The Dangerous Dogs Act can be confusing and although not a definitive guide or a substitute for legal advice, this gives you an idea how the investigation will happen. Contact us if you need advice.
Debbie Connolly is an experienced dog behaviourist and acts in court as an Expert Witness. She has given evidence in Crown and Magistrates’ courts in criminal and civil cases. She does both private and legal aid cases.
Important points of DDA
- The law says INJURY not just BITE
- Police do not have powers to take dogs and destroy them. You do not have to sign their disclaimer which is the only way they gain ownership and can destroy immediately.
- If a person can say they had reasonable apprehension that your dog could injure them you have still committed an offence
- It is not a defence to say you told someone not to touch your dog and they did
- The DDA is strict liability, basically you have to prove your dog is not dangerous, not the other way around so in most cases a guilty plea is the only option. You offer mitigation via expert assessment on your dog and other support to persuade a court to put controls on your dog and not destroy it
- The DDA applies in public and on private property
- The law expects you to keep people safe from your dog, it’s not for other people to manage the risk
- Write down the name and collar number of any Police you speak to. Be courteous, they have a job to do
- A dog on dog only incident is a civil matter and should be reported to your council Dog Warden. Only if a person is injured or reasonably feared they could be, or this is happening repeatedly can police act.
- A prohibited or banned breed often cannot be kept in social or council housing even when stated not dangerous by an expert and exempted by the court. Read the clauses and small print in your tenancy agreement or your dog is at risk.
- A decision on how to deal with an incident is made once all evidence is gathered. Whether your dog is seized is not an indication of whether a case goes to court. Police have some out of court options available but if the victim is a child, has a disability or is elderly means it is more likely to go to court. It is best to assume your case might end up in court and act accordingly.
- Do not post on social media about your case and screenshot anything to do see posted about it.
Defending a Case
It is vital that you get advice from experienced solicitors, paralegals and experts and not rely on social media. There are some very good support groups on facebook who help you through the case and some will fundraise for you too.
Your defence will often rely on using an Expert Witness. Our job is to assess your dog, write an evidence report and often come to court to give evidence. We must be honest and independent. Our reports usually include home check and we can suggest condition to the court for your dog that would protect the public in future. If your dog is seized and held by police, you cannot be told where or see your dog. Your expert can see the dog in order to assess for court.
You can also back this up with letters and photos. Letters from people who know you and your dog can help. They must stick to who they are and how they know you and not offer comment on the incident. They are not witnesses and these are not statements so they don’t need to come to court, but they must have name and address and be signed and dated.
The case is investigated by a local Police Officer, the “Officer in Case” (OIC). The dog section has a specialist Officer a Dog Legislation Officer (DLO).
The OIC takes statements and gathers photos and medical evidence. A chat in your home is not a statement. You will be asked to go to the station for a voluntary interview and you can use the Duty Solicitor there for free.
The DLO will visit your dog if seized by police and get feedback from the kennel staff about how your dog has been. This is also fed back to the OIC. All of this is put together in a file by the OIC, checked by their boss and sent to Police Legal department, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
A decision is then made how to deal with it. This can be anything from a local order out of court for controls on your dog to a court summons. The victim can object if an out of court option is offered and insist the case goes to court.
A victim can also make a civil claim for compensation. This is not dependent on whether a case is reported to police or whether it goes to court.
Ask for advice if you are involved in or are the victim of a dog bite.
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