Dog on dog attacks seem to be a frequent and growing problem. Dogs injured and even killed by loose dogs. Terrible and traumatic things to see that devastate families.
It seems that little can be done, it is a civil matter in most cases and Police will not get involved. There are routes that can be taken though.
Always report incidents to the Local Dog Warden and insist they acknowledge it in writing. Give as much info as possible. Time, location, description of the dog and people with it. Get photos if you can. Some times there are other reports the Warden can match them with, meaning they can issue orders for more control. Whilst the police will not usually take on this sort of civil case, multiple incidents can change that.
The Dangerous Dogs Act states that an offence occurs if a person has “reasonable apprehension” of injury. It is an aggravated offence if an injury occurs. Note that the offence is INJURY, not bite. I talk to owners who were injured in a dog on dog incident by being scratched or just bruised trying to help their dog. They are often told by police nothing can be done unless they were bitten. This is wrong and should be challenged and you should insist the officer speaks to their specialist Dog Legislation Officer.
I have seen owners say they haven’t reported it as Police said civil and they gave up. Always tell the dog warden, I have seen these reports assist in prosecutions as additional proof the owner is not fit to own a dog.
Civil cases mean no legal aid. You would have to be in a position to pay for legal help to take the owner of a dog to court. Some use the small claims court to recover their vet costs and most were successful.
There is another civil legal route, using the Dogs Act 1871, section 2 of the DDA. This act is similar to the criminal version and is used by Police sometimes where there has been an incident and there is a reason why the criminal charge cannot be used. A complaint under the 1871 Dogs Act is laid before the court. The court, on a balance of evidence, considers whether the dog is dangerous and whether the owner should be banned from ownership or if an order of controls can be put on the dog.
If found proven, the court can put an order on the dog such as lead and muzzle, neutering, further training etc. The court can also order the destruction of a dog. Assuming the owner is not banned and a control order is made and not a destruction order, the dog goes home and the order is legally binding and it is a criminal offence to breach it.
The court, if the case is proven, can order that your costs are also paid, but there is no compensation possible. This route is a way to force the owner of an attacking dog into court and either cause them to be banned from ownership, or that conditions are on the dog in the future, or the dog is destroyed.
As a private individual, you can use this and take a case to court to try and prove the dangerousness of the dog. The owner would have the right of appeal if the complaint is upheld by the court. You may lose and have to pay the other side’s costs.
This has not yet been tried by owners of dogs killed or injured by other dogs. They have usually been put off by Police not getting involved and sometimes by a lack of action by the council Dog Warden.
I have discussed this with experienced Barristers and Solicitors and they have agreed that this could be a route to justice in cases where a criminal offence has not been committed. If you and your dog are the victims of a dog on dog incident, do contact us and we will put you in touch with a Barrister willing to advise.