Law Report: Dog 'type' not the same as 'breed': Regina v Knightsbridge Crown Court, ex parte Dunne. Brock v Director of Public Prosecutions - Queen's Bench Divisional Court (Lord Justice Glidewell and Mr Justice Cresswell), 2 July 1993

Paul Magrath,Barrister
Tuesday 06 July 1993 23:02
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The word 'type' in relation to dogs had a broader meaning than 'breed', and a court could properly conclude that a dog was 'of the type known as the pit bull terrier' within the meaning of section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, so as to make it an offence to allow it to be in a public place without being muzzled, so long as its characteristics substantially conformed to the standard set for the breed by the American Dog Breeder's Association (ABDA), even though it did not meet that standard in every respect.

But since part of that standard concerned the dog's behaviour, and, in particular, its aggressiveness, the court should also treat as relevant any evidence of a dog's behavioural characteristics.

The Queen's Bench Divisional Court refused an application by Gary Dunne for judicial review of the decision by Knightsbridge Crown Court, on 5 June 1992, dismissing his appeal against a conviction, at Wells Street Magistrates' Court on 30 December 1991, for an offence under section 1(2)(d) of the 1991 Act.

But the court allowed Karen Brock's appeal by case stated from Wood Green Crown Court, which on 9 December 1992 had dismissed her appeal against a conviction by the Barnet Justices on 4 August 1992, for an offence under section 1(3) of having in her possession or custody a dog, called Buster, of the type known as the pit bull terrier. The Crown Court erroneously concluded that Buster's behaviour was irrelevant.

William Locke (Winstanley Burgess) for Mr Dunne; Peter Ader (CPS) for the Crown; John Trumpington (Landau & Cohen) for Miss Brock; Andrew Brierley (CPS) for the Crown.

LORD JUSTICE GLIDEWELL rejected Mr Dunne's argument that the word 'type' in section 1 meant the same as 'breed'.

The definition of a breed was normally that of some recognised body such as the Kennel Club in the United Kingdom. But because for a long time pit bull terriers were not bred in this country, the Kennel Club had no standard for them. They had, however, been bred for a long time in the United States, where the ABDA was founded in 1909 specifically for pit bull terriers, for which it had a most detailed standard.

Having decided that 'type' had a wider meaning than 'breed', a court had to adopt some guide for determining the limits of the phrase 'any dog of the type known as the pit bull terrier'. What that guide should be, and where those limits lay, were questions of fact for the decision of the magistrates or Crown Court, on the evidence.

Having heard evidence that the ABDA laid down a breed standard for pit bull terriers in the US, both courts were entitled to use the ABDA standard as a guide.

However, both courts were also entitled to find, on the evidence before them, that the fact that a dog did not meet the standard in every respect was not conclusive. They could properly conclude that a dog was 'of the type known as the pit bull terrier' if its characteristics substantially conformed to the ABDA's standard, or if the dog approximately amounted to, was near to, or had a substantial number of the characteristics of the pit bull terrier as set out in the ABDA's standard.

Miss Brock also argued that in deciding whether a dog was 'of the type known as the pit bull terrier' the court should take into account the behaviour of the dog and whether or not it had shown dangerous proclivities.

The ABDA standard included a list of characteristics of the dog, namely: '(i) gameness, (ii) aggressiveness, (iii) stamina, (iv) wrestling ability, (v) biting ability'. It must follow, if the ABDA's standard was a proper starting point, that it was relevant to consider whether or not a dog exhibited the behavioural characteristics of a pit bull terrier. Though not conclusive, such evidence could not be irrelevant.

MR JUSTICE CRESSWELL agreed.

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