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Dogs banned in the UK and why – including attacks and fighting dangers

The horrific death of 17-month-old Bella-Rae Birch was reported today after the toddler was mauled by a dog at home.

The dog’s breed has not been confirmed as police said tests will be carried out to determine if it was an illegal breed.

A neighbor described the animal as “stocky”, adding that she thought it was a fully grown Pitbull or Staffy, the Mirror reported.

The pet was bought a week ago and officers said they would search for its previous owners.

Wales Online has detailed the list of dogs banned in the UK: the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.

The UK Government introduced the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991 to prohibit or restrict certain dogs and to codify the criminal offense of allowing dogs of all breeds to be dangerously out of control.

Here, we look at the four banned dogs in the UK and some of the laws surrounding them.

pit bullterrier

Pit Bull Terriers are one breed under a UK ban

Pit Bull Terriers were banned in 1991 following a series of incidents involving the breed.

There were 15 fatal attacks in England and Wales from 1981 to 1991.

Pit Bulls were bred for fighting and had been used in blood sports such as bear and bull baiting. They were also used in dog fighting.

Japanese Tosa

Japanese Tosa have a very high pain tolerance due to their fighting origins in Asia.

Tosas were often referred to as the ‘Sumo wrestler of the dog world’.

Dog-fighting rules in the last century in Japan demanded that dogs fight silently, without cowering, and the Tosa fought by these rules – relentlessly and silently, Dog Breed Info reports.

Argentine Dogo

A white Dogo Argentino sitting on an animal skin rug
A white Dogo Argentino sitting on an animal skin rug

The Dogo Argentino is a pack-hunting dog, the American Kennel Club says.

It was bred for the pursuit of big game including wild boar and puma. It “possesses the strength, intelligence and quick responsiveness of a serious athlete.”

As well as being banned in the UK, there are restrictions on ownership in other countries including Australia, New Zealand, Iceland and Norway.

Brazilian Row

Two adult Fila Brasileiro (Brazilian Mastiff) dogs having fun, autumn scene
Fila Brasileiro, also known as the Brazilian Mastiff, is banned in the UK

This breed was developed in Brazil as a large game hunting dog and is also known as the Brazilian Mastiff. says: “This massive dog probably isn’t the best choice for novice pet parents or people who live in apartments, as the Fila Brasileiro needs firm, experienced training and a lot of space to run around.

“The breed is banned in several countries where these dogs are considered aggressive.”

If you have a banned dog

If you have a banned dog, the police or local council dog warden can take it away and keep it, even if:

  • it is not acting dangerously
  • there has not been a complaint

The police may need permission from a court to do this.

If your dog is in:

  • a public place, the police do not need a warrant
  • a private place, the police must get a warrant
  • a private place and the police have a warrant for something else (like a drug search), they can seize your dog

A police or council dog expert will judge what 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’re not allowed to visit your dog while you wait for the court decision.

There is also an Index of Exempted Dogs (IED) which means a court can decide that a banned dog is not a danger to the public.

If you have a Certificate of Exemption the dog must be neutered, microchipped, kept on a lead and muzzled in public, and kept in a secure place so it cannot escape.

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