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Dangerous dog insurance

If you own a dangerous dog or a banned type, you need to be aware of how the law affects your pet and what you need to consider when searching for insurance.

Key points

  • If you own one of the types of dog specified in the Dangerous Dogs Act, you must take out third party liability insurance
  • It's traditionally not been possible to take out additional pet insurance cover for banned breeds, although rumours persist that providers may enter this market

The Dangerous Dogs Act makes it a criminal offence for a dog to be 'dangerously out of control' in a public place, or a private place where the dog isn't entitled to be.

A dog can be deemed dangerous if there's a reasonable belief that it'll hurt someone, regardless of whether it actually does hurt them or not.

Following a number of deaths and serious injuries caused by dogs in the UK, there are proposals to introduce harsher penalties for dog owners whose pets kill or injure someone.

And owners can also face civil actions brought by anyone injured or whose property has been damaged by a dog.[1]

Can I get insurance for a dangerous dog?

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Owning a dangerous dog understandably complicates pet insurance arrangements, but it is possible to get third party liability insurance for dogs which come under one of the banned types.

It's traditionally been difficult, if not impossible, to get additional insurance cover for banned breeds, but there have been repeated rumours suggesting that certain providers are considering bringing this sort of policy to the market.

What if I own a banned dog?

Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, four 'types' of dog were banned in the UK; the Pit Bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero.

According to the government's website, a dog's type depends on what it looks like and its characteristics rather than what its breed or name is.

It's important to keep your third party liability insurance up to date

Under the legislation, a dog warden or a police officer can take these dogs away even if they have not been aggressive and no complaint has been made against them.

It's also illegal to breed, sell, give away or abandon a dog which is one of the four types on the list.

If you have a banned dog and you have to go to court, the court might decide that your dog is not dangerous and that you can keep it.

But you'll have to meet a number of conditions, which you'll be bound to for the rest of your dog's life.

Your dog will need to be fully registered with the Index of Exempted Dogs, meaning you'll be given an exemption certificate valid for the life of the dog.

Once issued with a certificate, you'll have to take out third party liability insurance in case the dog attacks a person or another animal.

You'll also have to get your pet microchipped and neutered and keep it on a lead and muzzled every time it's in public.

Fines were introduced for Romans whose animals caused damage or injury

You could be asked to show your certificate at any time and must produce it, either at the time or within five days.

You must also notify the Index if you move or when your dog dies.

It's important to keep your third party liability insurance up to date. The Index monitors policy renewals and will notify the police if you fail to renew.

Dog laws through history

Making owners responsible for the behaviour of their dog is far from a modern idea.

  • The dangers posed by dogs were recognised as far back as Roman times, when dogs were kept as pets and for use in war. By the third century BC, unruly dogs were said to have become so common that fines were introduced for Romans whose animals caused damage or injury
  • In ninth-century England, laws were passed declaring that the owner of any dog which did 'tear or bite a man' could be fined six shillings for the first offence and more for subsequent attacks
  • Under the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act, Londoners could be fined up to 40 shillings if they let their dog loose in public
  • The fine was extended to the rest of England in the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, which also gave owners the option of spending two weeks in prison instead of paying up

By Rebecca Lees