This Labrador dog was given a destruction order under the Dangerous Dogs Act after 3 bite incidents. After completing a period of residential training with us, returning to his owners who then proved that they could also reproduce the new behaviour, I gave evidence in court based on my report and we successfully had the order changed to a contingency destruction order. An important case for anyone in the same position.
When an owner is taken to court because their dog has bitten or importantly, because it behaved as if it was going to, it is an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act. The outcome of a court case can be a discharge (mainly only on a technicality, I’ve never seen one) a control order (usually muzzled in public, not off lead etc) or a destruction order. Both orders can be appealed.
A destruction order might be changed to a contingency destruction order if it is proven that the dog is not likely to repeat the behaviour, or has undergone successful rehabilitation therapy, or that therapy is likely to help. These are not simple, nor are they always accepted by the court. A contingency order means that rather than immediate destruction, as long as there is not another incident, the dog remains alive.
In the case above, he came to us just after the third incident, with a case pending. As the last 2 incidents occurred whilst being looked after in a day care facility in the South West, it was a staff member that was prosecuted, not the owners. However, when the Magistrate gave the destruction order, it was the owners chance to appeal, which they had to do.
By the time we came to Crown Court, this Labrador had received behaviour therapy with us, handover and several 1-2-1 sessions with his owners, had been on holiday and had proven that he could behave calmly and normally in public and was no danger to the public. He will wear a muzzle in public for the rest of his life, but he now has a life.
You cannot appeal if you haven’t done anything to fix the problem, or proven that you are responsible, or if your dog is still a risk to the public. If you have an incident, start work immediately, don’t wait to get to court and argue that you are sure training will help, start now and hope not to get an order against your dog. Too many people wait to see what’s going to happen, the dogs are sometimes seized, then training isn’t an option. It become an assessment with recommendations. Dogs assessed in kennels can behave very differently from in their own home.
Do the following:
- An immediate assessment by a professional if there is an incident
- Secure or raise your fencing
- Get written statements of support from people who have regular contact with the dog
- Start remedial behaviour therapy immediately
- Don’t get your advice from facebook “expert” dog owners who think they know the law
This dog was lucky, his owners realised they needed to act and it has saved him. I could stand in court to support my report and show that he had been living back with his owners and was a different dog, an expression also used by his owner.
This is a Labrador, not a breed people normally think of as dogs who bite. His owners had sought help from trainers, who said they were doing behavioural therapy, but they were really just doing obedience. He was initially highly reactive, lunging and barking at any new person or dog. Very aggressive to visitors at home, territorial and throwing himself at the windows to threaten passers by. Because of this, his owners muzzled him in public, but he got so bad he couldn’t go out unless nobody was around. The daycare centre had been given his muzzle but chose not to use it. None of this happens now after his successful residential training and handover.
The law is complicated, don’t be complacent, fix your problems before there is a bite, don’t just manage them.
My thanks to Cooper & Co (DogLaw) who represented my client.
Please also read “My Dog Has Bitten, the Police Seized my dog”
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