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Beware of the Dog-lAW!How the New Dog Laws Affect You, the Owner/GuardianBy Theo Stewart and Lisa Tenzin-DolmaIn association with the International School for Canine Practitioners and the Dog Welfare Alliance

This presentation was created in response to the concerns of many dog owners following articles in most of the newspapers. Please note that prosecution for a single offense unless actual damage is caused is very rare and unlikely. Most authorities will first give out warning and advice.

This presentation is designed to be used by dog professionals to address existing concerns in the dog-owning public, with advice for dog owners regarding the changes in the Dog Law and what they can do to play safe with practical solutions and training. It is not to scaremonger, but to inform.

By professionals we mean those who work with dogs in any capacity, such astrainers, behaviour consultants, groomers, rescue workers, boarding kennels, dog walkers etc.

What we say is accurate to the best of our knowledge. This is a privately created presentation. We don't represent the law or the government. Theo Stewart and Lisa Tenzin-Dolma

The Aim of the Dangerous Dogs Act

The aim (of the Act) is to encourage responsible dog ownership and reduce other incidents involving dogs, such as straying and the use of dogs for intimidation, through early engagement and education, and overall to prevent problems becoming more serious and to thus reduce the number of dog bites.

(Dealing with irresponsible dog ownership. DEFRA Practitioners manual October 2014)

On Tuesday, 13 May, amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991came into effect

An RSPCA official stated on the 14th May: While we dont believe these changes will be effective in doing what they set about to do, which is reducing dog bites and anti-social behaviour with dogs, we do support the notion that all dog owners should be responsible for their dogs behaviour with other people and animals.

There is, however, a concern that even the most well behaved and well trained dogs could fall foul of this legislation accidentally. For example, if a dog becomes overexcited, jumps up and knocks someone down.

What has changed since the 13th May?Since 1991 its been illegal for dogs to be dangerously out of control in a public place.

However, until recently dog bites and attacks on private property were excluded from the legislation.

The main change in the law is an extension to cover incidents which take place on private property. This means in your home, including your front and back garden.

This applies whether or not the person has been invited.


These changes include harsher sentences for owners of dogs who act aggressivelyOwners can now be prosecuted for a dog attack on private property.

Maximum prison sentences were extended to:

14 years, from two years, for a fatal dog attack. Five years, from two years, for injury. Three years for an attack on an assistance dog.

The Dangerous Dogs Act applies to you and your dogWhether you own a large breed dog or a tiny one and however placid and friendlyyour dog is, the Dangerous Dogs Act applies to you.

It applies to all dog owners in England and Wales. Under the Act, its illegal for a dog to be dangerously out of control or to bite or attack someone.

The legislation also makes it an offence if a person feels threatened (the term is reasonable apprehension) that a dog may bite them. Soensure that your dog is kept under control at all times and in all places.

What could out of control mean? Jumping up Being boisterous and excited Uninvited interactions that cause anxiety or concern Not paying attention to the owner Unreliable recall Being off-lead in a public place without adequate supervision Behaving in such a way that someone feels intimidated or threatened

Even a friendly greeting can be misinterpreted

What about in your home?If your dog acts in a manner that a visitor views as intimidating, even if your dog is being friendly, you could be liable for prosecution.

This includes:

Dogs who bark at visitors.

Dogs who jump up while greeting visitors.

How can you keep your dog safe in your home?If your dog is excitable, its recommended that you keep him/her in a separate room or crated while guests are in your home, or until he/she has calmed down.

You can train your dog to settle on a mat or bed.

You may wish to call in a qualified behaviourist or attend training classes that use only force-free methods, so that your dog learns to pay attention to you and to respond to requests to be calm.

You can teach your dog to go to his or her bed when visitors arrive.

What about in your garden?

The law makes it clear that dogs must not be allowed to be in a garden without supervision where there is access to the house.

This is to protect postal and delivery workers, but it also applies to visiting guests.

If your dog is running free in an outdoor access area to your home and someone entering feels under threat, you could be prosecuted.

If your dog nips or bites a visitor coming into your garden, you could be liable for imprisonment and your dog may be euthanized.

Not all dogs are friendly like these two to people passing by or entering the garden

Another new Law came into effect on 20th October, 2014Police and local authorities were given new legal powers to tackle irresponsible dog ownership.

For the first time, police and local authorities are able to demand that owners take action to prevent a dog attack or risk a fine of up to 20,000. If a complaint has been made about a dog to the council or police, its owners could be ordered to do any or all of the following:

Attend dog training classes Muzzle the dog or require it to be on a lead in public Require the dog to be micro chipped and/or neutered Repair fencing to prevent the dog leaving the property

Off-lead dogs can be considered to be dangerously out of control and may look threatening.

What if my dog is protecting me from an intruder?

The law provides a defence if your dog attacks an intruder in your own home, so this may be a comfort to many dog owners.

However, rather confusingly, if your dog attacks an intruder in your garden this will be an offence which could land you in court.

What if my dog is attacked by another dog? Is that now an offence?No, the RSCPA campaigned for attacks on other animals to be included in the legislation, but the recommendation was not taken up.

The exception is if your dog attacks a guide dog, either on-lead or off-lead. This is now an offence, punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment.

If your dog is attacked by another dog, the incident should still be reported to the police immediately.

If you suffer emotional distress through witnessing your dog being attacked by another dog, the owner is liable for prosecution. This could result in a fine, a control order, or the destruction of the dog who instigated the attack.

What steps can you take to ensure you are complying with the new law?

Take precautionsPostal workers, utility providers and other authorised visitors to your property should be able to carry out their work without feeling afraid, being threatened, bitten or coming into contact with your dog.

You know your dog better than anyone else. If your dog reacts to the doorbell or new people at the door, it is sensible to introduce a routine for managing them when the doorbell rings.

You should also ensure that your garden is secure. This can be done by making sure your back gate can be closed or locked. This is not only to reduce the likelihood of your dog escaping, but to prevent trespassers who could inadvertently cause an incident in which you would be liable.

If a passer-by touches or strokes your dog over or through a fence, you could be held liable for any incident that occurs.

A sense of proportionBy law police can take any situation further if it somehow relates to the Dangerous Dogs Act, but due to lack of resources this is unlikely to be enforced unless damage is done.

The happy dog knocking down a child in the park is a category 1 offence which can potentially have the dog put to sleep, but the police are unlikely to have time to deal with this.

However, is it worth the very small risk?

Visitors to your homeEnsure that all visitors are interacting safely with your dog.

You could provide your dog with their own personal space. Then make sure that visitors understand not to approach them when they are there.

This is particularly important in the case of visiting children,as childrens body language can be confusing to dogs and their high-pitched voices can upset or frighten dogs. Children tend to want to make very close facial contact with dogs, which many dogs find threatening.

The majority of dog bites treated in hospitals involve children.

Its the responsibility of the owners to protect their dog from unwanted attention.

TrainingEnsure your dog responds to basic commands so that you can keep them under reasonable control when in public places and in your home.

Reliable recall is essential if you let your dog off lead.

Find a suitable dog trainer or behaviour consultant who uses only force-free methods.

A friendly dog jumping up may scare someone.


This gorgeous boy is called Kobi and he is friendly with all people and dogs.

Someone may be scared of him just on account of how he looks

Ensure your dog is under control at all times, indoors as well as outside.It can