What's the issue?
The Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) was introduced in the UK following a series of serious, and in some cases fatal, dog attacks on humans. The Act has been widely discredited for failing to address the underlying causes of dog bites and aggressive behaviour.
The Act is an example of breed-specific legislation. It bans certain breeds or types of dog in the UK: Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasileiro. However, identification of these breed types is based on a subjective assessment of how a dog looks, as opposed to whether they share any genetics with a specific breed. In September 2023, the Government announced that a further type, the XL Bully, would be added to the list effective 31 December 2023.
This is despite there being no evidence that the Dangerous Dogs Act has been effective in reducing the incidence of aggressive behaviour in dogs or bite-related injury. Defining particular breeds as 'dangerous' can be misleading as it creates the incorrect impression that aggression is related to breed type, and that those breeds not listed won't exhibit aggressive behaviour.
What's our view?
We oppose breed-specific legislation. Whilst we recognise the potential harm caused by large, powerful types of dogs if they display aggressive behaviour is of greater concern than that caused by smaller dogs, all dogs, whatever their breed type or size, are capable of showing aggression.
Canine aggression and dog biting incidents are complex public health and social issues, which require multifactorial prevention strategies.
We’re calling on the UK government to repeal of Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) and prioritise an evidence-based, ‘deed-not-breed’ approach to dog control legislation. This can be achieved through:
- Effective enforcement and consolidation of existing dog control legislation;
- Commissioning additional research and establishing a centralised dog biting incident database to allow for more effective data recording; and
- Promoting safe dog-human interactions and responsible ownership through education and campaign programmes.
Last updated: December 2023