The Dangerous Dogs Act bans 4 breeds; Pit Bull Terrier, Fila Brasiliero, Japanese Tosa and Dogo Argentino. The main one people see and read about is the Pit Bull.

How does the law decide if a dog is one of the 4 banned breeds? Read more to understand.

If you are looking for advice for your own dog, see our post about what to do if your dog has bitten or is threatened with seizure here

  • If you have a dog that looks like it could be a Pit Bull or a Pit Bull cross regardless of its behaviour or what you bought it as, it COULD be seized by the Police as “type”.
  • It does not matter what you bought it as, what it is chipped as or what your vet says it is.
  • Type means a dog has to have a “substantial number of the characteristics” of a Pit Bull Terrier as defined by the American Dog Breeders Standard. There is no legal definition of “substantial” hence differences in how police forces decide if a dog is type or not.
  • There is NO legally owned Pit Bull other than those who have been through the court system and added to the exemption register.
  • There is NO DNA test to identify a Pit Bull as the law defines it as “type” which is shape, size movement and measurements.
  • ANY dog can be seized regardless of breed, cross or age if it threatens or injures a person in a public place and/or constitutes a continuing danger to the public.
  • It is illegal to buy, sell, exchange, abandon, breed from or give away a Pit Bull or type.
  • Adding a muzzle, insuring or chipping a dog does NOT make a dog legally owned, only court action can do so.
  • There is no licence, a dog must have gone through the court system and be exempted and hold a DEFRA certificate to be a legally owned banned breed.
  • There is an Interim Exemption Scheme (IES) that gives police the option of returning a dog home pending the court date. Some forces won’t use it because dogs have vanished. Some will use it if your dog is already chipped, neutered, insured and good tempered and you sign a temporary order which means you are accepting that your dog is type.

If your dog is seized as potentially being “type”, the police will used a trained officer to measure and examine your dog. They will then decide if the dog has enough characteristics to be a banned breed. If not, the dog is returned to you, if it does, the only way to continue to own the dog is a court case.

If you disagree with police, you can employ your own independent assessor and have them measure and examine the dog and see if they agree. If they do not agree the dog is type, the decision will be made in court, with both experts giving evidence.

  • The court considers the evidence of experts in deciding if a dog is type or not. If they agree the dog is type, they then consider whether to make a 4b order, putting conditions on the dog. DEFRA issue a Certificate of Exemption to the owner once the conditions are proven to be met. This MUST be done within 2 months of the court making the order or the dog can be seized and destroyed.
  • The conditions are: the dog must be chipped, neutered, muzzled and on a lead in public, hold 3rd party liability insurance for its lifetime, must remain only in the ownership of the person the dog is exempted to, change of address notified, not away from that address for more than 30 days a year, not walked by anyone under 18. The dog must also be of good temperament.
  • Exempted dogs cannot be bought, sold, exchanged, abandoned or given away. Only the serious injury/illness or death of the registered keeper allows a court application to change keeper.
  • A person has to be considered “fit and proper” by the court in order to be allowed to become keeper. Prior convictions, complaints about the dog, poor attitude to police or court can mean a destruction order is made.
  • If the conditions are breached, the dog can be seized and an application made to the court to destroy your dog. Sadly many dogs have lost their lives because owners chose not to follow the conditions.
  • A stray dog that is typed and has no owner is usually destroyed. The caselaw of WEBB currently allows an application to be made that someone who has hands on with the dog previously can apply to be keeper. The court must be convinced that this person genuinely had enough contact and is also fit and proper. This can sometimes apply to dogs seized because of being possibly type or seized due to a breach.
  • If you rent your home, check your tenancy carefully. Many have a clause that allows you to own a dog with their written permission if notified. Many have small print that says if you have a banned breed, regardless of if it is exempted and therefore considered safe, you cannot keep it. Dogs are dead because owners and solicitors didn’t check and the court is suddenly told that the dog cannot be exempted to the owner as they cannot keep it.

The same rules generally apply to dogs of the other banned breeds and all have been seen in the UK.

If you need advice, need help finding a solicitor or expert, see our website


My Dog Has Bitten


see our cases or ask questions on facebook


Call 0208 1445799 or 0115 8883334

This post is not a definitive guide to the law, it is provided for information only.

This blog post started with the Save Lennox case that got the attention of the world.

If any of you haven’t seen the Save Lennox campaign, see the site here

Final update: Lennox was put to sleep on 11th July 2012. A sad end to a 2 year fight by his family. Please remember there are many more like him in every county, awaiting their fate. Support YOUR local cases. RIP Lennox.

About Safepets UK

Expert Witness behaviourist assessing dogs for court, treating cats and dogs. Covering Midlands to London and other areas.

6 responses

  1. […] if you receive a letter from your landlord, get advice before rehoming your dog Most cases do have a history of a dog with problems, not neutered or a lack of proper training that was never addressed.  Don’t wait for an incident or blame other people when your dog is off lead running at people or animals with you stupidly shouting “don’t worry, he’s friendly”.  The person or animal may have previously been attacked, own an aggressive dog under control on a lead or simply not want your rude dog all over them.  Their dog may be afraid or have a medical issue as in the case of a dog I know with bad epilepsy, badly abused previously out for the first time and fitted after a stupid man with a Staffie allowed it to keep running up barking.  Despite the owner pleading with him, he sauntered on with the usual “he’s just playing” until the dog dropped in a terrible fit. Remember an offence is committed before the dog injures someone, if you need some advice then call us on 0208 1445799 or email us on see our main site Also read our post about Pit Bulls and the Law “When is a Pit Bull Not a Pit Bull” […]

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