The amended Dangerous Dogs Act comes into effect in England and Wales tomorrow (13 May 2014). Section 3 of the Act confirms it is currently a criminal offence for the person in charge of the dog to allow it to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public place and this applies to all dog owners regardless of size or breed.
While owners need to be fully aware of all the changes, the biggest difference from now on is that the Act will cover incidents on private property in addition to public spaces. This includes a dog owner’s house and both front and back gardens.
Although a dog does not have to bite to be deemed dangerous in the eyes of the law, if a dog does bite a person, it will be presumed to have been ‘dangerously out of control’. Even if the dog does not bite but gives the person grounds to feel that the dog may injure them, the law still applies. Dog owners will no longer be immune from criminal prosecution if their dog attacks a person in the home. This change in the law will give protection to the healthcare, postal and utility professionals who visit private properties for work.
Philippa Luscombe, partner in the personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP, comments: ‘’We see a number of personal injury claims from people who have been bitten and attacked by dogs and a number of high profile cases involving serious attacks on children have been in the news. Many delivery service and household employees are injured by dog bites each year and there has not been clear legislation until now to enable action to be taken following such incidents. It is hoped that the ability to take both criminal and civil action against the owner should their dog cause injury to a visitor to their home will encourage dog owners to properly train and control their animals.”