, unless the owner dies or becomes seriously ill.
It’s a difficult issue, but there are experts who can help you. The most important thing to do if you believe your dog is a pit bull cross and it’s not registered is to seek professional help as soon as you can. Better to be prepared in case your dog is reported and subsequently destroyed.
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