Dangerous Dogs - What The Law Says

The Amended Dangerous Dogs Act

This is a wide reaching piece of legislation. Among dog owners there appears to be some confusion about how far the law actually goes. If you take a look at my blog you will see that I am working with dogs that fall within the criteria specified by the Act on a daily basis; the details are set out below.

Where does the law apply?

The Dangerous Dogs Act now covers the behaviour of your dog in your own home and garden, not just when you are in a public space. The key phrase is that your dog should not be dangerously out of control. This means that if someone comes into your garden – perhaps to deliver something to your house - your dog must be under control. Your dog does not have to attack someone for the law to come into force, it covers the fear of injury too. Under the Act, you are completely responsible for your dog’s behaviour all the time, including on your own property.

What does it say about other dogs?

The amended Act applies not only to attack or fear of attack to a person but also to other animals. Farmers have long been entitled to shoot a dog that is worrying livestock. Now, you can be prosecuted if your dog attacks another dog or if the owner of another dog is worried your dog may attack and they will be injured in the process of preventing this. Once again, it is not only an actual attack that is liable to prosecution, it is the fear of attack.

For the first time, service dogs are also given specific protection under the Act. If your dog attacks a service dog, such as a guide dog,  it can be effectively removing the sight or mobility of that dog's owner. As a consequence, if your dog injures a service dog, you can be sent to prison for up to three years.

What are the penalties?

As you would expect from such a far reaching piece of legislation, the penalties are substantial.  The penalties for owning a dog that is dangerously out of control include unlimited fines, up to six months in prison and a lifetime ban on dog ownership. If you allow your dog to attack someone, the prison sentence can be as much as five years; if your dog kills someone, it’s up to 14 years in prison. Under any of these circumstances, the dog will be destroyed. Prosecutions under the Dangerous Dogs Act have risen substantial since the amendment came into force in 2014.

Is my dog aggressive?

You may not think you have a dangerous dog. You may have a dog that doesn’t like strangers coming to your door or who chases the neighbour’s cat. These may seem like trivial examples but according to the Dangerous Dogs Act, if you can’t control your dog in these situations, they are dangerously out of control. If your dog displays aggressive behaviour that appears to an onlooker to be the precursor to an attack, even if your dog does not attack, you may be liable to prosecution. Think about protecting yourself and your family too. If your dog is attacked by another dog after exhibiting aggression and you or a member of your family intervene, you could suffer severe injuries; if your child intervenes to protect their family pet, the consequences could be even worse.

Where do I go for help with my dog?

If you have any concerns about your dog’s behaviour, you must seek professional training advice. Only go to a trainer who is also a dog behaviourist and who has experience in dealing with dog aggression. If you choose the wrong trainer, you may well make the problem worse. Your dog may be a great pet 90% of the time but it only takes one incident for you to arrive on the wrong side of the law.

For an assessment of your dog’s behaviour, including home visits as necessary, please contact me today.

...Damian showed me that if you remain calm and do not panic you can solve problems with relative ease....

Jonathan with Elmo the Springer Spaniel