Which dogs are banned in the UK? Illegal breeds explained

Which dogs are banned in the UK? Illegal breeds explained

May 29, 2023

Which dogs are banned in the UK? Illegal breeds and Dangerous Dogs Act explained

  •  Here is all you need to know about the UK’s dangerous and illegal dog breeds

They may be man’s best friend, but 10 people were killed by dogs in the UK in 2022, with another four deaths already this year.

The Dangerous Dogs Act came into force in 1991 with the aim of preventing serious dog attacks, however, in the decades since the UK has continued to be ridden by stories of serious and sometimes fatal incidents. 

So which dogs have actually been made illegal?

Read below to find out about the law around dangerous dogs. 

NHS data has shown Britons being mauled by dogs has grown dramatically since 2008 – a rate of 15 cases for every 100,000 of the UK population in 2023

Bella-Rae Birch was just 17 months old when an American Bully XL mauled her to death at her home in Blackbrook, St Helen’s on March 21 2022

Jack Lis was just 10 when he was killed by an XXL Bully breed in November 2021

What is the Dangerous Dogs Act?

Made law in 1991, the Dangerous Dog Act bans owning, breeding, selling, giving away, or abandoning four dog breeds, as well as banning any dog which is dangerously out of control.

After a string of attacks Kenneth Baker, Home Secretary in 1991, said that the Act aimed ‘to rid the country of the menace of these fighting dogs’.

However, owners of banned breeds can get an exemption from the ban if they prove they are sufficiently well behaved.

Which breeds are banned by the Dangerous Dogs Act?

This legislation makes four breeds of dog originally bred for fighting illegal in the UK.

These are: American Pitbull terriers, Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentinos, and Fila Brazileiro.

Crossbreeds of those four are also prohibited, depending on a judgement of their physical characteristics  and how well they match a ‘typical’ description.

American Pitbull terriers

These are the dogs most commonly involved in fatal dog attacks in the UK, and were originally bred for sport, where groups of them would be pitted against larger animals.

Despite that sport being outlawed in 1835, they were then bred to fight each other, and the breed developed an aggressive reputation.

According to Purina, this perception is argued by some to be unfairly down to unethical breeding rather than the dogs’ nature. 

Japanese Tosas

The Japanese Tosa is still bred to take part in dogfighting in Japan, but is illegal in the UK and many other countries.

This breed is supposed to be able to fight in complete silence, in line with Japanese dogfighting rules. 

Dogos Argentinos

The Dogo Argentino was originally bred for big-game hunting, and its bravery and protective instincts.

Its intimidating and domineering tendencies have also contributed to it being banned in the UK and elsewhere. 

Fila Brasileiro 

More commonly known as the Brazilian Mastiff, the Fila Brasileiro is commended by those in its native Brazil for its loyalty.

However, this breed is also known to often be aggressive with its intuitions to hunt and protect easily being to their detriment when brought up badly.

American Pitbull terriers, or bully crossbreeds, are the most commonly culpable dogs involved in fatal attacks in the UK

The Japanese Tosa, also known as the Japanese Mastiff or Tosa Inu, is still bred and used in Japan for dogfighting

Dogos Argentinos were also primarily bred for fighting originally, but were also often used for hunting large game including pumas

An adult Fila Brasileiro often weighs above 50kg, with the heaviest weighing over 80kg

What to do if you have a banned breed? 

If you have a well behaved puppy which you believe to be a banned breed, you can approach the police’s Status Dogs Unit for a certificate of exemption for life, on the condition that the dog is microchipped, neutered, and kept muzzled and on a leash in public spaces. 

Otherwise, if someone owns one of the dog breeds explicitly banned by the Dangerous Dog Act, the police or council are entitled to take it away irrespective of behaviour.

A warrant is needed to take a dangerous dog from someone’s private property, but not in a public place.

The dog is either released, or held in kennels, before a court hearing at which the owner must prove that the dog is not a banned breed.

What is the penalty for having a banned dog?

Sometimes the dog is a banned breed, but the court rules it to not be a danger to society. 

In this case the dog is put on the Index of Exempted Dogs and the same rules as above must be followed.

In addition to those, the owner must be at least 16 years old, take out insurance against the god injuring others, show the exemption certificate when asked by a police officer, and keep the Index of Exempt Dogs aware if you change address.

If the dog is deemed to be dangerous, the owner can receive up to six months in jail, or an unlimited fine, as well as the dog being killed.

UK records more than a dozen fatal dog attacks in the last two years alone

The first five months of 2023 alone has seen four people in the UK be killed by dogs, after ten died in 2022.

Two of the dogs involved in this year’s incidents were American Bulldogs, with the other two unconfirmed.

John William Jones

John William Jones, 68, known as William, was found dead at his country cottage in Lampeter, West Wales, on January 10th 2022. 

Police sedated three bulldogs Milo, Tia and Abbie after arriving at the scene.

Kyra Leanne King

Three-month-old Kyra Leanne King died on March 6th 2022, at Ostler’s Plantation, near Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire.

A 40-year-old woman and a 54-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of being in charge of an out-of-control husky and remain under investigation.

Bella-Rae Birch 

Bella-Rae Birch was just 17 months old when an American Bully XL mauled her to death at her home in Blackbrook, St Helen’s on March 21st 2022. 

The dog had been bought by her father ‘for buttons’ just one week earlier and was ‘humanely destroyed’ following the shocking attack, Merseyside Police said. 

Lawson Bond

Two-year-old Lawson Bond was savaged at home in the village of Egdon, Worcestershire, on March 28th. 

Lawson suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of his horrific injuries and died two days later on March 30th.

Daniel Twigg

Three-year-old Daniel Twigg was mauled to death in a dog attack on a farm on May 15th.

Paramedics rushed to the area in Rochdale shortly after 1pm on Sunday to reports the youngster had been injured. Daniel was taken by ambulance to hospital where he was sadly pronounced dead.

Joanne Robinson

Joanne Robinson, 43, was killed by an American bully XL in West Melton, South Yorkshire, on July 15. 

Ian Symes

34-year-old dog trainer Ian Symes was attacked in a park in Portsmouth on August 10th. He died from his injuries after being bitten by an American bully XL. 

Kevin Jones

62-year-old  Kevin Jones died after being mauled by a dog at a house in Wales.

Police were called to a property on Holt Road, Wrexham, north Wales, at 11.44am on Monday, May 23rd.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said Mr Jones was having a heart attack after being bitten by the dog, but died at the scene despite efforts of paramedics.

Ann Dunn

Ann Dunn, 65, became the ninth victim of a fatal dog attack on October 3rd after being mauled by multiple American bulldogs. 

Her body was found after she did not arrive to collect her grandson from school, neighbours say.

Shirley Patrick

Pensioner Shirley Patrick, 83, died from her injuries two weeks after being attacked by an American Bully XL breed in Caerphilly, South Wales. 

Natasha Johnston

Natasha Johnston (left) died after multiple neck wounds while on a dog walk, wit eight gods seized after the attack on January 12th.

Alice Stones

Alice Stones was attacked in her back garden by her family’s new dog, which was destroyed at the scene on January 31st.

Wayne Stevens


Wayne Stevens was fatally attacked by a dog in Derby in the early hours of April 22nd.

 Jonathan Hogg


Jonathan Hogg died after being mauled by an American Bully XL dog in May.

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