Dangerous Dogs

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Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

Section 3 of the Act states that if a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place, then the owner and if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog is guilty of an offence, or, if the dog while so out of control injures any person, an aggravated offence, is committed.

In proceedings for this offence, a person who is the owner of a dog but was not at the material time in charge of it, it shall be a defence for the accused to prove that the dog was at the material time in the charge of a person whom he reasonably believed to be a fit and proper person to be in charge of it.

If the owner or, if different, the person for the time being in charge of a dog allows it to enter a place which is not a public place but where it is not permitted to be and while it is there, the dog injures any person, or there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will do so, is guilty of an offence, or, if the dog injures any person, an aggravated offence.

  • On summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both.
  • On conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both.
Destruction and Disqualification rules

Where a person is convicted of an offence under section 1 or 3, or under section 2 (Other specially dangerous dogs), the court may:

  • Order the destruction of any dog in respect of which the offence was committed, and shall do so under section 1 or an aggravated offence under section 3, and may order the offender to be disqualified for such period as the court thinks fit, for having custody of a dog.
Police Powers
  • The Police are at liberty to take the dog(s),and thereupon place them in police kennels to the conclusion of court proceedings.
Age of the owner of a dog
  • A person under the age of 16 years cannot legally own a dog, the person who is in charge of the property where the dog is normally kept, (the head of the household ) is the legal owner for the purposes of the act.
    (section 6 of the Act ).
Appeal against a Control Order or a Destruction Order

Such an Appeal may be made to the Crown Court.

Specially Controlled Dogs

1. Pit Bull Terrier
2. Japanese Tosa
3. Dogo Argentino
4. Fila Braziliero

It is an offence to have a specially controlled dog

We are able to defend any prosecution under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, and have facility to leading expert witnesses to provide full and comprehensive reports on the character of the dog(s) and to attend court in evidence.

What Are The Elements Of The Offence ?

It is necessary for there to be an assault or a battery. The result must be some bodily harm, and to which was reasonable to have been foreseen as a consequence of the assault or battery.

Definition of an Assault
When a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to apprehend immediate unlawful violence.

Definition of a Battery
When a person intentionally or recklessly applies unlawful force to the ‘victim’

If you need any advice on a Dangerous Dogs matter please contact us, and we will respond as soon as possible, or call us on 01923 225212.

Case Example 1


An interesting case of VICTORIA KELLEHER.v.DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS [2012] has provided guidance as to the destruction of a dog..

In this case, before the Queen`s Bench , the dogs were subject to control orders. The dogs escaped from control and another dog was attacked, (but did not cause injury to a member of the public) and was the Appellant was charged under section 3(1) Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, and had pleaded guilty. Therefore, this was a non aggravated offence. The Court ordered the destruction of the dogs.

On Appeal, it was held that the test to be applied to a non aggravated offence, being was the dog a danger to the public. If so, such destruction order was correct., as section 4A provides for the Court to make a destruction order in the event that the dog was not kept under proper control. The Court stated that the correct approach would have been an immediate destruction order if control measures and new arrangements would not have prevented the dogs being dangerous.

The Court stated at paragraph 12:
“ the test, as it seems to me, should be applied in either case , essentially relates to whether the dog is a danger to the public. If it is, whichever way round, as it were, the burden lies for showing it, then the Destruction Order is appropriate. What the Court must do in the case of a non – aggravated offence is to decide whether, on the basis that the dog is a danger, instead of making an immediate Destruction Order, to make what is described as a `contingent Destruction Order`, that is to say a Destruction Order unless the dog is kept under proper control by whatever measures are considered to be appropriate. Although there is nothing in the Act, as I understand it, and certainly no legal decision which defines the circumstances in which a Destruction Order is to be considered appropriate, nonetheless, as it seems to me, the approach that I have indicated must be the sensible one”.

Case Example 2

R.v.K – Hemel Hempstead Magistrates Court

The Defendant was charged in that being the owner of a dog which was dangerously out of control in a public place, and whilst so out of control injured a person contrary to section 3(1) and (4) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Plea entered :
Guilty Legal submissions: That the dog was not a dangerous dog, nor a specified dog under the Act, and that a dog destruction order not be considered, be it that preventative measures be implemented in situ.

£600 fine; £2,500 compensation to the victim, £620 Prosecution Costs, £15 Victim surcharge. No destruction order towards the dog, but a condition that the dog not be off a lead, must be muzzled and in control of a person over the age of 18 years when the dog is in a public place. The dog be chip/pinned and logged with the dogs name as to requirements.

Note:This offence is triable summarily only unless it is an aggravated offence in which case it is triable either way. An offence is aggravated under section 3(1) if, while the dog is out of control, it injures any person. For a summary offence, the maximum custodial sentence is one of six months or a fine not exceeding level 5 ( £5,000.00) or both. On conviction on indictment, the custodial sentence is a maximum term of 2 years and a fine or both. The sentencing Court additionally has the power to make a destruction order for the dog and disqualification orders under sections 4 and 4A.

Case Example 3

H -v- V, St Albans Magistrates Court

The prosecution brought by Trading Standards was in relation to exporting a dog to Lithuania without being placed in quarantine, having not been vaccinated against rabies, and brought into the United Kingdom illegally, and obstructing an officer in course of their duties.

Two charges were brought, and to which the defendant stood Trial:-

Failing to export an animal in accordance with a Notice issued under Article 13 of the Rabies (importation of dogs, cats and other mammals) Order 1974, contrary to Article 16 of the Rabies (importation of dogs, cats and other mammals) Order 1974 (as amended)
Obstructing an officer in the course of their duties, failing to provide an officer with the information whilst they were acting in the course of their duties, contrary to Section 66(c) of the Animal Health Act (as amended)
Penman Sedgwick defending, and made submissions, resulting in Charge 2 being dropped and a Plea of guilty entered to the first charge. After considerable submissions in mitigation of the Defendant by Penman Sedgwick, the sentence of the Court was a conditional discharge for a period of 12 months, and prosecution costs of £500, with a collection order. (Prosecution costs were requested in the amount of £1,600)
Prosecution Case
Counsel for the prosecution argued the severity of the charge stating that the legislation exists to protect the animal and human population from the disease of rabies and that was the reason the dog was required to be quarantined.

The Law
This offence, due to the severity, was liable to a sentence on a summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding £5,000 (Level 5) on the standard scale or both.

Reported in the Watford Observer 12.11.10 and on internet news