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The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is a piece of UK legislation that was introduced in response to various incidents of serious injury or death resulting from attacks by aggressive and uncontrolled dogs, particularly on children. These incidents received heavy tabloid attention, causing widespread public concern over the keeping of "dangerous" dogs and a resulting legislative backlash.
Four breeds in particular were targeted by the Act:
It was made illegal to own any of these dogs without specific exemption from a court. The dogs have to be muzzled and kept on a lead in public and they must be registered and insured, and receive microchip implants. Although the Act was also supposed to ban the breeding, sale and exchange of these dogs, it is questionable how effective it has been.
There have been several test cases of the Act, most famously Dempsey (a pit bull terrier) who in 1995 was finally reprieved from a death sentence, to widespread media attention. The definition of the word "type" in the legislation was of particular controversy, as did the lack of discretion the Act gives magistrates.
In November 2002, The Princess Royal was fined £500 under the Act after one of her Bull Terriers attacked two children. Another of her terriers later fatally injured one of the Queen's corgis, and in a separate incident bit one of the Royal staff.
The Act is commonly suggested as a piece of rushed and mistaken legislation brought in to appease short-term fears without real need; the Royal Marriages Act 1772 was refered to as "the Dangerous Dogs Act of its day" in a Private Member's Bill in the Lords.
Other countries also have laws pertaining to dangerous dogs. These vary in severity. In some jurisdictions in Australia dogs which have been declared dangerous are required to wear a collar of red and yellow stripes; under the harsh legislation of some municipalities of Queensland, such dogs are seized and put down.
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