We read every day about dogs being injured by other dogs, sometimes fatally. Although I work closely with several police forces, they often give poor advice about the law as it stands now and what can be done. My latest advocacy was for a Registered Assistance Dog that had been repeatedly attacked by the same dog and Police persistently said nothing could be done as man not bitten. The attacking dog is now removed to rescue.
Please note: this advice relates to current British Law, the DDA is different in Scotland.
The DDA was amended 14th May 2014 to include private property and other changes. If your dogs causes “reasonable apprehension” in someone who believes they could be bitten, you have broken the law. BEFORE a bite.
If your dog is threatened or injured, report it to the Police and Council Dog Warden. They may say they can’t do anything, insist they take a report so that if there is another incident, more evidence is available. Try to get a photo if you can of the person and dog. Sadly some people have thought their dog was not badly injured and got home to find worse wounds that thought. The least you can do is pursue the owner for your vet bills. You may still be able to take legal action under the original Dogs Act too.
I wrote an article three years ago for the Police Billboard magazine that criticised the Police’s reaction to reports of dog threats. The copper on the street seems not to think they can act until a person is bitten, but this is not correct. This seems to be the same now, if recent referrals are an indication.
So yes, action can be taken, if it is reasonable to say that the behaviour of the dog means it is legitimate to feel you are likely to be bitten. Note it becomes an aggravated offence in a public place if the dog injures (not bites) a person, but is an offence before that. We don’t want dogs seized and destroyed, we want dog owners to take responsibility and for the Police to go talk to them and explain the law. This alone has often made a reluctant or lazy owner take action, get training, neuter, buy new gates!
The local Dog Warden is your best bet for incidents that don’t need Police initially, or where you want to report something happening in a private place. But if in public, especially if there are repeated offences by a dog owner, regardless of whether a person has yet been bitten, if it is reasonable to say you thought you would be, the Police CAN act.
The Dangerous Dogs Act applies to public and private premises.
If your dog is injured, as things stand, it is not an offence, something else campaigners are working on. Unless there is a threat to a person, you cannot do much other than invoke the original Dogs Act which is civil.
In a lot of cases the attacking dog is well known, has frightened lots of people and probably needs training and neutering but the owner won’t do anything. We have helped a lot of dog owners get the right help to persuade the offender to act responsibly.
I don’t expect to help or change every case, and you must be aware that Police involvement might possibly result in a court case that rules the dog must be put to sleep. None of us want that, we’d like the court to impose court orders to make an owner muzzle if there’s no other option, we hope that the threat alone is enough to make them get help and not need further action. But you must be realistic and balance out the threat to person and animal against not taking risky action in some cases.
The last two cases we have acted as advocate for and dealt directly with the Police have resulted on one dog going to rescue and the other neutering and getting training. One prior to that resulted in the owner getting a control order for the poor dog, but as the attacks were serious and he wouldn’t listen, there was no choice.
Banding together with other owners who have also been affected, particularly if same place or same dog, can mean more press interest and if no other choice, embarrassing the owner has worked too.
If you want advice, or an advocate, we may be able to help. We ask that you consider a donation to our own Bravo Working Dog Rescue if you need this so we can help other dogs.
If you own a dog that is aggressive, please get help, we all want to have our dogs live a great life with lots of freedom. We retrain dogs like this all the time, ask for our help. Read about our services on the SafePets website HERE
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