On 13th March 2014 a new amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 came into force.
Under this new amendment, as a dog owner, you could receive up to a two year sentence if convicted with the maximum now being 14 years if a person dies and 5 years if a person is injured.
The amended version of the Dangerous Dogs Act came into effect both in England and Wales on 13 May 2014. It must be noted that this law now applies to all breeds no matter the type. Be it a Yorkshire Terrier, toy poodle or a Pit bull.
Beware ALL dog owners:
No matter how badly you think this Act has been drawn up by the Government, Section 3 of The Dangerous Dogs Act 1993 applies to every single dog owner within England and Wales. Under this section, it is now a criminal offence for the person in charge of the dog to allow it to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public place.
What this all means is this; lets just say you are in a public place such as the park or even maybe walking your dog on a road, a person can say they felt threatened of being bit by your dog and this now means that the law has been broken. So, lets just say you may have a really friendly dog or even a puppy who likes saying hello to people by jumping up or being playful by mouthing them, the other person can now make a complaint to the local council or police and say they were fearful of your dog. The accuser needs NO proof, nor an independent witness, to back up their claim. People who do not like dogs, or people who are genuinely scared of dogs can claim that they were fearful of your dog. Under these new changes in the law, if a dog bites it will be presumed to have been ‘dangerously out of control’, however even if the dog does not bite, but gives a person grounds to feel that the dog may injure them, the law still applies and your dog can be seized.
In essence, what this all means is a dog doesn’t have to bite to be deemed dangerous under these new rules.
Not many people are aware of this yet, and it is important to know where you stand so that you can make plans how to help yourself from being put in a difficult situation.
One of the biggest changes includes incidents on private property in addition to public spaces. This includes the inside of your own house and also both the front and back gardens.
It will now be an offence for any dog to attack an assistance dog (Guide Dog, Hearing Dog etc).
The current law allows the police or an appointed local authority person, (normally the council dog warden) to seize a dangerous dog from public places, but under this new law, it now also allows them to seize a dog from a private home.
So what do you or can you do to protect yourself and your dog in your own home…
Mainly – ensure your garden is safe. That’s a great answer…, but how do you keep the unexpected visitor such as the postmen and delivery drivers safe when entering your land? You need to make sure that any visitor, including the salesman that comes knocking on your door can safely access your front door without encountering your dog. This change in the act should be a wake up call to all dog owners to make sure that your dog is under control at all times, or you risk committing a criminal offence and having your dog seized plus a fine and even a prison sentence.
Let’s imagine it’s a warm summers day and you have left your dog outside to relax in the back garden, suddenly unbeknown to you, a ball from next door comes flying over and lands in your back garden. Your neighbour decides to jump over the fence to retrieve the ball and your dog does what comes nature to a dog which is to protect his home. Under the new dog ownership laws, your dog and you have committed an offence and the dog can be seized. Should your dog bite the person, your dog could be put to sleep and you could be fined and even imprisoned.
By simply having a sign saying ‘Beware of the dog’, this is not enough and could be construed as a warning that visitors shouldn’t leave gates open or the dog will get loose. Most signs will simply not do.
At Quincysdogs, we have come up with a few simple solutions to protect you and your dog at home.
Ensure your gardens are safe – The most important point to consider is how to keep unexpected visitors or delivery drivers safe on your property. The requirement for the law to cover private places as well as public ones has long been campaigned for by the Communication Workers Union. Numerous Royal Mail and other delivery services employees are injured by dog bites each year and up until now there has not been the legislation to enable action to be taken to ensure their future safety.
1. We sell a very handsome shabby chic custom made sign that can be placed onto or next to your front gate which states: ‘DO NOT ENTER WITHOUT A PRIOR APPOINTMENT. IF YOU ENTER, YOU WILL BE DEEMED AS TRESPASSING. DOG ON PREMISES. (any implied access is denied past the front gate)’
2. We would also suggest having a wired or wireless doorbell next to our sign with another sign underneath the buzzer saying ‘ring for attention’.
3. Finally – Afix a postbox to your front gate to receive all incoming mail.
Now, should a person ignore your warnings, you are in a much better position to explain to an officer all the precautions you took because you have a dog and you wanted to comply with the law. Also in court your lawyer would be in a much better position to argue our case.
The grey area in the new amendments is that if the person attacked by your dog is a burglar or trespasser your dog may not be considered dangerously out of control if it is in a building that is your private dwelling at the time of the attack. However, this does not cover incidents in your back or front garden so while the law is yet to be tested, all dog owners should ensure that all areas of their gardens where their dogs could encounter unexpected visitors are secure. Our signage and recommendations of and outside postbox and bell are all extra precautions to stop people coming onto your land without your permission and helps to protect both you and your dog from prosecution.
It may be an idea to speak to your neighbours and asking them not to let their children climb your fences to retrieve balls etc to be on the safe side and even having a signed form confirming you did this.
This may all sound a bit over the top, but the Dangerous Dogs Act is not only dangerous for good dogs but also for good owners. Pleading ignorance to the law does not excuse you from the consequences.