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Explaining illegal breeds: Which dogs are prohibited in the United Kingdom?

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  •  Here is all you need to know about dangerous and illegal dog breeds in the UK

Despite dogs being considered as loyal and loving canine companions by many, 10 people were killed by dogs in the UK in 2022, with another four deaths already so far in 2023.

In an attempt to prevent civilian deaths from attacks by dangerous dogs, the Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in 1991 with the aim of preventing serious dog attacks but in the decades since, but serious and sometimes fatal incidents have continued to occur in the UK. 

But which dogs are actually banned in the UK? What steps can you take to control your banned dog in public? 

Read on below for everything you need to know about the law when it comes to owning dangerous dogs in the UK. 

NHS data has shown Britons being mauled by dogs has grown dramatically since 2008 - a rate of 15 cases for every 100,000 of the UK population in 2023
Bella-Rae Birch was just 17 months old when an American Bully XL mauled her to death at her home in Blackbrook, St Helen's on March 21 2022
Jack Lis was just 10 when he was killed by an XXL Bully breed in November 2021

What is the Dangerous Dogs Act?

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Liverpool ECHO

Made law in 1991, the Dangerous Dog Act bans owning, breeding, selling, giving away, or abandoning four dog breeds, as well as banning any dog which is dangerously out of control.

After a string of attacks Kenneth Baker, Home Secretary in 1991, said that the Act aimed 'to rid the country of the menace of these fighting dogs'.

However, owners of banned breeds can get an exemption from the ban if they prove they are sufficiently well behaved.

Which breeds are banned by the Dangerous Dogs Act?

VIDEO: Banned Dogs vs Dangerous Dogs

This legislation makes four breeds of dog originally bred for fighting illegal in the UK.

These are: American Pitbull terriers, Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentinos, and Fila Brazileiro.

Crossbreeds of those four are also prohibited, depending on a judgement of their physical characteristics  and how well they match a 'typical' description.

American Pitbull terriers

These are the dogs most commonly involved in fatal dog attacks in the UK, and were originally bred for sport, where groups of them would be pitted against larger animals.

Despite that sport being outlawed in 1835, they were then bred to fight each other, and the breed developed an aggressive reputation.

According to Purina, this perception is argued by some to be unfairly down to unethical breeding rather than the dogs' nature. 

Japanese Tosas

The Japanese Tosa is still bred to take part in dogfighting in Japan, but is illegal in the UK and many other countries.

This breed is supposed to be able to fight in complete silence, in line with Japanese dogfighting rules. 

Dogos Argentinos

The Dogo Argentino was originally bred for big-game hunting, and its bravery and protective instincts.

Its intimidating and domineering tendencies have also contributed to it being banned in the UK and elsewhere. 

Fila Brasileiro 

More commonly known as the Brazilian Mastiff, the Fila Brasileiro is commended by those in its native Brazil for its loyalty.

However, this breed is also known to often be aggressive with its intuitions to hunt and protect easily being to their detriment when brought up badly.

American pitbull terriers, or bully crossbreeds, are the most commonly culpable dogs involved in fatal attacks in the UK
The Japanese tosa, also known as the Japanese Mastiff or Tosa Inu, is still bred and used in Japan for dogfighting
Dogos Argentinos were also primarily bred for fighting originally, but were also often used for hunting large game including pumas
An adult Fila Brasileiro often weighs above 50kg, with the heaviest weighing over 80kg

What to do if you have a banned breed 

VIDEO: Special Report | How dangerous dogs are dealt with in the UK
Sky News

If you have a well-behaved puppy which you believe to be a banned breed, you can approach the police's Status Dogs Unit for a certificate of exemption for life, on the condition that the dog is microchipped, neutered, and kept muzzled and on a leash in public spaces. 

Otherwise, if someone owns one of the dog breeds explicitly banned by the Dangerous Dog Act, the police or council are entitled to take it away irrespective of behaviour.

A warrant is needed to take a dangerous dog from someone's private property, but not in a public place.

The dog is either released, or held in kennels, before a court hearing at which the owner must prove that the dog is not a banned breed.

How to control your banned dog in public

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Ultimate Fact

The UK Government warns that it is against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control anywhere, such as in a public place, a private place, for example, a neighbour’s house or garden and in the owner's home. 

The law applies to all dogs, regardless of whether or not they are registered as a banned breed.

Your dog is considered to be out of control if it injures someone or makes someone worried that they may be injured by it. 

A court could also decide that your dog is dangerously out of control if it attacks someone’s animal or if the owner of an animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal. 

You can report a dog that’s out of control to your local council's dog warden service or your local police force.

What is the penalty for having a banned dog?


Sometimes the dog is a banned breed, but the court rules it to not be a danger to society. 

In this case the dog is put on the Index of Exempted Dogs and the same rules as above must be followed.

In addition to those, the owner must be at least 16 years old, take out insurance against the god injuring others, show the exemption certificate when asked by a police officer, and keep the Index of Exempt Dogs aware if you change address.

If the dog is deemed to be dangerous, the owner can receive up to six months in jail, or an unlimited fine, as well as the dog being killed.

UK records more than a dozen fatal dog attacks in the last two years alone

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Sky News

The first five months of 2023 alone has seen four people in the UK be killed by dogs, after ten died in 2022.

Two of the dogs involved in this year's incidents were American Bulldogs, with the other two unconfirmed.

John William Jones

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4 Ever Green

John William Jones, 68, known as William, was found dead at his country cottage in Lampeter, West Wales, on January 10th 2022. 

Police sedated three bulldogs Milo, Tia and Abbie after arriving at the scene.

Kyra Leanne King

VIDEO: Pitbulls At Saving Lives

Three-month-old Kyra Leanne King died on March 6th 2022, at Ostler's Plantation, near Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire.

A 40-year-old woman and a 54-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of being in charge of an out-of-control husky and remain under investigation.

Bella-Rae Birch 

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Ultimate Fact

Bella-Rae Birch was just 17 months old when an American Bully XL mauled her to death at her home in Blackbrook, St Helen's on March 21st 2022. 

The dog had been bought by her father 'for buttons' just one week earlier and was 'humanely destroyed' following the shocking attack, Merseyside Police said. 

Lawson Bond

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Top Discovery

Two-year-old Lawson Bond was savaged at home in the village of Egdon, Worcestershire, on March 28th. 

Lawson suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of his horrific injuries and died two days later on March 30th.

Daniel Twigg

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Doggy Digs

Three-year-old Daniel Twigg was mauled to death in a dog attack on a farm on May 15th.

Paramedics rushed to the area in Rochdale shortly after 1pm on Sunday to reports the youngster had been injured. Daniel was taken by ambulance to hospital where he was sadly pronounced dead.

Joanne Robinson

VIDEO: Shocking moment American Bulldog bites police horse multiple times in Victoria Park
The Sun

Joanne Robinson, 43, was killed by an American bully XL in West Melton, South Yorkshire, on July 15. 

Ian Symes

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34-year-old dog trainer Ian Symes was attacked in a park in Portsmouth on August 10th. He died from his injuries after being bitten by an American bully XL. 

Kevin Jones

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Blondi Foks

62-year-old  Kevin Jones died after being mauled by a dog at a house in Wales.

Police were called to a property on Holt Road, Wrexham, north Wales, at 11.44am on Monday, May 23rd.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said Mr Jones was having a heart attack after being bitten by the dog, but died at the scene despite efforts of paramedics.

Ann Dunn

VIDEO: Pair jailed for Caerphilly dog attack death

Ann Dunn, 65, became the ninth victim of a fatal dog attack on October 3rd after being mauled by multiple American bulldogs. 

Her body was found after she did not arrive to collect her grandson from school, neighbours say.

Shirley Patrick

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4 Ever Green

Pensioner Shirley Patrick, 83, died from her injuries two weeks after being attacked by an American Bully XL breed in Caerphilly, South Wales. 

Natasha Johnston

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Natasha Johnston (left) died after multiple neck wounds while on a dog walk, wit eight gods seized after the attack on January 12th.

Alice Stones

Animal Watch

Alice Stones was attacked in her back garden by her family's new dog, which was destroyed at the scene on January 31st.

Wayne Stevens

VIDEO: Dangerous dog deaths: Time to ban XL Bullies in the UK?
Times Radio

Wayne Stevens was fatally attacked by a dog in Derby in the early hours of April 22nd.

 Jonathan Hogg

VIDEO: Professor Green on the Murky World of Dangerous Dogs
BBC Three

Jonathan Hogg died after being mauled by an American Bully XL dog in May.


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