What is the law on dog bites and attacks in the UK?

The subject of dog bites and attacks can be a very sensitive subject. Dogs, whilst becoming loved and treasured members of a family are also capable of being savage animals. They can severely injure and even kill people, and it is, therefore, imperative that dog owners understand their responsibilities as a dog owner – to protect both themselves, the people around them, and the dog itself.

Dog bites and attacks have been an issue in society for many years, in fact, the first laws that were put in place to try to protect people were back in the Saxon times. Since then, the laws and regulations have changed, but the essence of the laws remains the same – that owners must try to take a responsibility for the behaviour of their dogs.

What is the law regarding dog attacks?

The law regarding dog attacks comes under the jurisdiction of the Dangerous Dogs Act, 1991. This has always been a sensitive and often criticised law. It is a law that was passed quickly after a succession of serious and often fatal dog attacks.

The Dangerous Dog Act, 1991 is made up of two parts:

Part 1

The first part of the act makes it a criminal offence to have your dog ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public space. ‘Dangerously out of control’ means if the dog causes injury to a person or an animal or a person to reasonably be scared that they will be attacked by the dog.

Part 2

The second part of the act refers to breed-specific legislation. In this section, it was made illegal to own certain breeds of dogs and restricted the ownership of other breeds. If a dog was deemed to be of a banned or restricted breed, it can be confiscated and destroyed under this section of the law.

The ability of Local Authorities to order a dog to be destroyed is covered by the 1871 Dogs Act, whereby they are able to order the animal to be kept under control or destroyed as well as fines to be handed out to owners.

In 2014, the Dangerous Dogs Act was amended to include dogs that are in private spaces as well as public. The use of dogs for guard dogs is now limited according to law changes, meaning that dog owners can be liable for the injury of people even if it bites a trespasser on their property. A defence can, however, be argued if there is an intruder inside a person’s house.

What would happen if my dog bites someone?

If you own a dog, you have a responsibility to keep it under control. Some of the punishments that can be given to you if you fail to do this can include:

  • Fines of up to £1,000
  • Control orders – such as requiring the dog to be kept on a lead or wear a muzzle, or banning the dog from being able to go to certain places or types of places
  • Short custodial sentences  – it carries up to 14 years imprisonment
  • Lifetime ban on dog ownership
  • The confiscation or destroying of the dog

If it is your first offence, Local Authorities (usually prosecuted by the CPS) tend to be more lenient. However, several factors are considered when deciding on your punishment. It is worth noting that different Local Authorities can be stricter than others on these matters.

Some of the other factors that are taken into account can include:

  • Whether the dog or its owner has a history of aggressive behaviour
  • Whether the dog was provoked
  • Whether the owner tried to prevent the attack – by issuing a warning, for example
  • Whether the victim of the attack put themselves in danger – got in the way of the dog for example

If you have a dog that you are concerned about, you should contact a professional vet, dog behaviourist, or dog trainer for advice.

Can I seek compensation for injuries sustained as a result of a dog attack?

If you have been attacked or bitten by a dog, there is a chance that you could claim for compensation. The key here is whether the dog’s owner has been negligent. This negligence could be a history of aggressiveness, or an inability to control their dog, for example. The Animals Act 1971 imposes civil liability, which allows people to bring a civil claim following a dog attack.

How can Waldrons help?

If you have been attacked by a dog and you think that you might have a claim against the dog’s owner, you should get in touch with our expert personal injury solicitors here at Waldrons. We will then be able to discuss your case and whether you are likely to be able to make a claim.

If you are being prosecuted for your dog being out of control or injuring someone (a person or another animal), we can also help in providing you with the best defence to any potential criminal allegations.

Contact Waldrons solicitors

Whatever your query, get in touch with us here at Waldrons today.

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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Joseph Norton who is a Director and Head of Compensation