Here we look at the laws around dangerous dogs and the responsibility of owners:
Controlling a dog in public
It’s against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control anywhere, including the owner's home as well as all public and private places.
A dog is considered dangerously out of control if it injures someone or even makes someone worried it may injure them.
A court could also decide that a dog is dangerously out of control if it attacks someone’s animal, or the owner of an animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal
It's important to note a farmer is allowed to kill your dog if it’s worrying their livestock.
A dog owner can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months - or both - if a dog is dangerously out of control.
They may also not be allowed to own a dog in the future and the dog concerned may be destroyed.
If an owner lets their dog injure someone, they can be sent to prison for up to five years or fined (or both). If an owner deliberately use their dog to injure someone they could be charged with ‘malicious wounding’.
If an owner allows their dog to kill someone, they can be sent to prison for up to 14 years or get an unlimited fine (or both).
If they allow their dog to injure an assistance dog (eg a guide dog) they can be sent to prison for up to three years or fined (or both).
In the UK, it’s against the law to own certain types of dog. These are the:
Pit Bull Terrier
It’s also against the law to:
sell a banned dog
abandon a banned dog
give away a banned dog
breed from a banned dog
Whether a dog is a banned type depends on what it looks like, rather than its breed or name.
For example, if a dog matches many of the characteristics of a Pit Bull Terrier, it may be a banned type.
If you have a banned dog
If you have a banned dog, the police or local council dog warden can take it away and keep it, even if:
it isn’t acting dangerously
there hasn’t been a complaint
The police may need permission from a court to do this.
If your dog is in:
a public place, the police don’t need a warrant
a private place, the police must get a warrant
a private place and the police have a warrant for something else (like a drugs search), they can seize your dog
A police or council dog expert will judge what type of dog you have and whether it is (or could be) a danger to the public. Your dog will then either be:
kept in kennels while the police (or council) apply to a court
You’re not allowed to visit your dog while you wait for the court decision.
You can give up ownership of your dog but you can’t be forced to. If you do, your dog could be destroyed without you even going to court.
Going to court
It’s your responsibility to prove your dog is not a banned type.
If you prove this, the court will order the dog to be returned to you. If you can’t prove it (or you plead guilty), you’ll be convicted of a crime.
You can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to 6 months (or both) for having a banned dog against the law. Your dog will also be destroyed.
Index of Exempted Dogs (IED)
If your dog is banned but the court thinks it’s not a danger to the public, it may put it on the IED and let you keep it.
You’ll be given a Certificate of Exemption. This is valid for the life of the dog.
Your dog must be:
kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public
kept in a secure place so it can’t escape
As the owner, 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 IED know if you change address, or your dog dies