Animal Laws Every UK Pet Parent Should Know

The UK has a number of laws in place to consider carefully when parenting a dog. Photo Credit: Facebook

(PET CARE) Though we hate to say it, dog attacks are an unfortunate reality in many parts of the world. Dog attacks are not only problematic for the victims, but for the animals’ companions as well. In places like the United Kingdom, there are a number of important laws in place to protect citizens, but it’s also the responsibility of animal caretakers to familiarize themselves with these laws. Read the article below to learn about the controversial Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991—a product of breed discrimination—as well as the Animals Act of 1971. There’s no doubt citizens are torn over some of these laws, so we encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments below. — Global Animal
The UK has a number of laws in place to consider carefully when parenting a dog. Photo Credit: Facebook
The UK has a number of laws in place to consider carefully when parenting a dog. Photo Credit: Facebook

Michael Stevens

Take Responsibility By Learning Dog Laws

Over the last few years, there have been a number of high profile cases regarding children being bitten by family pets. Only a few months ago, a school girl in Wigan was attacked and killed by a pack of dogs, bringing to light how easily these incidents can happen and how serious such cases can be.

As a nation of dog lovers—in 2012 there were around eight million dogs in the UK—we really need to start taking more responsibility for our pets, beginning with learning about the basics of dog laws. 

According to DEFRA, there were over 6000 hospital admissions resulting from being bitten or struck by a dog in England in 2010 and in 2009, dog attacks cost our health service £3.3 million. There’s no doubt that dog bites and attacks are a reality, so it’s important to be prepared.

Dog Law Advice

There are two main laws which apply when dealing with dog bite cases—namely The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and The Animals Act 1971.

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

Commonly known as the DDA, this act was introduced following a sudden increase in dog bites that were covered in the media.

Section 1 stipulates the Pit Bull Terrier, Fila Basiliero, Dogo Argentino, and Japanese Tosa are banned under the Dangerous Dog Act, as well as any other dog that appears to be bred for fighting or to have the characteristics of a type bred for that purpose. It is a criminal offense not only to breed, but also to sell or gift any of these dogs.

It is an offense to allow these banned dogs to be in a public place without being muzzled and kept on a leash. Again, it is an offense if the dog is dangerously out of control in a public place whether or not it injures someone. What is meant by ‘dangerously out of control’ is reasonable apprehension that it will injure someone, even if it doesn’t.

Bear in mind that a court can order your male dog to be neutered if it will make your dog less dangerous. In fact, a court can even order a dog to be destroyed and/or for a person to be prohibited from keeping dogs.

For those dog owners below 16 years of age, the head of the household becomes responsible for the dog. 

Penalties for breaching the DDA include fines of up to £5000 and/or imprisonment for 6 months. If your dog injures somebody then it could lead to a prison sentence of two years and/or a fine, therefore insurance is paramount.

Animals Act 1971

The next step in any dog bite claim is to consider The Animals Act 1971. Under The Animals Act 1971, the keeper of an animal is automatically responsible if the injury is caused by an animal belonging to a dangerous species. This is an animal which is not commonly domesticated in the British Isles and has characteristic to cause severe damages or damage likely to be severe unless retrained, such as a tiger or gorilla. 

Section 2 of the Act states:

(1) Where any damage is caused by an animal which belongs to a dangerous species, any person who is a keeper of the animal is liable for the damage, except as otherwise provided by this Act.

(2) Where damage is caused by an animal which does not belong to a dangerous species, a keeper of the animal is liable for the damage, except as otherwise provided by this Act, if—

(a) The damage is of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause or which, if caused by the animal, was likely to be severe; and

(b) The likelihood of the damage or of its being severe was due to characteristics of the animal which are not normally found in animals of the same species or are not normally so found except at particular times or in particular circumstances; and

(c) Those characteristics were known to that keeper or were at any time known to a person who at that time had charge of the animal as that keeper’s servant or, where that keeper is the head of a household, were known to another keeper of the animal who is a member of that household and under the age of sixteen.

In essence, there are three main points that must be proven if your dog bites. Even if the animal is not a dangerous species, a keeper of an animal can still be liable if the damage caused by the animal is likely to be severe; if the likelihood of the damage is due to the characteristics of the animal of the same species or are not normally found in particular times or particular circumstances; and if those characteristics are known to the keeper/person in charge.

Under section 2(1), it is irrelevant if every precaution has been taken to prevent the animal escaping or whether you didn’t realize the animal was dangerous.

The other section of The Animal Act 1971 states that a person or keeper can be responsible if a dog kills or injures livestock, unless the livestock has strayed onto the land and the dog belonged to the occupier or its presence on the land was authorized by the occupier. In addition, a keeper may not responsible if damage is caused due to the fault of the injured person or the risk was voluntarily accepted. Finally, if a dog strays from unfenced land to a highway its keeper can be liable and even if there was fencing, it must have been deemed suitable for use.

Taking Responsibility

So, if we want to curb the amount of dog attacks in the UK, and the costs of resulting injuries both personally and to Britain’s health service, we all need to take more responsibility for our pets. This starts with educating ourselves about the two main laws surrounding dog bites, The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and The Animals Act 1971, and continues with increasing the awareness and educating others—allowing for everyone to work more effectively together in addressing the above issues and reducing dog attacks.