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Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (amended 1997).

 

An Overview

 

Commonly referred to as the DDA, the law was introduced in August 1991 and amended in 1997 and again in 2014.

Dangerous Dogs Act Amendments - the commencement date for these changes to the DDA is the 13th May 2014 and this change in dog law will affect all dogs.

The Legislation is composed of different sections and while many still think of the DDA as the “pit bull law” it actually covers all dogs of any breed, type and cross.

First we shall look at Section One of the Act, which covers the banned types.

Please read “The Dangerous Dogs Act In Detail & Practice” even if you are fairly sure it does not apply to you. You may be surprised.

 

Section One

 

Section One of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 applies to the following:

 

Any dog of the type known as:

 

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

    It also allows for the Secretary of State to designate any “type appearing to him to be bred for fighting or to have the characteristics of a type bred for that purpose”

     

    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.

     

    Section one is a criminal charge. To charge a person under Section One of the DDA the authorities must prepare a file to send to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS will take a look at the case and decide whether or not to proceed to a court hearing. In the case of a dog identified as a prohibited type they will almost certainly allow the case to go ahead. It can take a number of weeks or more for a decision to be made by the CPS.

     

    Once an allegation has been made the owner of any dog may be interviewed and charged. It is strongly recommended that you take legal advice and have a solicitor with you at all times when being interviewed. You ideally need a solicitor with experience of the DDA. If you have trouble finding one please contact us for help and we will try and put you in touch with someone. Section one cases can take a long time; on average 6 months is normal. During this time it is unlikely that your dog will be returned to you however, whoever is responsible for your dog still has a duty of care towards them whilst the dog is in their kennels.

     

    Identification

     

    Under Section One you can apply for Legal Aid to help fund your defence. Without Legal Aid, any experts or legal representation can be very expensive.

     

    If pleading not guilty - You will need a solicitor to instruct breed identification experts to examine the dog on your behalf and report their findings. If you can satisfy a court that your dog does not have the characteristics of a Pit Bull Type then the court will not order the dog to be destroyed and will allow the dog to return home without any restrictions. If you cannot satisfy the court that your dog is not of “type” then you can still ask for your dog to be entered onto the Index of Exempt Dogs. A court can make an order for a dog to be added to the Index if the court believes the dog does not pose a danger to the public and the owner is a responsible owner. You will need to satisfy the court of these points before they will consider registration. If you fail to prove your dog is not of “type' and that your dog does not pose a danger or that your are a responsible owner then the court is likely to make an order for destruction. You have the right of appeal against this decision.

     

    Penalties

     

    Under Section One, you will receive a criminal record if found guilty of owning a dog of a Pit Bull type. You may also be fined up to £5000 or receive up to a 6 month prison term. You may also be disqualified from owning a dog for a period of time if the court thinks fit. Large fines and prison terms are not often given to "normal" responsible dog owners whose dog simply has the misfortune of looking of the Pit Bull type.

     

    DDA Amendment - Section 4-b

     

    Section 4-b of the DDA (Amendment) Act 1997 refers to 'destruction order otherwise than on conviction'. This section has been inserted into the original DDA of 1991. It means that the relevant authority may apply directly to the civil (not criminal) court for a 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. It may also be that the dog cannot be released into the custody or possession of the owner without the owner breaking the law (by being in possession of an illegal dog). The judge may order the destruction of the dog - but nothing shall require the dog to be destroyed if the court is satisfied 'that the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety'. A summons will be sent out asking you to attend court. Failure to do so can result in a decision being made in your absence. The decision in your absence is likely to be destruction.

     

    Legal Aid isn't expected to be available for case taken via 4-B. This means if you request a solicitor to act for you or any experts to examine your dog, you must pay for it yourself. Most owners, therefore, represent themselves in court however it is very important that you seek advice beforehand so you are aware of what you need to do in court. Please contact us if this applies to you. If a case is taken via 4-B it is usually much quicker than Section One. The average time is between 1-6 months often the quicker end of the scale. In 4-B cases you need to do the same as in Section One, either; prove your dog is not type (many owners under 4-B cannot afford to do this and choose not to argue this point) and/or prove your dog does not pose a danger and that you are a responsible owner.

     

    If you cannot satisfy the court of the above the judge will order your dog to be destroyed. You may be able to appeal this decision. If you do satisfy the court that your dog does not pose a danger to public safety then they should allow your dog to be entered onto the Index of Exempt Dogs.

     

    As this is a civil case, should you be found guilty of owning a banned breed, you will not receive a criminal record, prison sentence or fine. You may be asked to pay costs for kennelling although this is unlikely. Should you lose, you may be ordered to pay costs pending destruction and pay for your dog’s destruction. In some cases taken via 4-B, dogs are allowed to stay at home until a few days before the court hearing and returned a week or so later when the work has been completed and the certificate and insurance has been received. Once your dog has been seized, it will not be returned until the courts have made judgement.

     

    Section 3- DDA 1991

     

    Dangerously out of control

     

    Dangerous Dogs Act Amendments - the commencement date for these changes to the DDA including section 3 is the 13th May 2014.

    Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 makes it an offence for any dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place. The offence is deemed to have been committed by the owner of the dog and by whoever is in charge of the dog at the time of the offence.

    High Court Ruling - a significant ruling in relation to section 3 of the DDA 1991 was made in December 2013.

    This means that if you, as owner, allow another person to be in charge of your dog and an incident occurs, you can be liable. If you, as owner, leave the dog with someone you have good reason to believe is a fit and proper person to be in charge of your dog and you can prove this, then you may have a defence. If a child under 16 owns the dog, or if you leave a dog with a child under 16 then the law deems the head of that child’s household to be responsible. This is most often the parent of that child. If, while dangerously out of control, your dog injures a person, a much greater offence has been committed.

     

    Section 3 - Not Breed Specific

     

    Section 3 is not breed specific. This means it applies to ALL dogs regardless of their breed or cross breed. Young, old, pedigree or mongrel any dog and owner can be charged under this section. This confuses many people who, wrongly, believe the DDA is all about Pit Bull Types. It is not. If you own a dog, this section applies to you too.

     

    Dangerously out of Control definition

     

    Dangerously out of control has been defined in law, as “Any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension it will injure any person" This short sentence is actually very clear with whom the law offers protection too. The DDA does not cover dog on animal attacks. The mention of “reasonable apprehension” means that a dog may be deemed to be dangerous even if it does not actually injure someone. If a person reasonably believes the dog could injure them, then there could be grounds for charges. This is why you may read in the media of a dog on dog attack where a charge has been brought yet another case where no charge is brought. It all comes down to whether or not there are grounds for “reasonable apprehension” of injury.

     

    Public Place

     

    Section three of the DDA does not apply to private property where the dog has a right to be, for example, the dogs own home. It does, however, cover any premises deemed to be a public place. For the purposes of this act, a Public Place is defined as "Any street, road, or other place (whether or not enclosed) to which the public have or are permitted to have access whether for payment or otherwise and includes the common parts of a building containing two or more separate dwellings". In shared buildings, the stairway and lifts for example are deemed to be a public place.

     

    In later court cases the inside of a car has been deemed a public place, while your garden path that a postal worker may have access to, is not a public place (unless shared with other buildings). Public Place also covers private property where the dog has no right to be. For example, if your dog runs off into someone else's property. Your dog has no right to be there and if during his time there, he injures or makes someone fear he will injure them, you and whoever is in charge of the dog at the time, are liable. If your dog enters a private place where he has no right to be, it may be a defence for the owner, if he can show he left the dog with someone he believed to be a fit and proper person.

     

    Penalties

     

    If found guilty of an offence under Section 3 then the following penalties apply. There is a presumption towards destruction for a dog found guilty of an offence under Section Three unless the owner can satisfy the judge that he has taken adequate steps to ensure the incident does not happen again. Please note, if your dog has injured a person it is a much more serious offence and has greater penalties as shown further on.

     

    Dangerously out of control without causing injury to a person:

     

  • A fine of up to £5000.
  • A prison term not exceeding 6 months.
  •  

    An order to do any of the following:

     

  • Muzzle the dog at all times in a public place.
  • Keep the dog on lead at all times in a public place.
  • Neuter the dog if not already done so.
  • A Destruction Order placed on the dog.
  • Disqualification of owning an animal for such period as the court deem fit.
  •  

    Dangerously out of control and causing injury to a person:

     

    On Summary conviction (A hearing before a judge, not a jury)

     

  • A fine of up to £5000.
  • A prison term not exceeding 6 months.

     

    An order to do any of the following:

     

  • Muzzle the dog at all times in a public place.
  • Keep the dog on lead at all times in a public place.
  • Neuter the dog if not already done so.
  • A Destruction Order placed on the dog.
  • Disqualification of owning an animal for such period as the court deem fit.
  •  

     

    On Conviction on indictment (a hearing before a jury)

     

  • A fine of up to £5000.
  • A prison term not exceeding two years.

     

    An order to do any of the following:

     

  • Muzzle the dog at all times in a public place.
  • Keep the dog on lead at all times in a public place.
  • Neuter the dog if not already done so.
  • A Destruction Order placed on the dog.
  • Disqualification of owning an animal for such period as the court deem fit.
  •  

    While every care has been taken to ensure the information contained is correct it must be noted that the contents of this document are for information only and not to be treated as an extensive guide. If you find yourself directly affected by any legislation you must seek experienced legal representation immediately.






    While care has been taken to ensure information is correct it must be noted that this site should be considered a guide only. If you find yourself affected by legislation you must seek legal representation. Information given is for England and Wales only. Legislation in Scotland and N. Ireland may differ.
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