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6.1.4 Assessment of Dogs


This chapter was previously under review and has been substantially updated and should be re read.

Adoption: Agency Advisor Adoption and Permanence


Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures: Dangerous Dogs

See the Adoption in Brighton and Hove website.


This chapter was amended in May 2017 to add a link to Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures: Dangerous Dogs, (see Relevant Links above). In addition Section 7, Further Advice has been refreshed with updated, useful references.


  1. Introduction
  2. Prohibited Dangerous Dogs
  3. Other Potentially Dangerous Dogs
  4. Key Risk Assessment Issues
  5. Assessment of Dogs
  6. Positive Aspects of Dog Ownership
  7. Further Advice

1. Introduction

This guidance provides advice about the assessment of prospective foster carers who are dog owners and of approved carers who become dog owners. Specific guidance is given on prohibited dangerous dogs and other potentially dangerous dogs. The key risks and benefits are outlined with signposts for more detailed information if required.

Assessing social workers need to be aware that a small minority of owners of dangerous dogs cannot become foster carers (unless they agree to the removal of such dogs). For other prospective foster carers who are dog owners, a risk assessment is undertaken with the safety of a child paramount, but that also takes account of the potential benefits to a child placed.

Matching a child with approved foster carers who are dog owners will obviously need to take account of the child's history, possible fear of dogs or ill treatment of dogs and the child's particular needs.

2. Prohibited Dangerous Dogs

The following dogs, which are proscribed by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (amended by the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014), are prohibited:

  • Pit Bull Terrier;
  • Japanese Towser or Tosa;
  • Dogo Argentine;
  • Fila Barazilliero.

Pit Bull type dogs can be called:

  • American Staffordshire Terriers (Am Staffs);
  • Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier (ISBT);
  • Irish Blue or Red Nose;

Also, some kinds of American Bulldogs have been found to be Pit Bulls.

The Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 extends offending to private places, the offence of owning or being in charge of a dog that is dangerously out of control (previously in a public place); provides that a dog attack on an assistance dog constitutes an aggravated offence; and ensures that the courts can take account of the character of the owner of the dog, as well as of the dog, when assessing whether a dog should be destroyed on the grounds that it is a risk to the public.

If an applicant owns any of the above dangerous dogs, you are not able to assess her/him to become a foster carer (unless s/he wishes not to have such a dog in their Home). If an approved foster carer acquires one of the above dogs, their approval would need to be terminated if s/he was not prepared to cease ownership.

3. Other Potentially Dangerous Dogs

Special caution should also be observed when assessing households containing the following:

  • Alsatian (German Shepherd);
  • Rottweiler;
  • Doberman;
  • Bulldog;
  • Or a 'pack' of dogs (more than two dogs).

If, after a risk assessment, you consider a child could be safely placed in household with one of the above dogs or a 'pack' of dogs, consult your Team Manager and obtain endorsement from your Service Manager before the general assessment of the prospective carer continues. This is to ensure the assessing social worker has management support in a situation where a potential risk may still be present or to clarify this is an effective use of scarce social work resources.

If an approved foster carer acquires one of the above dogs, a 'pack' of dogs or their dog ownership is increased from one to two or more, a risk assessment must also be undertaken. Your Pod Taem Manager should be consulted prior to obtaining endorsement from your Service Manager if you wish the carer's approval to continue.

The Agency Advisor (Fostering) for fostering can also be consulted, especially regarding how the Fostering Panel may view such an application.

4. Key Risk Assessment Issues

Fostering Network consider this issue should be approached from a health and safety perspective and that a risk assessment conducted. Key points to consider are:

  • How and where are the dogs or animals to be kept?
  • Will they be accessible to the foster child in any way?
  • What will be the risks to the health and safety of the foster child/young person?
  • The prospective foster carer should be asked how s/he would feel and react if their dog/animals were 'hurt' by a foster child/young person?
  • A vet may be called in as part of the assessment process.

5. Assessment of Dogs

The safety of the child to be placed should be paramount. It is the responsibility of the prospective foster carer dog owner to demonstrate the dog's ability to cope with children and that s/he has a responsible attitude and good understanding of the issues involved. Responsible dog owners should not mind a check being made on the dog, as well as a check on their suitability to be carers.

It is important to know whether the dog has lived with children, still lives with children or has any experience of children. The prospective carer should be asked, 'Was this experience positive?'

The size of a dog is important, especially where vulnerable children are involved. However, small dogs can be snappy and the suitability depends on a particular dog's temperament.

If there is any doubt about the suitability of a dog, expert opinion should be sought from a vet or the RSPCA.

It should be borne in mind that all dogs have the potential to be dangerous and that children can provoke attacks from dogs. Foster carers must be able to supervise both the child and dog at all times, to prevent dangerous situations arising.

Other animals may be kept by foster carers and these will be considered on an individual basis during the assessment. Animals which have been registered under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 will rule out the use of an applicant's Home for foster care.

The Department's Dog Owner's Questionnaire should be completed as part of the assessment of prospective foster carers.

6. Positive Aspects of Dog Ownership

Whilst carrying out a risk assessment of a prospective carer's dog, the obvious potential benefits of a dog matched appropriately with a child in placement should also be taken into account, which include:

  • A source of companionship and unconditional affection;
  • An element in a secure family base;
  • Exploring taking responsibility and caring;
  • Emotional repair work for some children who have experienced rejection, neglect or abuse.

Further Advice

You may wish to look at Defra's web-site which has information on the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (Amended) and those breeds classified by this Act with pictures of the dangerous dogs. A copy of the Defra leaflet Types of dogs prohibited in Great Britain Guidance on the recognition of prohibited dogs in Great Britain is also available from the Agency Advisor for fostering. You may also wish to look at CoramBAAF website and read Practice Note 42 Placing Children with Dog-Owning Families.

7. Further Advice