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This is a civil complaint, although as it is heard in a Magistrates’ Court, it is often (wrongly) said to be criminal. It occurs if a dog is not kept under proper control and is dangerous. Generally a dog is regarded as not being under proper control if it is neither on a lead nor muzzled.
Unlike Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991:
- proceedings can only be brought against the owner
- a dog can show itself to be dangerous in its general behaviour, not just its behaviour towards a person
- a single incident is generally insufficient to prove that a dog is dangerous, unless the Court believes that the single incident is exceptional
- there is no presumption in favour of destruction of the dog
- the Police have no power to seize a dog pending proceedings
- the Court has no power to fine or order compensation
If the case is proven the Court has unfettered discretion on what to do to the dog. They may order destruction of the dog but such orders are very rare. The alternative is a Control Order (with or without conditions) and the owner will probably have to pay costs.
If you would like to look at the legislation click here.
Please note that the above summary only relates to the law in England and Wales. You must not rely on it as constituting legal advice and so for specific guidance on your particular doglaw issues please contact us – see our “How we can help” section for details.