On my current behaviour course we were discussing the law in relation to walking our own dogs, and the difficulty of other people, with dogs off lead and not under control, bothering our dogs and how offended people can become if we don’t want to have their dogs jumping on ours, when the law entitles anyone to walk without being accosted in a public place. So if you feel threatened by someone elses dog on a walk, the law is on your side, not all dog owners recognise that their dogs behaviour appears threatening to others, when in fact it is!
For those of you who would like to know your legal position here it is:
Important legislation is:
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which is further amended in 1997
Control of Dogs Order 1992
Dog Control Act 2008 – parts of which are still yet to be enacted
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
Section 3 makes it a criminal offence for anyone to own a banned breed; Japanese Tosa, Pitbull, Filo Brasilera, Dogo Argentino, or any such cross-breed. (exceptions if permitted by court to be registered, muzzled in public etc).
The Act is extended in 1997 for dangerous to mean any dog in England or Wales that is dangerously out of control. This can mean that a person is in reasonable fear of being injured. The offence is aggravated if a person is injured. This can also extend to other dogs. However, in this Act covers only in a public place (anywhere where the public is permitted to have access). So if you are trespassing or in a friend’s garden say, this Act will not apply.
This Act gives the police & dog wardens powers to seize the dog and prosecute the owner. Power of arrest only applies if the owner fails to five a name and address at which they can be summoned.
This Act gives the court powers to destroy the dog (if a person is injured then there is a presumption to destroy, but there is always discretion). The Court can also ban a person from future ownership of a dog. Other Acts allow for ASBOs to be placed on owners. This is a civil hearing.
The Dog Control Act 2008 This is not in place yet as gets second hearing at the end of July, the difference here is that this is public or private place. This legislation however caters for private places, as well as public, attacks on other animals, as well as provoking a dog to attack. It also includes breeding for fighting etc – see below.No person shall—(a)allow a dog for which they are responsible to be aggressive ordangerously out of control, in either a public or a private place;(b)encourage a dog to be aggressive or to intimidate people or other15animals;(c)breed dogs for fighting;(d)keep a dog that has been used for fighting;(e)keep a dog that has attacked a person or another animal.
The Control of Dogs Order 1992
This Order makes it mandatory for dogs in public (other than listed exceptions such as service dogs etc) to wear a collar and identification stating owners details. This is important, as whilst there is no power of arrest for the above Acts, anyone who fails to give their name and address to a police office for the purpose of summons for any offence, can be arrested (Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984).
Procedure in Practice
Dependent on the local procedures of forces a dog attack on dog in a park would most likely be dealt with by a dog warden.
It may become a police issue, if the matter is in say a housing estate, road, because the likelihood of danger is higher, (ie dogs off lead out of control on a road may be considered to have a greater opportunity to injure more people/ animals.
Police will always get involved if a person is injured, a dog is killed, or the dangerous dog is a repeat offender (ie the dog warden refers it to police because of the number of complaints received).