What Happens If My Dog Bites Someone (UK)

angry dog

Following a serious incident where a dog has bitten someone, your dog may get confiscated. For those who are wondering if your dog will be put down for biting someone, the chances are unlikely. A dog usually gets put down if it is considered to be of a dangerous breed, known as breed-specific legislation (BSL), as ownership is restricted.

Police cannot tell you or force you to put your dog down, although a court can but even in that case it can only be done with your signature to which there is no legal obligation to sign such a disclaimer. You can usually appeal the court order to put your dog down or you may be asked to disclaim your dog in order to avoid prosecution. This is a decision that is completely up to the owner.

What they can do though is to seize your dog and hold it in kennels until your court date.

Breed-Specific Legislation

BSL bans the ownership of four different breeds in the UK, for the sole reason that these types of dogs are traditionally bred for fighting: Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Braziliero.

The Breed-Specific Legislation was added to the Dangerous Dog Act in 2014 to restrict ownership. This legislation is frowned upon by most as it is unsupported by scientific evidence.

If your dog is suspected of being a banned breed it is usually seized by the police and held in kennels until it has been confirmed whether or not your dog is one of the banned breeds.

All of this is worth mentioning because, if your dog has bitten someone in the UK and your dog resembles the appearance of any of the banned breeds, you may have a harder time with the police and court.

Dangerously Out of Control

According to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, it is a criminal offence for a dog to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in public.

It is important to note that in 2014, the law was extended to include dog attacks on private property as well, and not just in public.

Now, what does it mean for a dog to be considered dangerously out of control?

First of all, since the Dangerous Dogs Act now includes attacks on private property, it does not matter whether you are at your own home. If your dog injures someone or even makes another person worry that they could be injured by your dog, then the dog is considered to be ‘dangerously out of control’.

This law applies to all dogs.

A court of law may even consider your dog to be dangerous if it attacks someone else’s animal or if the owner of another animal believes that they could be injured by trying to stop your dog from attacking theirs.

Legal Consequences

Other than the chance of the dog being confiscated, further penalties that may be imposed upon the owner of a dog that is considered to be ‘dangerously out of control’ include: a permanent ban from owning any dogs, a control order, an unlimited fine, and a prison sentence from around six months to five years.

The legal consequences depend on the specific circumstances. Factors that will be considered in the eye of the law include the following:

  1. The dog has ever attacked anyone before
  2. If the dog was being provoked
  3. If the owner had given a warning which was ignored
  4. The injured person put themselves in danger (e.g., if the dog was approached when visibly stressed and aggressive or fighting with another animal)
  5. The dog was guarding property and the person injured was trespassing
  6. If someone else was responsible for the dog at the time, the owner believed that they were ‘fit and proper’

Anyone who is suspected of letting their dog injure someone on purpose gets charged with ‘malicious wounding’, and if a dog kills another person the owner is sent to prison for up to 14 years and/or given an unlimited fine.

Moreover, if a dog injures an assistance dog such as a guide dog, the owner will receive a prison sentence of up to three years and/or a fine.

Prevention

As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that your dog never injures anyone else.

In the UK, according to the Control of Dogs Order 1992, every dog must wear a collar when in a public place with the name and address (including postcode) of the owner engraved or written on a tag on the collar. A telephone number is optional but it is recommended.

Dogs are only required to be leashed when in designated pedestrian zones and on land where livestock is present. However, if you have any doubts about your dog, it is best to just keep them on the leash at all times when walking.

Always practice situational awareness and socialise your dog often and from as early on as you can. It also helps to use positive and reward-based training. Training is key to de-escalate a stressful situation where your dog could potentially become aggressive. By building up trust and bond through training you will be able to call your dog to you no matter the circumstances. Training also helps owners become more aware and understanding of their dog’s moods, behaviour, and triggers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can my dog be put down for biting someone?

Police can seize your dog and keep it held in a kennel until your court date, but they can’t tell you or even force you to put your dog down. Although, a court can make this happen depending on the circumstances. In this case, it can only be done with your signature and there is no legal obligation for you to sign such a disclaimer.

It is important to note that if you own a dog of a dangerous breed, ownership is restricted. There are four breeds that are banned in the UK: Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Braziliero.

What is the law if a dog bites someone UK?

The law states that it is the owner’s responsibility. If a dog is dangerous, by injuring someone or by causing worry to others about potential injury, then this dog may be confiscated and possibly put down. Once reported, an investigation and court date will be set to understand the circumstances of such an incident.

Depending on the outcome of the court case, the owner may never be able to own a dog again, will most likely receive a fine, and could even go to prison.

What happens when a dog is reported for biting?

An investigation will be opened, and the case may be looked at in court to examine the specific circumstances. The accused dog will be checked for a history of aggression, whether the dog had been provoked, if the owner had provided a warning prior that was then ignored, if the injured person is the one who put themselves in danger, and so on.

What should I do if my dog has bitten someone?

If your dog has bitten someone, your priority is to secure your dog in order to prevent any further incidents. Try to stay calm and remember their training or use something familiar such as a toy to distract them and get your dog back on their lead if they aren’t.

After you have secured your dog, try, and help the injured person as much as you can especially if they have fallen. Call an ambulance if necessary if the injured person is unable to call for family or a friend to help and support them.

Exchange contact details with the injured person when you can. This shows the authorities that you are clearly cooperating and supporting an investigation. It is even more important if you think your dog was provoked.

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