There have been a number of incidents reported in the press recently that relate to “Dangerous Dogs”, but what makes a dog dangerous?
There are four breeds which are deemed to be automatically dangerous under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. These are: the Pit Bull terrier, Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentino and the Fila Braziliero. It is illegal to own, breed, abandoned or sell these breeds of dog.
However, a dog does not have to be an illegal breed to be dangerous. A high number of dangerous dog related incidents are reported in the press and these are not usually dogs of an illegal breed. Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, any dog can be dangerous.
The law says that for a dog to be dangerous, it is out of control in any place (this can be public or private). The owner or the person in control of the dog at the time it is described as being out of control is responsible for the dog. If the dog is not with the owner at the time it is said to be out of control, the owner may have a defence if they can prove that the dog was with a ‘fit and proper’ person at the time of the incident.
If you are convicted of being in possession of a dog out of control (a dangerous dog) you can be sentenced to an unlimited fine and or/ 6 months imprisonment.
There is also an aggravated offence of being in possession of a dangerous dog. This means that if the dog injures any person or an assistance dog during an incident that the sentences imposed can be far greater. The crown court has the power to sentence someone to a maximum of 2 years imprisonment a fine or both unless a statutory maximum applies:
- 14 years if a person dies as a result of being injured;
- 5 years in any other case where a person is injured;
- 3 years in any case where an assistance dog is injured (whether or not it dies).
In any dangerous dog case, the Court will give consideration to a Dog Destruction Order, which for many owners is an incredibly upsetting process. A dog is not automatically destroyed and here at Minton Morrill we can advise you not only in relation to the offence itself but also assist with representations in relation to the dog. It may be that we can (with or without using our team of expert witnesses) persuade the Court to impose a Control Order meaning that you must observe certain conditions, such as the dog wearing a muzzle and a lead at all times in a public place or amendments to your home. If you breach a control order, you can be prosecuted and if the dog is out of control for a second time, this would be a significant aggravating feature in your case.
If you are suspected to have been in possession of a dangerous dog, then the Police may wish to speak with you, they may also wish to formally identify the dog. Please contact our specialist team at Minton Morrill to discuss this prior to meeting with the Police or if you have been summonsed/charged to appear before Court in relation to a Dangerous Dog prosecution.