Tag Archives: destruction

Government to focus on Controlling Dangerous Dogs?

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s report Controlling Dangerous Dogs calls for a full-scale review of current dog control legislation and policy to better protect the public. The report was published on 17 October 2018.

controlling dangerous dogs

The full report can be found here.

Is there a problem with controlling dangerous dogs?

According to the Committee there is.

In 1991 the Dangerous Dogs Act outlawed certain breeds and types of dog to protect the public from attacks.  Since then the number of yearly fatalities has continued to rise.

Hospital admissions for dog attacks have increased by 81% since 2005. An unacceptably high number of victims suffer horrific life-changing injuries in these incidents. Even where no physical injury occurs, dog aggression can cause significant psychological distress.

controlling dangerous dogs

At the same time, too many harmless dogs are being destroyed every year because they are banned and cannot be re-homed, even if they are well tempered and pose no risk to the public.

The Government has maintained that the breed ban is essential to public safety, arguing that these prohibited dogs pose an inherent risk. This inquiry found insufficient evidence to substantiate this claim.

The Committee agrees with the Government that it would be irresponsible to amend the breed ban immediately without adequate safeguards, but ‘that does not mean that the Government should continue to sit on its hands.’

The report argues that changing the law on Breed Specific Legislation is desirable, achievable, and would better protect the public, and that ‘…the Government’s lack of action on this front shows a disregard for dog welfare.’

controlling dangerous dogs

What action needs to be taken?

The report makes the following recommendations in relation to controlling dangerous dogs:

  • immediately remove the prohibition on transferring a banned dog if it has been behaviourally assessed by experts and found to be safe. This would prevent the needless destruction of friendly animals that could be safely re-homed;
  • commission an independent evidence review to establish whether the banned breeds or types present an inherently greater risk than any legal breed or cross breed;
  • commission a comprehensive review of existing dog control legislation and policy, with a view to developing an alternative model that focuses on prevention though education, early intervention, and consistently robust sanctions for offenders;
  • ensure all future strategies are developed with a full and transparent commitment to evidence-based policy-making. If the independent evidence review concludes there is insufficient evidence to support the Government’s position on Breed Specific Legislation, this aspect of the law should be revised;
  • introduce mandatory training and education courses for minor dog offences, similar to speed awareness courses for drivers;
  • support wider dog awareness training for schoolchildren, and run a targeted awareness campaign for dog owners and the general public on safe human-dog interaction;
  • increase support for local authorities and police forces to ensure they have the capacity to fulfil their duties; and
  • engage with international partners to learn lessons and best practice from abroad.

Will anything change as a result of this report?

It remains to be seen how if at all, the government will respond to this latest report.

Sentencing for dangerous dogs’ offences already results in severe sentences, but the focus here is more on trying to ensure that harm is not caused in the first place.

How we can assist?

Dog owners are often unfairly stigmatised and face severe punishment if found guilty of dangerous dog offences.

The legislation is extremely complex, but our solicitors have an in-depth knowledge of this area of law.

If you face investigation or prosecution it is important that you seek early advice.

The benefits of having free and independent legal advice from one of our solicitors in any interview with the police can be found here.

Any interview may well take place with the suspect being a volunteer.  This does not mean that the police are taking the case less seriously.

More information about this type of interview can be found here.

You can read more about how to contest destruction orders made with a view to controlling dangerous dogs here.

Contact your nearest office

We provide nationwide advice and representation in criminal law matters from our offices across the East Midlands.

You can find your nearest office here.

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Dangerous dog prosecutions – avoiding the destruction of your dog

dangerous dog prosecutionsIt is often said that there is no such thing as a dangerous dog, only a dangerous owner.  While the criminal law often refers to a ‘dangerous dog’,  the offences pursued in dangerous dog prosecutions relate to a dog being ‘dangerously out of control’.

Section 10 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 states that:

‘a dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person (or assistance dog), whether or not it actually does so.’


The penalties for ‘dangerous dog’ offences are severe.  They include  imprisonment of up to 14 years where death is caused.  What is is not often understood is that an offence may lead to the destruction of the dog as well.

A discretion to order destruction?

In relation to some offences the court may order destruction.  In others, the court must order destruction unless assured (by imposing strict conditions) that the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety.

When deciding whether a dog would constitute a danger to public safety, the court—

(a) must consider—

(i) the temperament of the dog and its past behaviour, and

(ii) whether the owner of the dog, or the person for the time being in charge of it, is a fit and proper person to be in charge of the dog, and

(b) may consider any other relevant circumstances.

Avoiding Destruction of a ‘dangerous dog’

defending dangerous dog prosecutionsIn all cases where a court is considering destruction, attention must be drawn to the court’s power to order instead ‘contingent destruction’.  This will prevent the dog’s destruction provided that the conditions imposed are met.

The key case in dangerous dog prosecutions remains R v Flack [2008] EWCA Crim 204 where the following criteria were established:

“The relevant principles that can be made in respect of a dog whose owner has been convicted under section 3(1) of the 1991 Act of failing to keep a dog under control in a public place are that:

(1) The court is empowered under section 4(1) of the 1991 Act to order the destruction of the dog.

(2) Nothing in that provision shall require the court to order destruction if the court is satisfied that the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety: section 4(1)(a) of the 1991 Act.

(3) The court should ordinarily consider, before ordering immediate destruction, whether to exercise the power under section 4A(4) of the 1991 Act to order that, unless the owner of the dog keeps it under proper control, the dog shall be destroyed (“a suspended order of destruction”).

(4) A suspended order of destruction under that provision may specify the measures to be taken by the owner for keeping the dog under control whether by muzzling, keeping it on a lead, or excluding it from a specified place or otherwise: see section 4(a)(5) of the 1991 Act.

(5) A court should not order destruction if satisfied that the imposition of such a condition would mean the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety.

(6) In deciding what order to make, the court must consider all the relevant circumstances which include the dog’s history of aggressive behaviour and the owner’s history of controlling the dog concerned in order to determine what order should be made.”

What we can do to help

It is unlikely that legal argument alone will suffice to convince a court to order contingent destruction. In almost all dangerous dog prosecutions you will need the assistance of an expert in dog behaviour, alongside expert advocacy. We can arrange for the preparation of suitable expert reports and provide the advocacy for you.

Instruct an expert in defending dangerous dog prosecutions

If you are facing criminal proceedings that relate to an allegedly dangerous dog then please contact us as soon as possible. Our solicitors are well versed in this aspect of the law and will ensure your best defence is put forward before the court.

This will also include the best argument possible to ensure that your dog is not destroyed.

You can find your nearest office here to seek our specialist advice. 

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Our offices across the East Midlands

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