Dangerous dogs

Dangerous dogs - the law

Section 3(1) Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

This part of the Dangerous Dogs Act applies to every single dog in England & Wales, no matter whether it is a pure bred dog, cross or a mongrel and regardless of its size.

This is a criminal offence which can be brought against the owner of a dog (and if different the person in charge of a dog) if a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place.

  • 'Dangerously out of control':
    'Dangerously out of control' is defined as being 'on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person'. Generally, if a dog bites someone then it will be presumed to have been dangerously out of control.
  • In a public place:
    a 'Public place' is defined as including any place 'to which the public have or are permitted to have access'.

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What can be done?

The Police have the discretionary power to seize a dog (although they may need a warrant) but there is no provision for 'bail' for the dog pending a conclusion at Court.

If injury is caused to a person, then there is a presumption in favour of destruction of the dog unless the owner can prove that the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety. If the Court can be persuaded not to impose destruction, then the alternative is a Contingent Destruction Order, ie a requirement that unless the dog is kept under proper control then it shall be destroyed. The Court has the power to impose conditions to such an order.

For the owner and/or person in charge of the dog at the time of the incident the Court has the power to impose a prison sentence as well as a ban on keeping dogs. However, this is very rare and the more likely outcome is financial ie a fine, compensation and costs.

This act is soon to be revised to include private property.

See also:

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Reporting a dangerous dog

Reports of dangerous dogs should be reported to the police:

  • For all non-emergency calls : Dial 101
  • Only in the event of an emergency : Dial 999

Please note that all calls are recorded for policing purposes.

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Page last updated: 21 November 2019