Illegal dogs (prohibited breeds)The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 as amended by the Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 bans certain types of dogs which are types bred and used for fighting. They are:
- the type known as pit bull terrier
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Braziliero
- Japanese Tosa.
More information about each of these dogs, including descriptions and characteristics, is available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website.
It is the responsibility of local authorities to enforce the Dogs Order (as amended).
Dog fighting and baiting are also offences under the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1972.
How do you determine if a dog is a dangerous type?Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has produced guidance on this and you can view this on the DEFRA website
How can an illegal dog be exempted?If a court is persuaded that a banned dog type would not be a danger to the public and it is kept under strict control conditions they may make a 'contingent destruction order' that exempts the dog from the ban for as long as the conditions are met. The control conditions are set out in the Dangerous Dogs Compensation and Exemption Schemes Order (NI) 1991.
The conditions are:
- the dog must be sterilised
- the dog must be kept on a lead and muzzled when in a public place
- when not in a public place, the dog must be kept in a secure place
- the dog must be made available for inspection by an authorised council officer
- the council must be notified of any change of address of the dog or of the death or export of the dog
- there must be third party insurance for the dog.
Where a dog has been exempted from the ban, it is still an offence to breed from the dog, advertise it for sale or exchange, or transfer its ownership without informing the council.
What happens if an owner disputes that a dog is a pit bull terrier?In the legislation, dangerous dogs are classified by type, not by breed. This means that if a dog is considered a dangerous type, and ownership is not allowed, will depend on a judgement about its characteristics, and whether they match the description of a prohibited type. This assessment of the characteristics is made by a court. However, if the prosecution alleges that a dog is a banned type, the court will assume it is, unless the owner can provide the court with sufficient evidence to the contrary.
Kennelling arrangements of dangerous dogs under the control of Belfast City CouncilAny dogs seized by Belfast City Council under the Dangerous Dogs Order are kept in Department of Agriculture and Rural Development approved kennelling facilities. Dogs will be kept until they are exempted and returned to the owner or until a decision is made about the dog through the courts.
In these facilities the individual kennels are cleaned out daily and the dogs are regularly exercised. Dogs have human interaction with the facility staff and they are provided with adequate bedding and toys. Veterinary facilities are also available.