Dogs Dangerously Out Of Control
Allegations that your dog is dangerously out of control are extremely serious and can lead to a severe penalty. A conviction may also mean that your pet will be destroyed.
We can explain the law to you and outline your available options. Following this, we can also offer representation, sometimes for a fixed fee (or we will provide you with an estimate).
Please be aware that the information on this page relates to laws in England and Wales only and does not constitute legal advice. For guidance on your specific situation, please refer to the ‘How we can help you’ section of our website.
“Around the country, thousands of owners whose family pets have been saved, either through direct intervention, or because of timely advice at a Doglaw seminar or over the phone, know they owe their dog’s life to Trevor Cooper.”
This part of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 applies to every single dog across England and Wales. Whether it is a purebred dog, a crossbreed or a mongrel. The size of the animal also does not matter.
Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is a criminal offence which can be brought against the owner and (if different) the person in charge of the dog if it is dangerously out of control.
The offence under Section 3 applies to incidents throughout England & Wales. It is usually the Police who investigate this kind of case but occasionally it is the Council.
Following an allegation, your dog may be seized; although the Police may sometimes require a warrant.
Unfortunately, if the dog is seized there is no provision for ‘bail’ for the dog pending a conclusion at Court. However, on occasions the Police may be persuaded to allow a dog to go back home subject to conditions.
You could be arrested and taken to the Police Station but, if not, you are likely to be invited to attend a formal interview under caution. You may be required to provide fingerprints, DNA and have your photograph taken.
Not every case is prosecuted as sometimes the Police can be persuaded to deal with the case out of Court using some form of community resolution, such as an Acceptable Behaviour Contract, where the owner agrees to certain conditions.
Thankfully destruction orders are no longer mandatory. However, Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 still makes it clear that on conviction Courts must order that the dog is put down for this kind of aggravated offence unless it can be proven that the dog “would not constitute a danger to public safety”.
Naturally, we can never guarantee that a case is going to have a happy outcome for the dog but we will certainly try our very best. We work with barristers and experienced experts to make sure that we can get the best possible outcome for you and your dog.
The Court must have regard to the temperament of the dog (including its past behaviour) and whether they regard the owner as a fit and proper person to have charge of the dog. So it’s a question of us putting the very best case forward to hopefully show some or all of the following:-
- this was an isolated incident from a usually good-natured dog,
- lessons have been learned,
- any triggers that led to the incident have been removed, and
- the owner is a responsible dog owner who can be trusted to comply with any reasonable conditions that the Court may require to ensure that the incident can never be repeated.
If the Court can be persuaded not to impose destruction, then the alternative is a Contingent Destruction Order. This means that the owner must abide by certain conditions laid out by the Court.
Maximum penalties include:
- For cases involving the injury or death of an assistance dog: 3 years prison sentence
- For cases involving injury to a person: 5 years prison sentence
- Cases where the victim dies as a result of the injury: 14-year prison sentence
- There may also be community penalties (such as unpaid work), fines and compensation
If the incident takes place in, or partly in, a building which is a dwelling (or forces accommodation) and the victim is a trespasser; this may be regarded as a “Householder Case”. In this situation, the Defendant may have a statutory defence.
This is regarded as a ‘strict liability’ offence which means that, for England & Wales, there is no need for the prosecution to prove that the Defendant intended the incident nor that they had any reason to believe that the dog was going to behave in that manner. Whilst provocation is not a defence specified in the statute, case law suggests that the prosecution has to prove that there was something (more than minimal ) that they did or failed to do which led to the incident.
If the owner did not have charge of the dog at the time, it is a defence if they can prove that the dog had been left with someone you reasonably believed to be a ‘fit and proper person’ to be in charge of the dog.
Animal Law Solicitors
We have many years of experience acting in these cases and have handled the defence of many hundreds of cases throughout England and Wales at Magistrates’ Courts and Crown Courts. We have also had cases that have concluded at:
- Administrative Court (High Courts) on Judicial Review and Case Stated
- Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
- European Court of Human Rights
- Criminal Cases Review Commission
If you are being accused of an incident that breaches Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, please see our ‘How we can help’ page and get in touch.