Updated: Jun 19
Many of you will have seen in the media recently the devastating news of the death of a 17 month old child, killed in her home by a dog suspected to be a banned breed, bought one week earlier .
The pandemic has lead to a surge in puppy sales throughout the world, many illegally breed in poor conditions.
Do you know which dogs are deemed dangerous by the Dangerous Dogs Act, and banned in the UK? A lot of people are unaware. The breeds were selected as they were believed to be more likely to attack than other breeds so hundreds of dogs are euthanised each year, regardless of their behaviour.
The Dangerous Dog Act was formed in 1991 after 11 major dog attacks occurred that year, and it is illegal to own one of the four breeds of dogs.
Pit Bull Terrier
A muscular dog, originally bred in England for fighting bulls, bears and other animals. Once this became illegal they were bred for dog fighting. Characteristics of the Pit Bull are strength, confidence and zest for life.
Bred for fighting , a large, short coated dog, characteristics include athleticism, agility and power. Historically they fought in Japan in fighting pits
A large, muscular white breed of dog developed in Argentina for big game hunting such as boar and puma. Today it is still used for hunting and as a guard dog. These dogs are intelligent, strong and have a strong instinct to protect their territory and family.
Originally from Brazil, these dogs are large, energetic and originally bred to hunt and track livestock and fend off predators. They are very loyal to their owners and are hardwired to chase smaller animals like cats and small dogs.
The RSPCA reports that a third of people killed by dogs since the act was introduced have been attacked by legal breeds. Regardless of your dogs breed, shape or size, the Dangerous Dogs Act applies to all dog owners. It is illegal for any dog to be out of control and bite or attack someone.
For this reason it is very important that all dogs are kept under control at all times, the law even applies to incidents on private property.
What happens if you are caught with a dangerous dog?
The police or council are legally able to cease the dog even if it is not behaving dangerously. The dog is then assessed by an expert to what breed it is and if it could be a danger to the public. The dog is kept in kennels prior to a court date and if the owner can prove the dog is not a banned breed it can be released. If the dog is a banned breed the owner can receive a very large fine or 6 months in prison and the dog is humanly euthanised.
Occasionally a court can decide that even though the dog is a banned breed it is not a danger to public and the dog is returned to the owner with a certificate of exemption. The dog must be kept on a lead and muzzled at all times in public. The dog must be insured against injuring people and owned by someone over 16 years of age.
It is also illegal to sell, abandon, give away or breed from a banned dog.
Banned breeds are determined on what it looks like rather than its breed or name. If your dog matches the characteristics of a banned breed such as a Pit bull it may be a banned type.
Many feel the DDA is a poor, ill thought out regulation and it has had much criticism . Studies show that the everyday practicalities of the breed specific legislation can be difficult to enforce and public and professionals have found difficulty identifying the banned breeds. In Scotland in 1996 it was found there was no reduction in dog bites after the DDA had come into place. It was also found that GSD and mongrels were the most common dogs biting people.
The government has reviewed the DDA and small changes made but the breed specific legislation will not be changed and they maintain prohibited breeds present an increased risk to pubic safety.
The UK does not recognise the Pit Bull as a kennel club breed therefore there are no UK breed standards to recognise this breed. Dogs are identified as Pit Bull type when they meet a substantial number of 15 physical features copied from the American Pit Bull Gazette. Lack of clear breed standards means many professionals and owners can struggle to identify Pit Bulls with certainty.
From a legal side the Dangerous Dogs Act has made major steps forward over the last 30 years. However many believe there are 2 areas which could be improved.
The proof of breed identification should be amended to ensure only dogs intended to be regulated under the DDA are affected.
Change of ownership of banned breeds should be possible .
Some believe these changes would improve ethical impacts and that breed specific legislation should be removed and that the DDA should deal with all breed aggression equally with consistency when dealing with dangerous and aggressive dogs.
I have my own thoughts on the DDA, one thing I do strongly believe is that after dealing with dogs for 15 years on a daily basis, any dog can bite and potentially cause serious harm. Thinking of biting as a breed typical trait is wrong. I have had numerous 'safe' breeds try and bite me and become incredibly aggressive. I think great socialisation from an early age, good training and hierarchy within the family unit helps form a well adjusted 'good dog'. At the end of the day no dog is 100% safe as you never know how they would behave if something unexpected happened to hurt or scare them. They can be our best friends and the best companion in the world and a much loved member of the family, but we always need to remember they have their own thoughts and feelings and at times could be unpredictable in certain situations.