Dog Law UK – what if my dog bites somebody?
Despite the fact that dogs are generally considered to be man’s best friend – incidents do frequently happen where dogs bite humans, either their owners or worse still, someone other than their owner. Although, it is not something I have personally encountered with any of my own dogs, I can imagine it must be a very frightening experience if your dog bites someone. Holidays4Dogs provides some information regarding the law on dog bites in the UK and some general suggestions on how to avoid this distressing situation.
Statistics for dog bite occurrences in the UK are murky and not easily interpreted. This is because dog bites are also referred to as ‘strikes’ which means where the dog has caused someone injury other than from a bite. It is estimated that in 2015 in the UK, there were some seven thousand admissions into hospital for dog bites and strikes each year and the figures were predicted to rise further. Alarmingly, over the last ten years there have been 21 fatalities which have included 13 children or babies.
Statistics do suggest that most dog bites are from the family pet and the number one culprit in terms of breed is, surprisingly, the Labrador retriever according to a report compiled by pet insurers Animal Friends in 2016. However, since this is the UK’s most popular breed of pet dog, then it follows that there is more likelihood of Labradors being responsible for a high percentage of dog bites. However, any dog is capable of biting no what their breed, shape or size.
Since new amendments were introduced in 2014 to the Dangerous Dog’s Act 1991, it is now an offence for a person’s dog to be dangerously out of control on private. as well as public property. It is therefore important for owners to be aware of implications regarding the law, should their dog unfortunately bite someone.
Of course, nobody wants to live with an aggressive dog, or risk their pet dog biting a member of the family, let alone a stranger and dog bites can often be avoided if the correct management techniques and appropriate supervision are put in place. An important point to note is that children are the most likely people to be bitten by a dog and the most likely culprit is the household pet.
It is no surprise that children are more commonly bitten since a dog will usually only resort to biting because of a breakdown in communication. A child understands less about how to read the body language and cues that dog’s make; this is why it is vitally important to always supervise when dogs and children are together. You can read more on this subject in our other Holidays4Dogs article Children and Dogs.
But what if your dog bites someone, either while out walking or at home? Since new amendments were introduced in 2014 to the Dangerous Dog’s Act 1991, it is now an offence for a person’s dog to be dangerously out of control on private as well as public property. It is therefore important for owners to be aware of implications regarding the law, should their dog unfortunately bite someone who may be visiting their home.
Crucially, it is also important to understand that your dog does not even have to bite – if someone just feels threatened by the behaviour of your dog, you could be prosecuted under the DDA. Previous to amendments to the DDA, hundreds of postal and delivery workers were subject to dog bites per year with no way of pursuing compensation or redress from owners. That has now changed; so if your dog bites a tradesman or delivery person, you could face prosecution.
In public places it is wise not to allow your dog to run around off lead, running up to people and other dogs, barking or jumping up as you could be accused of having a ‘dangerously out of control dog’.
The law is not clear cut when it comes to intruders, so make sure you cannot be accused of ‘setting’ your dog on to an intruder as, equally, you could be prosecuted.
Owners should always make sure their dog is kept away from delivery persons or other strangers coming to the house; most dogs will bark if someone enters their territory and this could be enough to land an owner in hot water. If your dog has a past history of being aggressive or you are concerned at all about your dog’s behaviour – don’t let this get worse – seek the help of a qualified trainer or behaviourist to evaluate your dog and suggest an appropriate way of training or management.
It should be pointed out that while every possible care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is for information purposes only and cannot be regarded as legal advice. If, as an owner, you find yourself affected by any of the above dog laws it is advisable to seek advice immediately. There are firms of solicitors who provide specialist advice on dog law and these can be found either on-line or via your local citizens advice bureau.
More info: https://www.facebook.com/doglawsolicitors/