There are four breeds of dogs that are banned in Northern Ireland:
- Pit Bull terrier
- Japanese Tosa
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Braziliero
It is an offence to breed, sell, offer for sale or make a gift of a dog of a banned type. If you are found guilty of any of these offences you face a sentence of up to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of £5,000.
A dog identified as banned by a dog warden will be presumed to be so, unless the owner can prove that it's not banned in court.
In most cases, a court will order a dog seized as a banned breed to be put down, even where the council decides not to prosecute the owner.
An owner of a seized Pit Bull must let the court know that they plan to give evidence that the dog is not a banned dog type at least 14 days before the hearing is due to take place.
Once seized, your dog will be kept in kennels before a court hearing - this could be for several weeks or months.
Judging whether your dog is a banned breed
A council dog warden, or an expert used by the council, will assess your dog's physical characteristics. They will judge the type of dog you have and whether it appears to be a banned breed. Following the assessment, the council will decide either of the following:
- your dog will be released if it is not believed to be a banned breed
- your dog will be kept in kennels while the council applies to a court for a destruction order
You can give up ownership of your dog but you cannot be forced to. If you do, your dog could be destroyed without a court order.
When the court allows you to own a banned dog
If a dog is a banned type but the court believes it would not be a danger to the public if it was kept under certain strict conditions, the court may make a ‘contingent destruction order’. This exempts the dog from the ban as long as the exemption conditions are met.
The exemption conditions are:
- the dog is neutered
- the dog is kept leashed and muzzled when in a public place
- when not in a public place, the dog is in sufficiently secure conditions
- the dog is made available to council dog wardens for inspection
- the council is notified of any change of address of the dog, or of the death or export of the dog
- third party insurance policy is taken out for the dog
In these circumstances you have two months to show that the exemption conditions have been met. Then you can apply for dog a licence from the council.
If the exemption conditions are not met, it is likely to lead to the destruction of the dog concerned.
Where a dog has been exempted from the ban on certain dog types, it is still an offence to breed from that dog, advertise it for sale or exchange, or transfer its ownership without informing the council.
The role of the PSNI
The PSNI may assist council officers where a dog is a risk to public safety.