The Pitbull is traditionally thought as a fighting dog due to its appearance. Pitbull’s were defined by the Pitbull Gazette volume 1 issue 3 1977 based on features and characteristics of each dog rather than a specific breed. There’s no such thing as a Pitbull bull breed of dog. In the UK we call this type of dog a Pitbull type. This simply means a dog that measures up to specific characteristics.
The breeding between any two dogs regardless of pedigree can result in a litter which may contain a Pitbull type dog. This is one reason why the Dangerous Dogs Act does not work and why 25 years after bringing in the legislation there are still Pitbull type dogs - not bred for fighting but usually family pets.
Pit Bulls and the Dangerous Dogs Act
Pit Bull Terriers are one of the four banned type of dogs detailed in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. The act classifies these dogs as ‘types’ rather than breeds. This means that dogs are classified by characteristics they share with Pit Bull Terriers rather than their breeding.
Therefore, any dog with enough characteristics that match that of a Pitbull type dog can be in breach of the law. The guidance followed to determine characteristics is that of the American Dog Breeders association (ADBA).
Are All Pit Bull Terriers Dangerous?
As the old saying goes, there are no bad dogs, just bad owners. Pit Bull types dogs are very intelligent and can be easily trained. Owners of these dogs often see how loving and nurturing they can be.
Unfortunately, irresponsible owners and poor training can lead to some dogs having difficult temperaments. A wave of negative media attention that only focused on these poorly-treated cases lead to the implementation of the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Can I Own a Pit-Bull Terrier?
The answer to this is yes as long as you have a certificate issued by DEFRA and are featured on their Index of Exempted Dogs, you are allowed to own a Pit Bull type dog. To qualify for exemption your case will have to go before a magistrate’s court who will then consider whether your dog poses a risk to public safety and whether you are a fit and proper person to own a prohibited dog.
Should the court agree for the dog to be placed on the exempted list a contingent destruction order will be granted with conditions that must be followed. These conditions are for the dog to be has been spayed, insurance to be taken out which covers exempted dogs (usually dogs trust), the dog must be kept on a lead and muzzle in all public places and is only walked by people over the age of 16 years of age. In addition to this the dog must be registered to an address and must not be away from that address for more than 30 days in a 12-month period.
As the law currently stands the ownership of the dog can only be transferred to somebody else if the original owner is seriously ill or has died. To transfer ownership an application must be made to the court for change of ownership. Failure to follow any of these rules will result in a breach of the exemption. As a result of a breach the dog will be seized by police and face destruction.
Can the Police Seize my Pit Bull Terrier?
Yes. The law allows the police to seize any prohibited breed of dog, even if that dog is on private property and has not been acting dangerously.
Some police forces offer a scheme known as the interim exemption scheme. This scheme allows dogs to be reunited with their owners following seizure while awaiting a court date. However please note there is many police forces that do not offer this scheme and the dog will remain in kennels until the case has been to court and a final decision has been made.
What Can I Do if my Dog Has Been Seized?
The most important thing for you to do if your dog is seized is that you do NOT sign anything. There have been cases in the past where dogs have been unknowingly signed over to the Police, leading to them having the authority to destroy the dog without going through the court process.
We recommend you contact us as soon as the police become involved. Our expert and sympathetic team are experts in dealing with dog law. We will make sure that your four-legged friend gets the fighting chance they deserve to be released back into your care.