However, even if you have an unregistered pit bull terrier type dog, you have a reasonable chance of avoiding a destruction order being made. You must prove to a Court that your dog is not a danger to public safety in proceedings brought against you (usually by the Police, but may be brought by a Council). Throughout this advice-note we shall only refer to the Police as they are most likely to bring a case).
There are currently over 3,530 dogs that are exempted from the prohibition ie. have been registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs. This represents more than a quadrupling since 2010. So despite what you may have heard, in thousands of cases the dog has been registered because the owner has proven it has a good temperament and the owner is deemed to be responsible.
If the Police believe that your dog is a pit bull type, your dog will be seized and may remain in a Police appointed kennel until the case is concluded. It is possible that the Police may allow the dog to be released subject to the conditions of the Interim Exemption Scheme (‘bail’) although this is entirely at their discretion.
1. The Police will have your dog examined by their expert(s) and if they conclude that your dog is a pit bull terrier type:-
(a) You could be prosecuted under Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. At Court, unless you can prove that your dog isn’t a pit bull terrier type dog you will be convicted. Provided you qualify on financial grounds, you may be granted Legal Aid (a representation order), which means that public funding will pay for your dog to be examined by experts of your Solicitor’s choosing. Although the Act gives a maximum penalty of 6 months prison, the most likely sentence is that you will be fined (or given a conditional discharge) and ordered to pay costs. In theory you could be disqualified from having custody of a dog, but this is very rare. There is an appeal available to the Crown Court.
(b) As an alternative to using the criminal provisions in Section 1, the Police will often use the civil provisions in Section 4B:-
- It is commenced by ‘application’ ie not by complaint or information
- There is unlikely to be legal aid available
- It can be argued that there is no presumption that the dog is a pit bull type (so unless you admit the case the Police will probably have to prove their case on the balance of probabilities)
- The Court does not have the power to impose any orders against you (except costs)
2. As to your dog, (if the case is proven under either Section 1 or Section 4B) you will need to prove that it would not constitute a danger to public safety, and if you can, the Court may allow it to be registered (otherwise it must be destroyed). You will have to pay for the registration fee, the neutering, microchipping and insurance. The dog will not be returned to you until all this is completed. Please remember that once the dog is returned then other conditions must also be complied with (see below).