Dangerous dogs


Any dog can be a danger to the public, but certain types of dogs are banned in the UK. If you own an unregistered banned dog you are committing a criminal offence. Find out which dogs are banned and what can happen if you illegally own a banned dog.

Dangerous dogs

Report a dangerous dog to your local NPT

It’s an offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control. For information on what ‘out of control’ means, see ‘Controlling your dog in public’.

In addition, the ownership of certain types of dog is banned:


Pit Bull Terrier

Japanese Tosa

Dogo Argentino

Fila Braziliero

It’s illegal to breed from, sell, abandon or give away a banned dog.

The legislation that covers dangerous dogs is the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Section 3 covers any breed, while Section 1 and 4b cover banned dogs.

What is a ‘type’ of banned dog?

Whether your dog is a banned type depends on what it looks like, rather than its breed or name

A dog type is not a breed. Whether your dog is a banned type depends on what it looks like, rather than its breed or name.

If your dog matches many of the characteristics of a Pit Bull Terrier, it may be a banned type. This is because dogs with these characteristics are more likely than other dogs to cause severe harm if they attack.

It won’t matter what type or breed a dog’s parents were. (Cross-bred and mongrel dogs can have the characteristics of a Pit Bull Terrier.)

Pit Bull type dogs

Pit Bull types may include the following dog breeds:

  • American Staffordshire Terriers
  • Irish Staffordshire Terriers
  • Irish Blue or Red Nose

Some kinds of American Bulldogs have been found to be Pit Bull types.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not listed in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. You are allowed to own this breed of dog. 

Knowing what type of dog you have

If you're not sure what type of dog you have, you should contact the police.

What can happen to banned dogs types

If your dog is a banned type, it can be seized even if it isn’t acting dangerously

If your dog is one of the banned types, the police or local council dog warden can seize (capture and keep) it even if:

  • it isn’t acting dangerously
  • there hasn’t been a complaint

The police may need a warrant (permission from a court) to do this. If your dog is in:

  • a public place, the police don’t need a warrant 
  • a private place, the police must get a warrant 
  • a private place and the police have a warrant for something else (for example, drugs search), they can seize your dog

Once seized, your dog will be kept by police until a decision is reached on whether it needs to be destroyed or released. This could take several weeks or months. You won’t be allowed to visit your dog.

Judging whether your dog is a banned type

A police or council dog expert will judge the type of dog you have and whether it is, or could be, a danger to the public. Your dog will then either be:

  • released 
  • kept in kennels while the police (or council) apply to a court

You can give up ownership of your dog but you can’t be forced to. If you do, your dog could be destroyed without you even going to court.

Going to court over a banned dog

It’s your responsibility to prove your dog is not a banned type

If you can’t prove your dog isn’t a banned type (or you plead guilty), you’ll be convicted of a criminal offence. This means you’ll receive a criminal record. You may be eligible for legal aid.

The maximum penalty for illegal possession of a banned dog is a fine of £5,000 and/or six months' imprisonment.

The court will either:

  • return the dog to you, if you prove it’s not a type of banned dog 
  • order that your dog is destroyed if it's judged to be a type of banned dog 
  • grant an exemption if it thinks your dog is not a danger to the public and put it onto the government's Index of Exempted Dogs

Index of Exempted Dogs

Your dog can only be added to the Index of Exempted Dogs (IED) following a court order.

Conditions of being on the IED

If your dog is put on the IED, it will have to be:

  • neutered
  • tattooed
  • microchipped
  • kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in a public place
  • kept in a secure place so it can't escape
  • insured against injuring third parties

You'll have to pay for this.

As the owner, you must:

  • take out insurance against your dog injuring other people
  • be over the age of 16 to own or be in charge of the dog
  • show the Certificate of Exemption when asked by a police officer or local council warden, either at the time or within five days
  • let the IED know if you change address, or your dog dies

The Certificate of Exemption is valid for the life of the dog - as long as the above conditions are met.

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