Should owners be responsible for their dog’s actions?

Posted by Cyril. September 19th 2013.

The question of whether dog owners should always be responsible for their dog’s actions is a very difficult one to answer. It’s a political hot potato and a debate with fierce proponents on both sides and to fully understand the issue, we need to examine some of the variables in greater depth.

Bad Behaviour - Who's to Blame? Dogs Fighting

Accidents do happen

Most dogs are friendly, happy and love company. However, we need to remember that even though they are often lovely, they are animals. If threatened, cornered or confused, they can lash out and attack.

That’s why dogs should never sleep in the bed with their owners and should never be encouraged to stand on people or have an excessively superior position to owners or other humans.

If a dog is placed in any of these situations, either by accident or on purpose, can we really blame them for reacting as they are genetically programmed to? After all, don’t we sometimes lash out both physically and verbally when threatened?

Also, if you are unaware of a dog’s full history then you often have no idea what might be a trigger for them where bad behaviour is concerned. This is why you should always speak to the owner before petting or stroking an unfamiliar animal or pet.

However, is it not the owner’s responsibility to ensure that their dog is not exposed to these situations? If it has a history of getting confused or aggressive then shouldn’t they guard against this?

Accidents do happen but they can also be prevented with careful planning.

More serious threats

Sadly it is sometimes the case that dog owners are simply irresponsible and create potentially dangerous situations for their pets. Some people train dogs to fight, be aggressive or simply turn a blind eye to bad behaviour or uncontrollable personality traits.

Dogs are very powerful and potentially lethal creatures. Given the right set of circumstances they can kill.

An aggressive breed combined with an irresponsible owner is a time bomb waiting to go off. The consequences of this can be disastrous.

Every so often we read in the papers about a person, very often a young and vulnerable child, being attacked by one or more very dangerous animals that had not been properly controlled.

In these instances it is very hard to argue that the level of neglect, and often abuse, cannot be attributed to the owner.

Bad Behaviour - Who's to Blame? - Barking dog

The facts

According to The Guardian, one in six people admitted to hospital after a dog bite is under 10 years old. In the year 2011-2012, 6,447 people were admitted after being bitten.

What is perhaps more concerning is the fact that since 1989 the numbers of admissions to hospital for dog bites has risen to its current number of 1,484.

That means that there are three times the numbers of people being bitten seriously enough to need medical attention. While the population has increased and in all likelihood the number of dogs has too, this three-fold rise is still very troubling.

What’s to be done?

It is very clear that something needs to be done. In order to prevent these horror stories from reoccurring in our newspapers, we need to ensure that dog owners take more responsibility for their actions. Whether this can be achieved by harsher criminal penalties for dog owners is very much up for debate but there are other things to consider too.

The Dangerous Dogs Act introduced criminal measures for those possessing dogs of breeds intended to fight. However, as we have seen since then, the number of incidents has gone up. So something is clearly not working.

Perhaps more education and incentives for considerate dog owners are needed rather than tough penalties?

Only time will tell. The one thing we can all be sure about though is that something needs to be done and responsible pet owners need to accept the duty of care they have to their animals and all those who interact with them.

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