In the UK, it is against the law to own certain types of dog. These include pit bull terriers (as well as the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Braziliero).
So why were pit bulls banned? The UK Government, in consultation with various connected agencies such as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), considers that pit bulls along with the other breeds are potentially dangerous to other people, children and pets.
The Government judges that pit bulls (along with the other three breeds) are more likely than most dogs to be aggressive or be amenable to being trained for aggression. Added to this, is their size and strength, which can present a serious risk to people if they do attack. Pit bulls are often used in illegal dog fights – a practice that will make dog aggressive.
Dangerous Dogs Act
Pitt bulls were originally banned in 1991, after the Dangerous Dogs Act. It was introduced to try and stamp out illegal dog fighting, which can include training methods such as slamming the dogs into brick walls or stringing them up by their teeth.
The Dangerous Dog Act makes it illegal to own a pit bull, but also to sell, abandon, give away or breed from one. If you have a banned dog, the police or the local council can take it away and keep it, even if your dog isn’t acting dangerously and there have been no complaints.
The police do not need a warrant if your dog is in a public place, but they do if it is in a private place – such as your home (although if they have warrant for something else such as a drugs search, the pit bull could be seized at the same time).
Proof of Breed
If your dog is taken, the police or the council might apply to the courts. It is then your responsibility to prove your dog is not a pit bull. If you can prove it, the dog will be returned to you. If you can’t(or you plead guilty) – you will be convicted of a crime, which might mean an unlimited fine or imprisonment of up to six months (or both). In addition, your dog will be destroyed.
Index of Exempted Dogs
If the court thinks your pit bull is not a danger to the public, it might be put on the Index of Exempted Dogs (IED), which will allow you to keep the dog. But the dog must be neutered, chipped and kept on a lead and muzzle when in public.
Not all dogs or even most dogs from any given breed will necessarily be aggressive or potentially dangerous. Many dog owners feel that the blanket ban is wrong – banned breeds such as pit bulls can make great pets if they are cared for properly, and organisations such as the RSPCA and the Kennel Club want the law changed. They feel the law focuses on a breed, rather than a dog’s actions and temperament.