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Closed petition Make dog on dog attacks a specific criminal offence

I would like the government change the law so that dog on dog attacks are always considered an offence and the owner/s of the dog that attacks is held responsible for its actions. At present owners can be charged if it is felt the dog is 'dangerously out of control', but often are not.

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The owner/s should be accountable.

Where a dog who has caused death or serious injury to another dog the owner should be subject to fines or a custodial sentence, and a ban on owning dogs in the future, and consideration given to destroying the dog that was out of control.

This is happening too many times where a dog has attacked more than once and caused severe injury and death. Not only traumatic for the dog but to the owner and bystanders who witness such savage behaviour.

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Government responded

This response was given on 24 June 2021

Existing powers allow dog on dog attacks to be tackled effectively, including the issuing of Community Protection Notices and prosecution of offences under Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and Dogs Act 1871.

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Under section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (“the 1991 Act”), it is an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control. For the purposes of the 1991 Act, this includes any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that the dog in question will injure someone, whether or not it actually does so. The key point is whether a person had a reasonable fear that they themselves would be injured.

The maximum penalty for such an offence is fourteen years’ imprisonment if it results in the death of a person; five years in the case of injury; three years if it is an attack on an assistance dog and six months where no injury is caused to a person. This law includes any attack by a dog on another animal from the offence of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control.

The Government amended the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 so that from May 2016, it became an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in any place, including in the home.

The police may also be able to take action under the Dogs Act 1871. Section 2 of the 1871 Act allows for a complaint to be made to a magistrates' court by any individual or authority that a dog is "...dangerous and not kept under proper control". The court may make any Order they consider appropriate to require the owner to ensure that the dog is kept under proper control. If necessary, the dog can be destroyed. The court therefore has a great deal of discretion.

In March 2018 we wrote to all police forces and local authorities about the range of powers and measures available in relation to dangerous dogs. The note included a specific reference to section 3 of the 1991 Act and reminded all parties that it applied to attacks on animals as well as people. It will, however, be for the Crown Prosecution Service to assess, on a case by case basis, whether to proceed with a prosecution under the legislation.

Additionally, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”) also includes specific measures to enable the police and local authorities to tackle irresponsible dog ownership before a dog attack occurs. Practitioners can intervene at a much earlier stage and help prevent situations involving irresponsible owners of dogs becoming more serious. The 2014 Act includes streamlined measures to tackle anti-social behaviour, including where such behaviour involves a dog.

The main tool to tackle this form of irresponsible dog ownership is the Community Protection Notice (“CPN”). These Notices can be issued by local authority officers or the police on dog owners, or anyone temporarily in charge of the dog at the time, whose dogs are behaving in an unruly way, for example, if a dog is running loose in a park and threatening children; or including where a dog threatens or is allowed to attack another dog. CPNs could be used in low level instances such as a dog persistently escaping from a property, running loose in a park, or minor bites or a dog attacking other dogs. These measures allow the authorities to intervene in situations before a dog becomes dangerously out of control. The CPN could require the dog’s owner, or the person in charge of it, to take appropriate action to prevent a reoccurrence of the offending behaviour. This might require a person to mend fences on their property to prevent a dog escaping or could include attending a dog training course, requiring their dog to be muzzled or on a lead in public, or whatever is reasonable in the circumstances to tackle the anti-social behaviour. Breaching a CPN is a criminal offence and could lead to a significant penalty. The Government aims to crack down on irresponsible dog ownership and to that end we are encouraging police forces across the country to use these tools.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs