This section of the Act applies to the following ‘type’ of dogs:
• Japanese Tosa
• Fila Brasiliero
• Dogo Argentino
• Pit Bull Terrier
It is illegal to own or be in possession of one of these breeds or breed types.
For a dog to be ‘of type’ such as ‘the type known as the pit bull terrier’ it must have a substantial number of characteristics of a pit bull terrier but does not need ALL of them. This means that many cross breeds and even pure bred dogs of other legal breeds may be deemed to be ‘of type’ if they do not conform to their own breed standard.
Prior to 1997 there was a mandatory destruction order on all four breeds and types thereof. However in 1997 the Act was amended to remove the mandatory death sentence and the courts were given discretionary power to add the dog to the Index of Exempted Dogs as an alternative to destruction. To do this the court must now be satisfied that the dog poses no danger to public safety and the owner or person in charge of it appears to the court to be a fit and proper person to own such a dog.
If the courts agree to the dog being exempted they will issue a ‘Contingent Destruction Order’ meaning that the dog will not be destroyed provided the owner abides by certain conditions within an 8 week time frame.
Failure to comply with the conditions of exemption will result in the dog being destroyed.
Conditions of exemption are as follows
• The dog must be microchipped.
• The dog must be muzzled and kept on lead in public places at ALL times, including the car.
• The dog must be neutered.
• Relevant third party liability insurance must be in place and remain so for the lifetime of the dog.
• The dog must not be walked by any person under the age of sixteen.
• The dog must not be bred from, gifted, sold or otherwise disposed of.
For a dog to be defined as ‘Dangerous’ under this section of the Act it does not need to have acted dangerously or be aggressive. A dog must simply have a substantial number of characteristics of one of the four banned breeds to be classed as an illegal dog.
If a dog is thought to be of the type it can and often will be seized and conveyed to secure kennels.
If the dog is in a public place a police officer or officer appointed by a local authority (Dog Warden for example) can legally seize the dog without a warrant. It does not matter who is in charge of the dog at this time.
It is an offence for any person, whether owner or not to be in possession of a banned breed or breed type even if they are not its owner.
If your dog is at home (private property) then officers will need to obtain a warrant in order to seize your dog, using such force as is reasonably necessary (unless you hand the dog over to them voluntarily) they may also seize any other thing which might be evidence of an offence.
If the police arrive at your home without a warrant you are within your rights to refuse entry however this will not stop your dog from being taken as officers will simply obtain a warrant and return.
You do not need to be at home for the police to enter with a warrant and seize any dog they believe to be of type. A warrant gives them the right to force entry even if you are not present.
The police or appointed officer does not need to have proof that your dog is of type before they seize it. They simply need to believe that it could be. In some cases an appointed breed identification expert will be in attendance to examine the dog and in any case, an appointed breed ID expert will examine your dog if it is seized and conveyed to kennels.
If the expert believes the dog is not of the type it will be allowed to remain with you or return home and no further action will be taken.
The police or local authority CANNOT destroy your dog for being ‘type’ without a court order UNLESS you consent to the dog being euthanised. Without your consent, the relevant authority must make an application to the court for a destruction order.
The courts will not necessarily order destruction and may instead agree to enter your dog onto the Index of Exempted Dogs.
If your dog is seized as a suspected type dog you may be given very little information. It is unlikely that you will be told where the dog is being kept and you will almost certainly NOT be allowed to visit.
You may be asked to give your consent for any veterinary treatment and should advise the seizing authority if the dog is taking any medication or has any special dietary needs.
PLEASE ENSURE YOU CAREFULLY READ ANY PAPERWORK YOU ARE ASKED TO SIGN AND IF IN ANY DOUBT AS TO ITS MEANING REFUSE TO SIGN UNTIL YOU HAVE OBTAINED ADVICE
The seizing authority has a duty of care towards all animals in their care. This means that animals should have adequate food, water, exercise and veterinary treatment.
If your dog requires any vaccinations, including boosters you should advise the relevant authority either at the time of seizure or as soon as possible afterwards. It is advisable to keep a written record of any telephone calls or written correspondence and to take the names, collar numbers and if possible, contact telephone numbers of every officer you deal with directly or by telephone.
Once the dog has been conveyed to kennels, a breed identification expert will be appointed to examine your dog. This can sometimes take several days or weeks.
Once an expert has determined in his or her opinion that your dog falls within the category of ‘type you will be contacted and informed of their findings.
You may be asked if you wish to disclaim your dog. If you agree to disclaim, your dog will be euthanised.
You should NOT feel under any pressure to disclaim. You have a right to a hearing in the courts where you may (on the advice of your own expert) challenge the presumption of ‘type’ and in any event will be able to ask the courts to consider making a contingent destruction order as an alternative to destruction.
It is possible that the area in which you live operates the Interim Exemption Scheme if this is the case and upon risk assessment it is possible that the authorities may allow your dog to return home to you pending court subject to conditions, however in our experience very few police forces are actively using the Interim Exemption Scheme which is at the discretion of the chief police officer of the force area so this is not something you can insist upon, however it is something that could be used when mitigating any application for kennelling costs at court.
The seizing authorities have two routes open to them at this point. They can bring criminal charges against you or they can bring a civil application, both of which come under Section 1 of the Act.
Section 1 –
Is a criminal charge. To charge a person under Section 1, the authorities must prepare a file to send to the Crown Prosecution Service who will decide if there is sufficient evidence to bring about a prosecution. If a dog has been identified as a banned breed type the case will almost certainly go ahead.
It can take a number of weeks or even months for a decision to made by the CPS during which time your dog will remain in kennels.
As this is a criminal charge you will be interviewed under caution and charged and we recommend you take legal advice and instruct a solicitor to attend all interviews with you. Free representation is available at police interview stage either by the duty solicitor, solicitor of your choice, or an agent of the solicitor you choose.
It is normal for a criminal case to take on average 6 months from the time your dog is seized to the first court hearing. As this is a criminal charge you will be able to apply for and subject to your means be granted legal aid to help you to fund your defence.
If you are pleading not guilty to owning a banned breed type, your solicitor will need to instruct an independent breed identification expert to examine your dog and report on their findings.
If you can satisfy the court that your dog does not have substantial characteristics of a banned breed type your dog will be returned to you with no restrictions.
If you are unable to satisfy the court that the dog is not of the type, you can still ask the courts to consider making a contingent destruction order and exempting the dog under section 4A of the act providing that YOU have satisfied them that the dog poses no danger to public safety, that you are a fit and proper person to be in charge of the dog, and you agree to abide by the conditions of exemption. Under Section 1 of the DDA, the burden of proof is reversed.
This means that it is not up to the prosecution to prove your dog is of a banned breed type, it is up to the defence (you) to prove it is not. In any prosecution it is presumed that the dog IS of a banned type unless there is sufficient evidence to the contrary.
If you are unable to satisfy the courts that –
• a) your dog is not of the type and
• b) if it is of type that it does not pose a danger to public safety, and that you are a fit and proper person to be in charge of it
– then they are likely to make an order for destruction under section 4 of the act.
You have the right to appeal against this decision. As with any criminal charge, if you are found guilty you will receive a criminal record.
You MAY also be fined up to £5000 or receive a prison sentence of up to 6 months. You may also be disqualified from owning a dog for a period of time if the court thinks fit.
Large fines and prison sentences are rarely given to ‘normal’ responsible dog owners whose dog is simply unfortunate enough to fit the definition of ‘type’.
Section 1 (4B Civil applications)
This section refers to ‘destruction order otherwise than on conviction’ and this section has been inserted into the original Act of 1991.
This means that the relevant authority may apply directly to the CIVIL court for a destruction order
- where it appears that no person has been or is to be prosecuted for an offence, either because the owner cannot be found or for some other reason.Or
- that the dog cannot be released into the custody or possession of its owner without the owner contravening the prohibition in section 1(3),
Simply put, it would be an offence for the authority to release your dog back to you without you breaking the law by being in possession of it.
If the seizing authority decide to apply for destruction under 4B you will not have a criminal record.
Applying to the courts under section 4B does NOT mean that the courts will order destruction, or necessarily that the authorities are asking for a destruction order.
This is often a simpler and faster way of getting you to court without the need to criminalise you.
On average a civil application takes between 1-12 weeks from the point of seizure. As this is a civil action not a criminal charge there is no legal aid available to help you fund your defence.
The courts may still order the destruction of your dog under this section if you fail to satisfy them that your dog poses no danger to public safety or that you are a fit and proper person, and the burden of proof is still reversed. If you decide to instruct a solicitor or dispute ‘type’ you will have to pay for your own legal representative and expert.
This can be expensive and prevents many people from being able to provide expert evidence on ‘type’.
You may have no need to instruct a solicitor for a 4b application, but we do suggest that you to contact us for advice on this and on how to properly prepare for court.
We may also be able to assist with locating and in some cases assisting with funding a breed identification expert if needed.
If you satisfy the courts that your dog poses no danger to public safety and that you are fit and proper, they will likely order that your dog be added to the Index of Exempted Dogs providing you comply with the conditions of exemption within the specified time frame of 8 weeks.
If you fail to satisfy the courts, they will issue an order for destruction of the dog.
You have the right to appeal this decision and must do so within 21 days of the order.
You will not receive a criminal record, or prison sentence or fine under this section of the Act however you may be ordered to pay a court application fee and in some cases, kennelling costs and legal fees for the prosecution.
If your dog is exempted under either section, there are certain costs that must be met by everyone. There is currently an exemption fee payable to DEFRA. Your dog will not be released until this fee is paid and third party liability insurance is in place.
DOGS TRUST have a membership scheme in place which INCLUDES relevant third party liability insurance and costs £25 per year. The policy covers a member for up to 10 dogs and is accepted by DEFRA as being suitable for exempted dogs.
You can join Dogs Trust at any time and it’s wise to have this insurance in place before you attend any court hearing.
Each police force or local authority applies for costs differently so these will depend on the area you live in. In some areas you will be asked to pay for or contribute towards your dogs kennelling, transport home, neutering and microchipping, whilst in other areas these costs or some of them at least are covered by the authority.
We usually have an up to date list of likely costs for the larger authorities and can get an estimate on your request for areas we do not currently hold information for. It is NOT possible for an owner to obtain exemption for a banned bred type without police or local authority intervention and a subsequent court appearance, however some forces and courts will look more favourably at your case if you voluntarily produce your dog for examination.
If you are at all worried about your dogs appearance and are considering contacting the police, please ring us first for advice and assistance.