Recent government data shows nearly 3,500 banned dog breeds in the United Kingdom are living legally in homes in Scotland, England, and Wales under an exemption scheme, BBC News reports.
Currently, there are four breeds banned in the U.K. as per the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991: Pit Bull Terriers, the Japanese Tosa, the Fila Brasileiro, and the Dogo Argentino. According to data released by the U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), Pit Bull Terriers make up the majority of banned dogs allowed to live legally with their owners.
Even so, the U.K. government announced plans to add the American Bully XL to the list of banned breeds by the end of this year. Officials said the frequent reports of fatal attacks involving this breed informed their decision.
How the UK’s exemption scheme works
Under the exemption scheme, dogs categorized as banned breeds can live with their owners only if they pass a court-ordered behavioral assessment.
If a dog “passes” the test, it means they’ve satisfied the court they won’t be a threat to the public. Authorities then register the banned breed with the U.K. Index of Exempted Dogs.
In addition to testing, the dog’s owner must comply with other strict restrictions lest authorities seize or, worse, put down their canine. These restrictions include:
- Presenting a certificate of exemption to authorities upon request
- Keeping their dog on a lead and muzzled at all times in public spaces
- Taking out third-party insurance every year
One Pit Bull owner’s experience
Anita Mehdi owns a 7-year-old Pit Bull Terrier named Lola. She recently recalled an incident in 2019 when U.K. authorities seized Lola after members of the public reported the dog.
“My whole world sort of fell apart. They locked her in a cage, shut the door and drove off, leaving me sobbing in the road,” Mehdi shared.
Fortunately, Lola completed the behavioral assessment and passed. For this reason, the court allowed Mehdi to keep her dog.
Looking back at what she underwent, Mehdi now religiously adheres to all the restrictions governing banned dogs registered under the exemption scheme. “I take the restrictions very seriously. I wouldn’t risk having Lola euthanized and put to sleep,” she said.
Additionally, she stated, “She’s just my entire world. So although I don’t like it, I do it because I love her.”