Judicial Review - High Court Ruling:
We've received several enquiries concerning the ownership and keepership of exempted dogs, so here's a reminder of the situation for pet owners:
If you are a registered owner and your dog cannot stay with you (which could be for any number of reasons) your dog can live with a registered keeper – you will always remain the registered owner, ownership and keepership can be two separate people.
The High Court has ruled that this does NOT amount to making a gift or transfer of ownership (which is illegal to do under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991).
The Index of Exempted Dogs which is run by Defra need to be informed of the change and they will advise you what needs to be done, the compulsory insurance will need to taken out by the nominated keeper. There is no need for any legal proceedings to issue a court order to make the change.
In the past, EDDR has taken in several exempted dogs who could no longer stay with their registered owners and organised the recording of a separate keeper to owner by informing the IED and insurance company of the change; those exempted dogs lived under the care of EDDR for the rest of their lives. We were also aware of several people who had become keepers of exempted dogs, also without the need for any legal proceedings; this was prior to Defra taking over the operation of the IED.
Over the past few years, the Index/Defra refused to register a separate keeper and this led to several legal challenges to this situation, a legal argument on law had been running for several years. It was successfully argued with the CCRC (Ref 611/05) & another case was referred back to Crown Court but DEFRA were not satisfied and no legal precedent had been set. At the middle of this ownership/keepership legal argument were two dogs, previously seized and held as type, following the High Court ruling, both dogs were released as exempted dogs (legal) with two nominated keepers separate to the registered owner recorded with the IED.
This Judicial review was heard before the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 23rd May 2012. The case was brought by Tina Hay of Wheldon Law and represented by barrister Pamela Rose of 1 Mitre Court Buildings Chambers, Temple in London.
Judicial Reviews challenge how a decision has been made – the High Court Judges review a decision taken by a public body – in this case Defra in their operation of the Index of Exempted Dogs.
This case has set a precedent and with it brought hope and a chance of a life and future for those exempted dogs not able to stay with their registered owners.
‘Danger to Public Safety’ Ruling:
But this case didn’t only settle the ownership/keepership issue.
The High Court also examined that when a court is determining whether a dog is a danger to public safety is the court to consider only characteristics of the dog and ruled that “all that the court can do, and should do, if satisfied that the dog in question would not constitute a danger to public safety, because it does not have the inherently dangerous characteristics that pit bull type dogs are believed to have, is make a contingent destruction order if asked to do so, so that attempts can be made to obtain a certificate of exemption”.
See: Sandhu v Isleworth Crown Court judicial review2012 (EWHC) 1658 (Admin):
The main points for those involved with the DDA legislation:
- A person other than the registered owner of an exempted dog can be the registered keeper of the dog and that this is not a transfer of ownership and is not therefore in contravention of Sec 1 of the DDA 1991
- A court has no power under the Dangerous Dogs Act to direct where an exempted dog (Sec 1 dog) lives – there is no power under the DDA to impose conditions. (A court does have power under the DDA to impose conditions under Sec 3.)
- It is the dog (not the owner) that the court must consider when deciding if the dog is a danger to public safety-the court cannot refuse to issue a contingent destruction order – which enables a dog to be registered and exempted with the Index of exempted Dogs, based on the owner – it is the dog, not the owner which must be considered.
- If the court decides that the dog (Sec 1) does not represent a danger to public safety and makes a contingent destruction order – the dog SHALL be exempted if the conditions set out in the Compensation & Exemption Schemes Order are fulfilled.