Off lead dogs and UK law
It's really difficult to see dogs being attacked by off lead dogs and the dogs who attacked being sent to kennels awaiting court dates.
Two of my own dog's were recently attacked by my own home, my dogs both on leads and the two other dogs both off-lead and their owner not present and on their phone. This was distressing for them and us as their guardians. Not only was this scary but also meant that they needed time to rest and recover, putting off further walks and training sessions to allow for rest and recovery after this incident.
They were lucky that they had no puncture wounds, but there was a risk that they could have become frightened of other dogs and undo all of the hard work that I've done with Zombie, my youngest. Unfortunately not all dogs are as lucky as mine were and suffer with life changing consequences physically and mentally.
Many people across social media do not seem to understand UK Dog Law and that each council has their own by - law concerning this, so let's take a quick look.
1. The Control of Dogs Order 1992: This legislation makes it a criminal offence if a dog is "dangerously out of control" in a public place, which includes any place where the public has access, such as a park or a beach.
2. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991: This act addresses specific breeds of dogs that are deemed as potentially dangerous and outlines restrictions on the ownership and handling of those breeds.
3. The Animal Welfare Act 2006: This legislation makes it an offence to cause unnecessary harm or suffering to any animal, including dogs. It also requires pet owners to provide adequate care and attention to their pets.
4. The Highway Code: This code states that dogs should be kept on a lead near roads and should not be allowed to run free in a public place unless they are under close control.
5. Local council by-laws: Many councils have their own by-laws regarding dogs in public places, including rules around dogs being off-lead and the use of designated dog exercise areas. (1)
It is important to note that dog owners are responsible for their dogs behaviour and that their actions could potentially lead to prosecution under UK law. As a responsible dog owner, it is important to understand and abide by these laws and guidelines to ensure the safety of both your dog and the public.
In the event of a dog on dog attack, what can actually be done as so many people report that their dogs have been injured, one husky at the moment with £14,000 in vet fees and still fighting for her life and no support locally from the services that should provide this. So I pulled out the Dog Law Handbook to refresh my memory again and get the facts right and also went to the UK government website as well as directing this guardian to Cooper and Co Dog Law.
Town Police Clauses Act 1847
Under this Act it is an offence for any person in any street to:
let an unmuzzled ferocious dog be at large so that it obstructs or annoys the residents or passengers in the street, or puts them in danger.
To set on, or urge, any dog to attack, worry or put in fear any person or animal.
A dog is not considered to be ‘at large’ while held on its lead and the word ‘street’ is given an extended meaning to include any road, square, court, alley, thoroughfare or public passage. (2)
The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in the UK can be used to address dog on dog attacks in certain public spaces. Local authorities have the power to implement PSPOs in specific public areas where there has been a problem with dog attacks or where they consider there is a potential for such incidents.
Under the PSPO, local councils can impose restrictions or requirements on dog walkers, including requiring dogs to be kept on a lead, muzzled, or excluded from certain areas altogether. They may also require dog owners to use a certain area for dog exercise, rather than allowing them to walk their dogs off-lead in a public area.
Breaching a PSPO can result in a fine or prosecution, and local law enforcement may take action against the owner of the dog that attacked another dog.
Dog owners should be aware of the PSPOs in their local area and comply with any restrictions or requirements that are in place to help prevent dog on dog attacks. They should also take steps to train their dogs to reduce the risk of aggressive behaviour towards other dogs. (3)
The term ferocious has not yet been described by the courts. (4)
An example of dog on dog attacks being discussed in Parliament in 2017 with MP's highlighting that the laws that do cover dog on dog attacks are widely unknown by Councils and Police forces and called for more education. As well as local statistics for each county being held but not shared. (5)
Here's an example below, I could pull statistics from local sources for counties but not as a country with an overall figure.
Many newspapers report that it's only a prosecutable offence if a dog were to attack an assistance dog but as the laws and the debate in Parliament highlight this is not the case.
The Liverpool Echo highlights cases within Liverpool where there have been successful prosecutions in the last five years. Although at the moment if a person is not bitten and only a dog is injured during an attack, the offence is civil, magistrates can still impose penalties as they see fit and due to the laws above which aren't widely known about police forces can pursue prosecution where they see fit as found within Liverpool.
So in conclusion to this, please keep dogs on a lead, especially in public areas, especially if your dog doesn't recall and especially if likely to be distracted by a phone or your dog goes ahead of you. For your dogs safety too as many dogs who are great at recall and proximity can be attacked like mine when the other dog(s) are not on a lead.
Packing a long line in a rucksack is a great way to allow your dog lots of space for sniffafaris and playing and enjoying their walk, this gives you space to practise recall as well as being able to spot another dog walker coming towards you and transferring your dog onto a shorter lead. If you really want your dog off the lead on walks, please book a secure dog field where you have the entire space to yourself for the booking time. There's no shame in using a long line, it's a safety barrier to keep your dog safe, there is no shame in using a muzzle, muzzles are another safety barrier to prevent bites and keep both parties safe. Muzzles are so accepted today and you can get amazing colours and styles because they are so widely accepted and used!
We all have a duty of care to one another to protect each others dogs and to always be mindful of fellow dog walkers, so we all go home safe and incident free!
Sandys- Winsch, G. (2011) “Ferocious dogs ,” in P. Clayden (ed.) The Dog Law Handbook . Second edition . Chippenham, Wiltshire : Sweet & Maxwell, p. 33.
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