Dangerous Dogs Legislation
What are the main changes?
Keeping dogs under proper control –
It extends the scope of the law to cover private places (with a limited exception) in addition to public places.
There is a defence known as the ‘householder case’ as the Westminster Government was keen to ensure homeowners should not be prosecuted if their dog attacks a burglar or trespasser. Here a dog may not be considered to be dangerously out of control if it is in, or partly in a building, or part of a building that is a dwelling (i.e. a domestic properly), or forces accommodation and, at the time, the person being attacked is in, or is entering the building as a trespasser, or where the householder is present, he believes the person being attacked to be in, or entering the building, or part of it as a trespasser.
This defence is rather complicated and takes some time to understand. However, in short it means that the defence does not cover incidents in a back garden (e.g. a child climbing over a fence to get a ball back). The dog must either be in or partly in a dwelling (i.e. a place where someone lives) and the person being attacked must be in or entering a dwelling and either be, or suspected to be, trespassing. So the legislation means someone could be prosecuted if a dog attacked a postman delivering mail, but probably not if someone was breaking into a house to steal something. It increases the prison sentence for those convicted of some offences.
It creates a new offence for a dog attacking an assistance dog (blind person’s dog etc.). This will be treated as a criminal offence under Section 3 Dangerous Dogs Act.
It provides powers for a constable or an appointed local authority officer to seize a dangerously out of control dog in a private place. From 13th May 2014 onwards a police constable or a local authority officer appointed under the DDA will be able to seize any dog that appears dangerously out of control in private places as well as public places. (Note the present tense – the animal must be dangerously out of control immediately before or at the time the constable or authorised local authority officer makes the decision to seize)
It sets out specific considerations concerning the suitability of an owner and the behaviour of a dog a Court must think about if it is not to order the destruction of the dog.