Dangerous Dogs

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“I agree with the idea for licensing – perhaps it should be more stringent with bigger and more capable dogs… It seems to me that the law is far too focussed on the pit bull – letting dangerous dogs of any breed slip through the net. There is clearly a problem – it’s people not looking after animals properly.”

The BBC recently aired a brand new programme ‘Dangerous Dogs’ and Stephen Manderson – better known by his stage name, Professor Green – made an appearance to tackle the divisive issue of banned dog breeds.

With dog attacks at an all-time high in the UK – Partner Phill Gower discusses the legal implications for owners of dogs that attack.

Mauled taking a selfie

The rise in the number of smartphones in recent years has consequently led to the number of photographs, especially selfies, rising exponentially. One source says that 8,763 photos are sent on popular picture sharing app Snapchat every second.

This week a story made the news about an 11 year old getting mauled by a Husky, German Shepherd, and Bullmastiff cross whilst trying to take a Snapchat selfie – with the distressing moment immortalised on camera. All three breeds that made up the attacking dog are legal in the UK.

What are the implications for the dog, and the dog’s owner, following the attack?

Owning dangerous dogs

The Dangerous Dog Act in 1991 banned the selling, breeding, giving away, or abandoning dogs on the banned list. These include:

• Pit Bull Terrier
• Japanese Tosa
• Dogo Argentino
• Fila Braziliero

Banned dogs can be taken away from their owner by the police or a dog warden if it is believed to be illegal – even if it isn’t acting aggressively or if there has not been a complaint about the dog. In the mauling case this week none of the three breeds were illegal, but clearly the dog was dangerous.

The dog’s owner pleaded guilty to having a dangerously out of control dog that had previously attacked another child – and the dog was put down. The owner also has been ordered to pay £5,000 in damages to the victim, £170 court fees, and must undertake 200 hours of community work.

Traumatic experience

For many who have been attacked by dogs – illegal or otherwise, the experience can be traumatic, debilitating, and in the worst cases, fatal. In the case of the 11-year-old victim, the parents commented that:

“Our son did not poke his phone in the dog’s face, put his arm around him or put his face right into the dog’s – it attacked without warning…he now has a great fear of dogs, especially bigger dogs, which he never had before. We have to cross the road now if we see one coming.”

Phill comments:

“It is interesting to see from the ‘Dangerous Dogs’ programme that dog attacks are on the up, despite the law banning certain types. The problem highlighted is that dogs considered to be safe under UK law may well be just as dangerous as those that are banned.

“The sad story of the 11-year-old being attacked whilst taking a selfie is warning enough for parents to be aware of the dangers that any dog – even if they have been around children before – could have the potential to attack.

“Responsibility clearly lies with the owner, who has a duty to the animal to ensure they are well trained and looked after. Mistreated, malnourished, and wrongly homed dogs can lead to a worrying end for victims, and ultimately, for the dog – who is usually put down.”

Written by Phil Gower

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