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I wrote to DEFRA a while ago regarding some concerns I had with the information on the Exempted dogs application form:

Re: Dangerous Dogs Act Section 1. Conditions of Exemption.

After studying the DEFRA application for certificate of exemption and a further telephone call to the Dogs Index, I am seeking answers to the following questions:

  • Where in the Act does it state that a person must be aged 18 or over to own an exempted dog?
  • The Act states that an exempted dog must be controlled by a person aged 16 or over thereby implying that a person must be 16 or over to own such a dog. Page 2 of your form, the 'Declaration' states 'I am over 18 years of age' which implies that a person under the age of 18 may not own such a dog. The form also states that a person must be over 18 to obtain appropriate third party liability insurance. This is incorrect. Dogs Trust accept members from the age of 16 and as you will be aware provide appropriate third party liability insurance as part of their membership scheme.
  • Where in the Act does it stipulate the length of lead that an exempted dog must be walked on?
  • Your form states that the length of lead must be less than 2 metres, yet the Act states that an exempted dog must be held securely on a fixed lead. There is no mention of length as far as I can determine.
  • I am unable to find any reference to the size of tattoo in the Act, although I am aware of a Home Office Circular stating that the letters and numbers should be at least 10mm in height. I wonder if you could tell me where in the Act there is any mention of the required sizes for tattoos for exempted dogs?

I telephoned the Dogs Index on Thursday 1st November and spoke to 'Chris' to ask these questions and was told that the length of lead can be stipulated by the courts, who may also impose any further conditions of exemption as they see fit. This is, as far as I am aware, incorrect. The courts, when ordering exemption can only impose the conditions as stated in the Act. They cannot add to or modify those conditions. The courts may only impose conditions as they see fit in the case of a Section 3 offence. Regardless of this, I am not asking questions of the court, I am asking for information regarding conditions as set out on DEFRA paperwork.

I was also advised by the Dogs Index that DEFRA may add 'whatever they like' to the application for certificate of exemption. Could you please tell me what powers DEFRA have to do this? The conditions of exemption in the Act are quite clear and there is no mention of the maximum length of lead that a dog must be held on.

As far as I am aware, only the Secretary of State may add to the conditions of exemption and to my knowledge has never done so.

I look forward to receiving your response.

I recieved the following reply.

Dear Ms Page,

DANGEROUS DOGS ACT

Thank you for your email of 2 November 2012 concerning some aspects of the application for the certificate of exemption. I have been asked to reply and would like to apologise for the delay in doing so. I will answer your questions in the order posed.

Where in the Act does it state a person must be 18 or over to own an exempted dog?

The Act does not stipulate this. You are correct in saying that insurance obtained by owners being members of the Dogs Trust is available to anyone aged 16 or over. A person must be 18 though to get insurance through the Allianz Insurance Group, of which Brooks Braithwaite is part. This is a matter of company policy.
The application form was drafted with reference to the need to be 18 prior to the Index accepting Dogs Trust membership as providing the requisite third party liability insurance for Section 1 dogs and so needs updating. The application form will be amended as soon as possible.

Where in the Act does it stipulate the length of lead that an exempted dog must be walked on?

The length of lead is not stipulated in the Act. The requirement for a lead to be less than two metres is advisory. It is advised for good reason – to protect those in control of Index dogs and the public. If a dog is on a long lead, and it decides to attack someone, it will be more difficult to control the dog quickly, possibly leading to a preventable attack with repercussions for the public, the owner and the dog.

A short lead allows closer, quicker control and may avoid an incident. A short lead is therefore a responsible and proportionate action on the part of a person in control of a dog on the Index. Nevertheless we will amend the application form to make the advisory nature of the length of lead clear.

Where in the Act is there any mention of the required sizes for tattoos for exempted dogs?

Again this is not in the Act. It was advised by the Home Office in 1991. The tattoo is a ready visual identifier that the dog is on the Index. With characters at least 10mm high an enforcement officer can check the Index reference without the need to get too close to the dog. I am sure you will agree this is a sensible precaution.

You concluded by setting out your understanding of what conditions the Index or Court can stipulate. There seems to have been some confusion. I shall endeavour to explain.
If a Court imposes a Contingent Destruction Order for a Section 1 dog, the Court requires that the dog be placed on the Index of Exempted Dogs within two months (extendable by a further Court Order).

To obtain the certificate the owner must submit an application form to the Index along with an application fee, obtain third party liability insurance and provide proof of insurance to the Index, and have the dog neutered/spayed, tattooed with the Index number and microchipped. Once these conditions have been met a Certificate of Exemption is issued and the dog placed on the Index of Exempted Dogs.

The Court is not able to impose additional conditions and the Index is able to impose limited conditions under article 10 of the Dangerous Dogs Compensation and Exemption Schemes Order 1991, for example in relation to ensuring the dog is kept in sufficiently secure conditions to prevent its escape. . Once the dog has been placed on the Index of Exempted Dogs further conditions apply - the dog must be kept on a lead and muzzled when in a public place, and the insurance must be kept in place.

A different situation arises where a dog has been dangerously out of control in a public place (under section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991) which applies to all dogs, not just section 1 dogs.

A Court may issue a Contingent Destruction Order but may not stipulate a dog be placed on the Index unless it is a section 1 dog not already on the Index.

In serving a Contingent Destruction Order under section 3, a Court may stipulate any conditions it wishes, including neutering/spaying, a dog being on a lead in a public place, the length or type of that lead, the dog being muzzled, the type of muzzle, ban the dog from specific places etc and stipulate any time scale for compliance. Where a section dog not already on the Index is involved the CDO will include the section 1 requirements as a minimum.

I hope this answers all your questions.

Yours sincerely,

Adam Broderick
Defra - Customer Contact Unit