Dangerous Dogs – The Essentials
As with most animals, dogs can sometimes be aggressive towards their owners and other people – this aggression can manifest itself in many ways, such as barking, growling and occasionally physical attacks.
Some dogs are deemed to be a ‘higher-risk’ than other canines when it comes to aggression and temperament; this is based on the ‘type’ of a certain dogs which have the characteristics of being dangerous.
Although any dog can be ‘dangerous’ in its own way, a small group of dogs are considered too dangerous for ownership in the UK, as their historic temperament and build make them naturally aggressive. This is where the term ‘type’ come into play, as breed is too broad, type allows experts to pass judgement on physical characteristics.
The breeds banned in the UK are:
• Pit Bull Terrier (a description which has led to some confusion, as the "Pit bull" is not a breed in and of itself but encompasses a range of breeds)
• Japanese Tosa
• Dogo Argentino
• Fila Brasileiro
These types of dog were identified as dangerous in the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991. Under the 1991 Act (and as amended in 1997) it is illegal to own any Specially Controlled Dogs without specific exemption from a court. The dogs have to be muzzled and kept on a leash in public, they must be registered and insured, neutered, tattooed and receive microchip implants. The Act also bans the breeding, sale and exchange of the above dogs, even if they are on the Index of Exempted Dogs.
The passing of this act came about after incidents where these dangerous dogs attacked small children and adults, but there was no law to restrict their ownership of such pets.
The act is often considered to be an under-thought piece of legislation, drafted at a time when the public mood had shifted and the dogs were demonised for attacks.
What should I do if I know that someone is in possession of a dangerous dog?
If you encounter an aggressive dog that looks like it could cause harm to someone, then you should report it immediately.
If someone is in possession of a dangerous dog then they are breaking the law, unless they have an exemption from court.
It is not advised that you tackle the issue head-on with the owner, it is often better to seek the advice of your local council who will refer you to the local dog control officer. The officer will then pay a visit to the reported dog owners and reach a conclusion as to whether the animal is dangerous or not, basing it on type, characteristics and build.
If you experience any aggression from an owner or their dog then report the incident to the Police immediately, as they have the powers to intervene quickly and call in professionals to deal with the dog while they speak to the owner.