There are various pieces of legislation that cover ownership, control and the care of dogs but the main one attracting public attention is the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Introduced in August 1991 this followed a spate of high profile dog bites.
The legislation contained in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 bans four types of dog:
- Pit Bull Terrier
- Fila Brasiliaro
- Dogo Argentino
- Japanese Tosa
It is illegal for anyone to breed, sell, exchange, advertise or expose for sale, make or offer such a dog as a gift, allow such a dog in public without a lead and muzzle, abandon, or be in possession of any one of these dogs.
This specific piece of legislation makes it a criminal offence for the owner or person in charge of the dog to allow the dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place, a place where it is not permitted to be and some other areas.
“Dangerously out of control” is widely interpreted and could include something as simple as your dog chasing, barking at or jumping up at a person. You should therefore always ensure your dog is under control at all times.
If your dog does injure a person it may be seized by the Police and various penalties follow from that including a prison sentence and/or a ban on keeping dogs. There is also a presumption your dog will be destroyed and you will have to persuade the Court that the dog is not a danger to the public, in which case it may be subject to various orders such as wearing a muzzle at all times and you will have to pay a fine, compensation and prosecution costs.
If you are the owner of a dog and any complaint has been made against you, it is strongly recommended you take legal advice.
Following the recent spate of attacks, there are proposals going through Parliament to change the law on Dangerous Dogs. The proposals mean that dog owners in England and Wales will no longer be immune from prosecution for attacks on their own property and people could face a two year jail sentence if their animals are found to be dangerously out of control in their own or others home. The law currently only covers attacks in public places and prohibited areas and has meant owners have escaped prosecution, in particular the recent death of Jade Anderson.
The changes are to close down a loophole in the law whereby people have escaped prosecution. Unions representing postal, utility and delivery staff have been arguing for these changes in the law for many years. Most attacks on postal workers have taken place on private property meaning no prosecutions have followed.
At the first sign of trouble with a specific dog the new proposals would provide local authorities with Dog Control Notices. This would allow authorities to deal with animals before they become a danger to the public. Owners can be ordered to leash or muzzle their dogs and also ordered to take training courses. These changes will make it clear that the Courts have the right to take into account the character of the owner as well as the temperament and past behaviour of the dog.
The Government is bringing in compulsory micro chipping for all dogs from 6th April 2016.