Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 Banned Breeds List

Many people come to this site looking for information about dog breeds that were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.  So here is a list of banned breeds under UK law along with a short history of when the law was amended or added to.  (And of course some personal political commentary about why this Act needs to be repealed and replaced with some decent dog legislation.)

Under the original 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act the list of banned breeds or so called dangerous breeds was quite short and is as follows:

  • Any Dog known as a Pitbull type
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Any dog known to be bred for fighting, or having the appearance of having been bred for fighting.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was amended in August 1991 to include additional breeds of “dangerous dogs”.  Under the amendment the following dog breeds were added:

  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 Banned Breeds List

Thus the full list of banned breeds under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is as follows:

  • Any dog known as a pitbull type (eg American Pitbulls, Blue Nose Pitbulls, Red Nose Pitbulls)
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Fila Brasileiro
  • Dogo Argentino
  • And any dog who in the opinion of the Secretary of State was bred for fighting, or has the appearance of a dog bred for fighting

The problem of course, apart from the idea of breed specific legislation itself, is that addition of breeds to this list is at the sole option of the Secretary of State.  There doesn’t need to be any parliamentary debate or vote.  New breeds can be added at any time.  Thus the Act removes any idea of democratic representation of the views of the many involved parties.

A Home Secretary chasing votes in a General Election might therefore feel the need to add to the list of banned breeds to curry favour with a media that seems determined to fuel a moral panic about the issue.  Thus he can be seen as a man of action, while potentially tens of millions of dogs could be heading for destruction.  Definitely not the kind of legislation I want to see in a democratic country.

The Act was later amended again in 1997 to allow judges some leeway in interpreting the law and to clarify and expand some of the sections of the 1991 Act.

Dangerous Dogs Act 1997 Amendment

Under the original 1991 Act a judge had no option but to order the destruction of a dog if there were grounds to do so.  This kind of straightjacket legislation does not go down well with the judiciary.  Hence in 1997 the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997 (its official title) was brought into law.

The amendment mainly centres on dog destruction orders.  A major feature of this amendment was that it handed some power of interpretation back to the judiciary.  While this may be an improvement in one area, it does not address the weaknesses in the act as a whole.

Reducing Dog Attacks

A better idea would have been to repeal the original act and construct a better law, not based upon breed specific legislation, but rather based upon actions of dogs and owners.  Had this new law been formed with due consultation of dog behaviourist experts, veterinary surgeons and other interested parties parliament would have been far better informed about the real issues surrounding dog attacks and the laws necessary to reduce them.  If this process had occurred we might now have a sensible law that assists in the protection of the public and is easily enforceable instead of the continuing mess that is the current act.

Under the current legislation your dog only has to appear to be of a given type.  That is to say, if your dog looks like a pitbull it may be liable to be destroyed under the Dangerous Dogs Act.  It doesn’t matter if you have papers from the breeder to show the dog’s heritage.  The law is based upon appearance as determined by a court.  If your dog looks like a dangerous dog breed, then you may have to go to court to avoid having it taken from you and destroyed.

The problem here is that if you read the descriptions of the various descriptions of dangerous dogs it will quickly become apparent that they are extremely wide in nature.  (If you wish to read the governments description they are available by following the links in the sidebar.)

Although a dog may receive exemption from destruction by a court, it is not possible for an owner to apply for this exemption.  Owners are placed in the unenviable position of having to wait and see if they will arrive in court as the accused, rather than being able to deal with the situation in a sensible and proactive manner.

What is needed is the repeal of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, along with the 1997 amendment and the introduction of a realistic and sensible law that will protect the public from dog attacks and irresponsible owners.  This law should be based upon deed and not breed and should be only be formulated after true consultation with the necessary experts in animal behaviour.  The British people need to vote for a government that passes laws in the best interests of the population as a whole and not for a government whose agenda is driven by media whipped up hysteria over “dangerous dogs”.

Responsible dog owners need to unite and avoid any more breeds being added to the register of dangerous breeds.  If we do not then we will most likely see Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Rottweillers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds and most other large breed dogs eventually being classed as dangerous dogs and outlawed in this country.  The thugs can easily move their activities to another breed of dog and trash its reputation with the assistance of poor journalism.

Can you so easily replace a beloved pet that has done no wrong?

This information came from the Dangerous Dogs Act, 25th July 1991 as provided by HM Government:  http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1991/Ukpga_19910065_en_1.htm

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Dangerous Dogs – Part Two

Fighting Breeds

By this point there will undoubtedly be people reading this that are thinking “Yes, that is all very well but what about XXXX breed?  They are bred to be vicious and fight”.  Most likely these people will be considering so called “dangerous dogs” type breeds such as American Pitbulls,  or other pit bull “types”, Rottweiler’s, Doberman’s, German Shepherds or perhaps smaller dogs such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

My reply to this will need to be separated into a number of parts.

Firstly, the breed plays no significant role in the propensity of the dog to attack and is key reason why breed specific legislation is always misguided.  This fact has been established by responsible government bodies such as the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States of America.  There are a number of good books on this subject and my suggestion would be to buy and read one.

Secondly, although fighting dog breeds have been bred for certain physical characteristics they are no more dangerous than any other dog of similar physical capabilities.

To be more explicit, a fighting breed is often bred to have a large head and powerful jaws.  The jaws of the dog possess a bite strength in direct relationship to the size of the muscles powering them.  If a dog has large head and powerful jaws, when compared to its size, it will give a more powerful bite than an equivalent dog of the same physical stature.  In dog fighting this would give such a large headed dog an advantage and this is the reason why this physical characteristic has historically been bred for.

(Incidentally, locking jaws and other such impossible physiology on fighting breeds is an urban myth and such rubbish will be dealt with in a separate article exposing dangerous dog myths.)

This information about jaws and biting must be taken in context.  Any large, physically powerful dog can give a nasty bite, especially if it lacks a responsible owner and proper training and socialisation.  Larger teeth simply mean a deeper penetration of the bite; they do not signify an increased likelihood of the dog administering such a bite.  Again, this is backed up by the facts, rather than media driven hysteria.

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Main Contributory Factors to Making a Dog “Dangerous”

There are a large number of contributory factors that will come together to increase the likelihood that a dog can be considered to be dangerous.  Perhaps the single most important factor amongst these is irresponsible dog ownership.

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Irresponsible and cowardly individuals seeking a large or fighting breed dog to buoy up their manhood will often encourage a dog to show aggressive tendencies.  Over time the dog will learn that showing aggression is an activity that earns it a reward and true to the style of Pavlov’s dogs that aggression will become an ever larger part of the dog’s life.  Dogs kept for such purposes are often kennelled and kept out of the home which results in a dog that is even more poorly socialised otherwise might be the case.

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When dogs such as these are left unsupervised with young children it is a recipe for disaster.  The child, who will likely be used to well-socialised animals, will not understand the danger that it is in and so will not withdraw when the dog started to issue threat signals (growling or similar).  The dog on the other hand will only understand that aggression gets it whatever it wants and so when the child fails to withdraw the threat display will only increase, eventually resulting in a full blown attack.

Who is at fault here?

Clearly it is not the child who does not understand the danger that they are in.  Similarly it is difficult to blame the animal who is behaving in a manner that is has been taught by its owner is the way in which it should behave.  I suggest that the fault lies with the irresponsible owner who failed to train the animal in a socially responsible manner.

Leaving any animal alone with children is a risk.  Animal behaviour is never 100% predictable and where a dog has been taught to be aggressive and behave in a vicious manner the risks increase exponentially.  Banning the so-called dangerous dogs breeds will not solve this problem.  The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 clearly did not solve this problem.

What is needed is a law that addresses the problems created by irresponsible dog ownership and which does not place a placebo responsibility upon the breed of the dog.  Apart from the obvious considerations of sheer physical size there are no truly dangerous dogs, merely dangerous and irresponsible owners.

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