Helping dogs with a legal problem

Helping dogs with a legal problem

iStock_000011121954_SmallPerhaps one of the most serious problems that a dog and its owner can face is to get into trouble with the law.

This can happen more easily than most dog owners imagine particularly since May 2014. In that month, changes to the Dangerous Dog Act affected all dog owners. Every dog owner needs to be aware that:

  • It is a criminal offence for the person in charge of the dog to allow it to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public place. What does that mean?   A dog doesn’t have to bite to be considered dangerous in the eyes of the law.  The person only has to think that the dog is out of control and may injure them. Were you aware of that? Most people are not.
  • The Act now covers dog incidents on private property in addition to public spaces. This includes your own house and both front and back gardens. Unless the person on your property is a trespasser or a burglar any incident that occurs with your dog may render it as being dangerously out of control.
  • It is an offence for your dog to attack an assistance dog (Guide Dog, Hearing Dog etc.).
  • Prison sentences have been increased for those convicted of some of these offences
  • Police or an appointed local authority now have powers to seize a dangerously out of control dog in a private place. The existing legislation already covers public places.

 What can you do to protect yourself and your dog?

There are practical steps so that you and your dog don’t end up in trouble with the law.

Make sure your garden is safe and secure.

  • You must ensure that any unexpected visitor who comes to your door is safe on your property.  They should be able to access your front door without being accosted by your dog.
  • Your dog will not be considered dangerously out of control if the person attacked is a burglar or trespasser.  However the attack must take place within your private dwelling but does not extend to any area of your garden.   This places the obligation squarely on dog owners to ensure that their gardens are safe and secure.
  • Take precautions – ask your neighbours not to allow their children to enter your garden under any circumstances.

Be sensible – don’t take risks

  • Many dogs are reactive to visitors at the door.  Be sensible, have a plan in place before hand.   You could shut the dog in another room or put him out in the garden.  Make sure the front door is not accessible from the garden.  This will ensure that both the visitor and your dog will be safe.
  • An alternative is to train your dog that it is not acceptable for him to approach the door.  Teach him to sit back and wait for you to deal with the situation.  If this kind of behaviour training is beyond you, I may be able to help.
  • How your dog greets people is also very important.  You may consider your dog friendly.  However, if your dog jumps up at visitors, the visitor may see that as threatening behaviour.  Again, I can help you to modify this kind of behaviour.

Owning a dog means that you must act responsibly.  Give the matter thought, take steps to ensure that visitors and your dog are safe.  If you do you are unlikely to fall foul of the law.

If you and your dog end up in trouble with the law I can provide information about the law and your legal options.  This service is free and provides basic information only.  I can sign post you to experts in the field if you require further help.

“Every dog is a lion at home” – Italian proverb