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Breed Specific Legislation:

We shall refer here to the legislation as the 'DDA', the law was introduced in August 1991 and amended in 1997 and again in 2014.

Section One of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 applies to the following four 'types' of dog:

Any dog of the type known as:


  • The Pit Bull Terrier
  • The Dogo Argentino
  • The Fila Braziliero
  • The Japanese Tosa


It is illegal for any for anyone to breed, sell, exchange advertise or expose for sale, make or offer such a dog as a gift, allow such a dog in public without a lead and muzzle, abandon, or be in possession of a dog as named above (unless it is exempted).

Once an allegation has been made the owner of any dog may be interviewed and charged - in this situation it is strongly recommended that you take legal advice and have a solicitor with you at all times when being interviewed.

Under Section One of the DDA a dog becomes a pit bull type if it has a substantial number or most of the characteristics of an American Pit Bull Terrier as described by an old ADBA standard, this is due to case law. The ADBA standard sets out 100 points to consider when looking at the perfect APBT. Out of those 100 points only 10 points can be given in respect of the dogs attitude/behaviour.

Dog owners are not able to themselves apply to register their dog onto the Index of Exempt Dogs, as this remained closed - only a court can make an order for registration.

If your dog has been deemed a banned 'type' of dog (most frequently a pit bull type) your case can proceed to court via two routes -

a section one criminal charge or

a section 4B civil application (both heard before the magistrates' court).

If your case proceeds to court via a section one criminal charge you can apply for legal aid - speak to your solicitor about this, your legal aid may fund your legal representation and defence eg an independant expert on 'type' and/or behaviour.

There is an appeal procedure if necessary.

DDA - Section 4B:

Section 4-b of the DDA (Amendment) Act 1997 refers to 'destruction order otherwise than on conviction' in relation to a prohibited type of dog.

This section can be used as alternative route to using section 1 (criminal proceedings).

The relevant authority may apply directly to the court for a destruction order or a contingent destruction order where it appears that no person has been, or is to be, prosecuted of an offence, either because the owner cannot be found or for some other reason (the owner is not prosecuted).

Your case will first be heard at the magistates' court. There is also an appeal prcoess from here if needed.

Legal aid is not available under this section and if you require a solicitor to represent you, you would need to fund the cost, you can organise your own independant expert assessment for 'type' and behaviour, for the court hearing, this would also need to be funded if your decided to instruct someone.

The dog owner will not receive a criminal record under this section, if found guilty of being in possession of a banned type of dog subject to section one of the Act.


Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997:

Between 1991 and 1997 the courts had no discretion when sentencing under this law. If a dog owner was prosecuted for owning an unregistered dog or a registered dog which had broken one of the rules, then the dog would be ordered to be destroyed by a court if found guilty - there wasn’t any other option available.

In 1997 the Dangerous Dogs Act was amended to give the courts discretionary power when sentencing - mandatory destruction was removed.


If a case proceedes to court, the court can issue a contingent destruction order (CDO) as an alternative to a destruction order; this requires that the dog is registered onto the Index of Exempedt Dogs, run by DEFRA, within two calendar months, as an alternative to being destroyed.


If your dog is seized:

Do not sign anything ubnless you absolutely are sure what it relates to and fully understand it. You do not have to sign over ownership of your dog, regarless to what you may be told.

Seek qualified legal assistance immediately.

Contact us for advice and support as soon as possible.

DDA Watch Ltd is a not-for-profit company, registered in England & Wales, registration number 7393352.

Care has been taken to ensure that our information is correct. The information and advice given by DDA Watch is for general purposes and is intended for guidance only, it idoes not constitute legal advice. The information and opinions expressed should not be relied on or used as a substitute for legal advice, if you require details concerning your rights, legal advice or find yourself affected by legislation it is recommended that you seek professional legal advice. 

Information given is for England and Wales only. Legislation in Scotland and N.Ireland may differ.

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