Dog Bite Law & Dog Bite Claims

13 January 2016

The Dangerous Dogs Act became law in the UK in 1991 following a number of deaths from dog bites. This Act has been amended several times over the years to reflect how dog ownership is changing.

The RSPCA estimated there were 9 million dogs in the UK* in 2014. Here we look at what the law says so you can understand more about the law and what happens if you are injured by someone else's dog.

The Dangerous Dogs Act applies to any dog that is dangerously out of control in public, in private or in a home. The definition of 'dangerously out of control' in the Act is:

  1. If a dog injures someone or
  2. If a dog makes someone worried that it might injure someone
  3. If a dog attacks another dog or
  4. If the owner of a dog thinks it is going to attack another dog

There are stiff penalties for a dangerously out of control dog and these depend on the severity of the incident. There is a penalty of up to six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine for a dog that is dangerously out of control.

If a dog injures you whilst it is dangerously out of control, its owner could be sent to prison for up to five years with an unlimited fine. If a dog kills someone whilst it is dangerously out of control, the owner can face up to fourteen years in prison, along with an unlimited fine.

Any dog found to be dangerously out of control will be destroyed unless the Court is convinced that the dog does not pose a danger to the public.

Identifying a Dog

Under the Control of Dogs Order 1992, a dog must wear a collar in a public place with the name and address of the owner on a tag. You do not have to provide a phone number by law, but it is advisable. In addition, new regulations (Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015) have been introduced and the law will require all dogs to have a microchip from 1st April 2016 and breeders have to microchip puppies before they reach eight weeks old. These measures will hopefully help to keep more up to date information about dogs in England.

What to do if you are injured by a dog?

First and foremost you should report the dog attack incident to the Police and to the Dog Warden as other people or dogs may also have been attacked by the same dog. You can locate the dog warden's number on your local council's website.

If you have been bitten by a dog it is likely that you will have suffered from physical injuries and potentially even physiological injuries. Make sure get medical attention immediately to check your wounds and check if you need a tetanus booster or antibiotics. If your dog was injured in the attack take your dog to a vet.

You can find out if you are entitled to claim for dog bite injuries by contacting a Personal Injury Solicitor. At Co-op Legal Services we offer free legal advice and deal with dog attack claims on a No Win No Fee basis - this means there is no financial risk to you, win or lose**.

If you were attacked or bitten by a dog that you believe was dangerously out of control, it can help your claim if you can get any of following information, but make sure that you don't put yourself in any potential danger when getting this information:

  1. The name of the dog breed
  2. Who owns the dog and their name
  3. The address of the dog owner
  4. Details from the Dog Warden or Police about whether the dog has been aggressive before.

If the dog that attacked you has been aggressive before or if it is one of the banned breeds, it may be easier to get compensation. Many more dog owners have pet insurance in place which can mean there is an insurance company to claim from, rather than directly from an individual.

Each and every dog bite claim is different so it is best to contact a Personal Injury Solicitor that deals with animal attack claims to discuss whether you may have a claim for compensation.

Banned Breeds in England and Wales

In addition to issues of control of a dog, the law also highlights a number of breeds that are banned in the UK – these are:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Japansese Tosa
  • Dogo Aregntino
  • Fila Braziliero

Just because a dog is on the banned breeds list, it does not mean that they are not owned by members of the public in the UK. There are a number of dogs that are on the list of banned breeds and amendments made to the Dangerous Dogs Act in 2014 now mean that the Police no longer have to seize and destroy these animals unless they are a risk to the public.

This will hopefully stop over £3 million being spent by the Metropolitan Police alone in the execution of this part of the Act. A Court now also has to take into account not only the breed of the dog, but its temperament, past behaviour and the owner's behaviour and whether they are a fit and proper person to own the dog. Many high profile organisations such as the Kennel Club campaigned for a change to the legislation on banned breeds, saying the law should deal with 'deed not breed'.

Public Space Protection Orders

In addition, there are certain public areas in England and Wales that carry restrictions for dog owners. These are called Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs). You may also know these as Dog Control Orders (DCOs).

Each PSPO is different, but if someone is walking a dog in an area with a PSPO, they may have to:

  • Keep their dog on a lead
  • Restrict access to certain areas in the public place (playgrounds or farmland)
  • Only have a certain number of dogs with them (for professional dog walkers too
  • Clear up after their dog

If you are bitten by a dog in a space where there is PSPO protection, and the owner was not abiding by the rules of the PSPO, you may have further protection as an owner can be fined £100 on the spot or up to £1,000 if the case goes to Court.

Each local council has its own rules on PSPOs and they should publish a list of these areas and also display signs where these rules apply.

*Source RSPCA Facts and figures.

** Subject to entering into and complying with the terms of a No Win No Fee Agreement and taking out and complying with the terms of an After The Event insurance policy (when appropriate).

More articles