How do the changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act impact on you?

Posted by Albert. July 31st 2014.

On 13th May 2014, amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) came into effect. With new rules and regulations being enforced, it’s important to look at how this will affect you and your dog.

People who breed dangerous dogs in the UK could face tougher sanctions under new dog sentencing proposals.

Maximum sentences were increased in the courts last year and now the Sentencing Council has drafted a new set of guidelines. Canine owners could face up to 14 years in prison should their dog kill someone; a dramatic increase on the two year sentence previously used.

It’s vital that dog owners understand what the new proposals mean as there are several small changes which could affect them.

The Law

The law states that it’s an offence for your dog to be “out of control” or cause another person “reasonable apprehension” as well as to bite or attack another person. This means that you can be prosecuted for owning a dog which exhibits potentially aggressive behaviour or which causes fear in other people – not just if you own a dog which actually attacks someone.

The legislation does not recognise attacks from other dogs as an offence despite the RSPCA’s appeal. However, it’s recommended that if your dog is attacked by another one then you should report it to the police.

While the Sentencing Council acknowledged that the majority of dog owners are responsible, the new rules aim to target those that act in an irresponsible manner. Drawing on the potentially devastating effects that dog attacks can have, the council states it is essential that long sentences are in place to punish those responsible.

Dangerous Dogs Act
What has changed since 13th May?

The main change to the legislation is that if your dog bites someone or an attack happens on private property then it is now an offence. Before, occurrences on private property were excluded from the act.

This amendment extends to activities which take place in your garden too. In the event of an intruder entering your home and your dog attacking them, the law does provide a defence. Yet, if your dog attacks an intruder when in the garden, this is seen as an offence and you could face court action. Another change in the law is that it’s now an offence if your dog attacks an assistance dog. This is punishable with up to three years in prison.

Should your dog be deemed dangerously out of control, you could face a £20,000 fine, up to six months behind bars, or both. You may also be banned from owning a dog in the future.

Keeping your pooch on a lead and ensuring it is fully trained will help reduce the risk of it being deemed dangerous.

Taking precautions

There are ways of ensuring that your dog complies with the new law at all times. A lot of incidents take place when visitors come to your property and it’s a well known fact that postmen and dogs don’t usually get on very well!

To combat problems with visitors, introduce a routine for when new people arrive at your home. You could shut your dog in another room or train them to go to their bed whenever they hear the doorbell.

Also, make sure your visitors are interacting in an appropriate manner with your dog. Pay particular attention to children as they tend to get very close to animals’ faces which may cause your dog to react badly as they feel threatened.

You can also minimise incidents by making sure your garden is secure. This way, unwanted visitors are less likely to inadvertently walk into your garden where you would be liable if your dog attacked them.

Training your dog is the best way to avoid any issues. Getting your dog to respond to basic commands allows you to keep them under control, away from dangerous dogs and from apprehensive people.

If you are having trouble training your dog then it is recommended that you go to training classes or consult a dog behaviourist if you’re worried about aggressive traits or other bad behaviours which they exhibit.

For more detailed information about the Dangerous Dogs Act please visit GOV.UK.

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