Dangerous dog breeds and pet insurance

There are some types of dog, including those listed in the Dangerous Dogs Act, that insurers may be reluctant to cover. Read our full guide to learn more.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 28 April 2020  | 3 min read

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Key points

  • Each insurer will have its own rules about which dogs it’ll insure, though most won’t cover types listed in the Dangerous Dogs Act
  • As well as banned types, some insurers are also wary about insuring giant dog breeds, those with a history of hereditary medical conditions and dogs used for breeding, guarding, racing or hunting
  • A dog is considered ‘dangerous’ under the Dangerous Dogs Act if there’s a believable chance it might harm someone, regardless of whether it does

What is the Dangerous Dogs Act?

The Dangerous Dogs Act first came into force in the UK in 1991 to protect members of the public from dog attacks. It is also referred to as Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). 

It bans the ownership, sale, exchange and breeding of four specific types of dog, unless you have an official exemption from court:

  • Pit bull terrier
  • Japanese tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro

The UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act classifies dogs by 'type' and not breed, so it doesn’t matter if your dog isn’t officially one of the banned breeds – if its physical characteristics fits one of the types, it’s at risk of being classed as restricted. 

Can I insure a banned breed dog?

Each insurer will have its own rules – some will list specific breeds that aren’t covered, while others will only state they won’t cover dogs mentioned in the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) as well as those used for security, guarding, track racing or coursing.

It’s not just banned breeds that insurers may be unwilling to cover though. You could also struggle to get cover for some larger breeds, like great Danes and Alaskan malamutes, purely because of their size – the bigger the dog, the more expensive the vet bill, as they’ll need larger quantities of medication than a smaller breed. 

A few insurers will also refuse to cover some breeds due to their typical personality traits. For example Akitas, German shepherds and Saint Bernard’s can be very loyal to their owners, which means they’re more likely to be territorial in certain situations, making them risky to insure.  

Other breeds, especially those of the flat-faced variety – for example pugs and French bulldogs – could be tricky to get covered too, because they tend to be susceptible to certain medical conditions. 

It’s illegal to let a dog be dangerously out of control anywhere – this law applies to all dogs, regardless of whether it’s a banned breed of not.

The maximum penalty is six months in prison, or an unlimited fine, and you risk your dog being put down.

How does this affect me and my dog?

A dog can be deemed dangerous if there’s a reasonable cause to believe it could hurt someone, regardless of whether it does or not.

If the courts decide your dog poses a threat, you risk it being put down – whether it is a purebred banned breed or if its physical characteristics simply conform to one of the 'types' mentioned in the Dangerous Dogs Act.

If you can prove your dog isn’t dangerous, despite it being a banned breed, then you can get an exemption. 

 Why is the Dangerous Dogs Act criticised?

Pet owners and official organisations, including the RSPCA,  say that it focuses too much on the breed, instead of the temperament of a dog. The Act also ignores the fact that irresponsible owners play a large part in dogs developing an aggressive nature.