SOME breeds of dog are deemed as dangerous – and have even been banned in the UK.
The official Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) bans four breeds from being owned or bred, but what is the law surrounding dangerous dogs and which breeds are affected?
What dogs are dangerous?
Dogs are not just playful, friendly and loyal but they can be dangerous too.
People tend to think of large, vicious dogs when they imagine being bit by one.
But the truth is that many types of dogs are known to bite humans, whether provoked or not.
However, it’s important to remember that just because a breed tends to bite humans, that doesn’t mean that they all do.
British law determines four certain types of dogs as dangerous and therefore makes it illegal to own, breed, sell or give away.
These are a Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.
Pit Bull Terrier
The American Pit Bull Terrier was originally bred in England for fighting in sports such as bear baiting during the early 19th-century England, with these often taking place in a "pit."
When those sports were deemed inhumane and became illegal in 1835, dog-fighting sprung up in its place — and thus was the trait for dog aggression bred into the genetic line.
According to the United Kennel Club (UKC), the essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence, and zest for life.
It is a medium-sized, intelligent, short-haired dog, of a solid build.
The Japanese Tosa was also bred for fighting in the Far East.
Dogfighters in Japan did not want a normal type of fighting dog. They wanted a dog that would fight in sumo-style wrestling, and they developed this breed for that purpose.
Owing to Japanese dog fighting rules, the animals weren't allowed to make any noise in the pit so some of these dogs are said to have been able to fight in silence.
The Argentine Dogo is a large, white, muscular breed of dog that was developed in Argentina primarily for the purpose of big-game hunting, including wild boar.
Breeders also wanted a dog that would exhibit steadfast bravery and willingly protect its human companion.
It became popular for dog fighting when they were brought to this country.
The Fila Brasileiro is known for its superb tracking ability, aggressiveness and an unforgiving, impetuous temperament.
Rather than attacking its prey, the Fila traps it and waits for the hunter to arrive.
When slavery was legalised in Brazil in the 18th century, the Fila Brasileiro was used to return fugitive slaves unharmed to their masters.
It also became a popular choice for dog fighting in the UK.
What is the Dangerous Dogs Act?
After eleven horrific attacks in 1991, Home Secretary Kenneth Baker promised "to rid the country of the menace of these fighting dogs" by introducing the Dangerous Dogs Act.
The law is often considered controversial as it focuses on a dog's breed or looks instead of an individual dog's behaviour, and fails to stem the rise of dog attacks.
According to the RSPCA, over a third of the people killed by dogs since the act was brought in were attacked by legal breeds.
How is the Dangerous Dogs Act enforced?
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, if a person owns a banned dog, the police or council are allowed to take it away and keep it regardless of whether or not it is acting dangerously or a complaint has been made.
If the animal is in a public place, they can simply be confiscated there and then – but in private, police must have a warrant to take the dog.
After it has been examined by an expert, the dog will either be kept in kennels while the police apply to the court or released.
Once in court, the owner has to prove the dog is not a banned breed and if successful, the dog will be returned.
But if the dog is deemed to be a dangerous type or the owner pleads guilty, they could face an unlimited fine or up to six months in prison as well as the dog being destroyed.
In some instances, the court may decide that although the dog is banned, it is not a danger to the public.
If you have bought a puppy you believe is a Pit Bull Terrier but the dog is friendly and "well socialised", you can speak to the Met police’s Status Dogs Unit.
If this happens, the owner will be given a Certificate of Exemption and the dog will be put on the national Index of Exempted Dogs.
The certificate is valid for the life of the dog but it must be neutered, microchipped, kept on a leash and muzzled in public and kept in a secure place.
The owner must also insure the dog against injuring other people and be more than 16 years old.
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