Dog Law UK – What if My Dog Bites A Person?


Despite the fact that dogs are considered to be man’s best friend – incidents happen where dogs bite humans – either their owners, or worse still, someone else. It is a very distressing and frightening experience if your dog bites someone. Holidays4Dogs provides some information regarding dog law and dog bites in the UK, along with some general suggestions on how to avoid this upsetting situation.

Statistics for dog bite occurrences in the UK are murky and not easily interpreted. Injuries to humans caused by dogs, are recorded as ‘strikes’. This means the dog has caused injury, other than a bite.

In 2015 in the UK, there were some seven thousand admissions to hospitals for dog injuries. Alarmingly, over the last ten years, there have been 21 fatalities which have included 13 children.

Statistically, the most common incidents involve bites towards household members, by  the family pet. This is why it is vitally important to carefully supervise children and dogs.

The number one culprit in terms of the breed is, surprisingly, the Labrador retriever. However, any dog is capable of biting – no matter what their breed, shape, or size.

Why do dogs bite?

Dogs rarely bite without reason, or provocation and it is important to remember this is a natural behaviour for them, depending very much on circumstances.


Fearful dogs will often bite if the feel there is no escape and no other option. Some dogs that have previously been punished for growling, – a warning sign before the dog bites – may attack seemingly out of the blue.

biting and nipping in puppies

Dogs experiencing harsh handing, or abuse, may very well bite.

Dogs that engage in resource guarding, may bite – they will frequently display teeth baring, lip curling and growling behaviour before actually biting.

Dogs that are sick, or in pain, might resort to biting. This is why it is important to handle sick, or injured dogs, with care.

Dogs also accidentally bite during play – which is why it is important not encourage rough play with your dog.

Puppies, often bite and nip as they explore their environment and this can include biting and mouthing people.

The Dangerous Dogs Act (1991).

New amendments were introduced in 2014 to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA) and embedded in dog law. Therefore, it is now an offence for a dog to be dangerously out of control on private property – not just public areas. It is vitally important for owners to be aware of the implications, should their dog, unfortunately, bite someone who may be visiting their home.

All bark and no bite?

Crucially, it is also important to understand that your dog does not even have to bite. If a person feels threatened by the behaviour of your dog, even if he does not cause injury, you could still be prosecuted under the D.D.A. This is a very important distinction of the law to be aware to reduce fence running

Before amendments to the D.D.A., hundreds of postal and delivery workers were subject to dog attacks every year.

Dog law gave victims no way of pursuing compensation from owners. This has now changed. Therefore, if your dog bites a tradesman or delivery person, you could face prosecution.

Always have your dog under proper control in public places. If your dog approaches people and other dogs barking or jumping up, you could be accused of having a “dangerously out of control dog”.

Make sure your dog is not able to come into contact with delivery people, or strangers coming to the house.

This is especially important if your dog is likely to behave aggressively. Most dogs will bark if someone enters their territory, but some may resort to biting.

To read more about avoiding dog bites, read our other Holidays4Dogs article here.


If your dog has a history of aggression, or you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour – don’t let this get worse. Seek help from a qualified trainer, or behaviourist, to evaluate your dog and suggest an appropriate way of training, or management.

For guidance on the law when driving with dogs you can read our Holidays4Dogs article

It should be pointed out, 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 you find yourself affected by any of the above dog laws, it is advisable to seek advice immediately. 

Click here for more information from dog law legal specialists.