An issue that receives a fair share of media attention is that of dogs being out of control. Here follows a comment from the police about some of the legal aspects of complaints about dogs, to better inform you on what might be possible from the police.

Magistrates Courts have the ability to make orders in respect of dangerous dogs that are out of proper control. It is easier to prove a dog is dangerous by the fact it has attacked or gone for a person, however it could also be proved they are also dangerous by attacking livestock and other dogs. We must be careful and make a reasoned judgement with the evidence available, as in a stated case it was shown that a dog which killed pet rabbits on only one occasion was not dangerous, as it was in the nature of dogs to chase and kill other small animals. Much of dog related legislation relates to ‘public places’ (e.g. highways, footpaths, open space, parks) however it remains that a dog could be dangerous on private property where people have a right to access of it. The term ‘proper control’ for a dog is a question of fact for a court to decide, but factors to consider here might include the proximity of the person who should have control to the offending dog (in order to react and control the dog) as well as the presence of leads, muzzles, or warning signs at locations where the public might have implied permission to go. 

If proven, a court has the ability to impose a dangerous dog order, including conditions as to how the animal is managed. They can also undertake to seize the animal, and disqualify an owner from having a dog. People are encouraged to report incidents of dogs dangerously out of control even where they are reluctant to do so for fear of the animal being destroyed rather than the owner punished. The police can include the complainants wishes in the information passed to a court in this regards and also have the ability to deal with incidents outside of the court system through ‘Community Resolution’ which might include conditions on how the animal is managed. Quite often where there is one incident, there is others also associated to the same animal so you may not be alone.

So let’s assume you or your dog has been attacked. So what might be useful to the police when you report the incident? Certainly the police will need to identify the dog. This might sound easy, but consider if an owner of a dangerous dog is seen the next day only to say he or she was walking a different dog of the same breed and colouring when the incident happened! Where possible call the police whilst the dog and owner are still with you at the time of the incident – this will avoid issues of unsure identity. Consider taking images of the dog and the owner on a mobile phone camera or similar if you have one. Try and look for anything ‘distinctive’ about the animal that might set it apart from any other dog. Convey as much information as you can, as the police will need to interview the owner on what you are able to say. If there are bystanders ask them for a contact number. Independent witnesses are often essential to get over evidential burdens of proof. Finally, if you are bitten by a dog please seek medical advice. The complications caused by infected dog bites are not pleasant! 

Inspector 1351 Roger Salmon, South West Local Policing Command

© IANF 2016