Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (c. 65) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was introduced in response to various incidents of serious injury or death resulting from attacks by aggressive and uncontrolled dogs, particularly on children. These incidents received heavy media attention, causing widespread public concern over the keeping of dangerous dogs and a resulting legislative response.
The effect of the Act
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 lead in public, they must be registered and insured, neutered, tattooed and receive microchip implants. The Act also bans the breeding, sale and exchange of these dogs, even if they are on the Index of Exempted Dogs.
Four types in particular were identified by the Act:
- Pit Bull Terrier (The English Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not on the list)
- Japanese Tosa
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
The Act also covers cross breeds of the above four types of dog. Dangerous dogs are classified by 'type', not by breed label. This means that whether a dog is prohibited under the Act will depend on a judgement about its physical characteristics, and whether they match the description of a prohibited 'type'. This assessment of the physical characteristics is made by a court.
The Index of Exempted Dogs
The Index of Exempted Dogs is maintained by the Animal Welfare section of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which administers the registration of specially-controlled dogs in England and Wales.
In 1991 and 1992 details of all Specially Controlled Dogs and their owners and keepers had to be added to the Index of Exempted Dogs. From early 1992 to 1997 no dogs were allowed to be added to the Index. In 1997 The Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997 was passed which made some changes.
There have been several test cases of the Act, most famously Dempsey (a pit bull terrier) who in 1995 was finally reprieved from a destruction order, to widespread media attention. The definition of the word "type" in the legislation was of particular controversy, as was the lack of discretion that the Act gives magistrates.
Criticism of the Act
The Act has been described as a piece of rushed legislation which was an overreaction to a transient public mood. The Act is sometimes cited as an unfavourable example of such legislation, and in January 2007 was included in public responses to a BBC Radio 4 poll of unpopular UK legislation.
Comparable legislation elsewhere
Many other countries also have laws pertaining to dangerous dogs. These vary in severity. In some jurisdictions in Australia dogs which have been declared dangerous are required to wear a collar of red and yellow stripes; under the legislation of some municipalities of Queensland, such dogs are seized and destroyed. In some local government areas restrictions are very carefully spelt out.
- "Types of dogs prohibited in Great Britain : Guidance on the recognition of prohibited dogs in Great Britain". Defra. 2003. Retrieved 7 February 2013. via Internet Archive Wayback Machine
- Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 Short title, interpretation, commencement and extent, on the Statute Law Database
- The Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1991, on the Statute Law Database
- "Dog control laws and pit bulls". BBC News. 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- "The Lords is the more democratic house". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2004-04-13. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- Whatever happened to dangerous dogs?
- "Hunting ban tops 'unpopular' poll". BBC News. 2007-01-01. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- Restricted Dog Breeds in Rockingham, Western Australia
- BBC Article on a dog attack - July 2005
- BBC Article on a dog attack - January 2007
- BBC Article "How do you fend off a dangerous dog?"
- BBC Article: Dangerous Dogs Act included in poll of unpopular laws
- Deed Not Breed UK Campaign fighting the addition of any new breed to the DDA.
- Rover's Law - Megan's Law for Bad Dogs
- Information, Education, Advice & Support for dog owners in the UK, against breed specific legislation.
- Independent Article On Dog Attack June 2010.
- Text of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database