Keeping your dog under control

With the large increase in the keeping of dogs during the ongoing Covid-19 lockdowns, it is probably worth reviewing the rules in relation to dogs and their control.

Are you, for example, required to have your dog on a lead when taking it for a walk?  The answer to this is generally “no”, so long as the dog is under effective control. That said, there may be local authority bye-laws requiring owners to have their dogs on a lead in specific places such as parks and other public places.

So, what are the rules?

In essence, the general law which applies to all dogs is that it is illegal to let a dog be “dangerously out of control” anywhere, such as:

  • in a public place
  • in a private place, for example a neighbour’s house or garden
  • in the owner’s home

Your dog is considered dangerously out of control if it: 

  • injures someone
  • makes someone worried that it might injure them

A court could also decide that your dog is dangerously out of control if either of the following apply:

  • it attacks someone’s animal 
  • the owner of an animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal

Every year almost 6,000 people, a third of which are postal workers, are injured through dog attacks with a large percentage occurring on private property. It is worth remembering that owners need to ensure that their dogs do not bite or display threatening behaviour towards people whilst in the home.

Before recent amendments to the law, dog owners could face criminal prosecution only if their dog had displayed aggressive or threatening behaviour towards a person in a public place.

The decision to extend prosecution to incidents that occur on private property,  coincided with other tougher dog laws brought in as part of the amended Dangerous Dogs Act. Under the law, owners whose dogs attacks a person could face up to five years in jail - up from the previous maximum of two. Owners whose dog kills someone could now go to prison for up to 14 years.

Hannah Jones (partner in Churchers criminal defence team) says, “The new rules are mainly designed to protect postmen but will mean that every owner needs to assess their dog’s behaviour and dogs may need additional training on how to behave at the front door”.

If you would like assistance in relation to a advice in this article, call Hannah on 02392 820747 for further information.


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