What is the legal position if your dog is attacked by another dog in a public place?

“Dog on dog” attacks are often considered be quite a grey area of law, with every case fact specific.

It is a criminal offence under section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA), for a dog to be dangerously out of control. A dog is deemed to be dangerously out of control if there is reasonable apprehension that it will injure a person or an assistance dog, whether or not an injury is caused.

The police may pursue a case against a dog owner under section 3 DDA where it has attacked another dog, if the owner of the other dog has reasonable apprehension that they could be injured if they tried to stop the dog attacking their animal.

Alternatively, if a dog is found to be dangerously out of control by its owners, a case could be brought under Section 2, Dogs Act 1971. Under Section 2 Dogs Act 1971, civil proceedings are brought in the Magistrates Court. The court can make a destruction order, or a control order with conditions to ensure public safety, and/ or disqualify the owners from keeping the dog.

Further, the police and/or local authority could issue a Community Protection Notice (CPN) or put controls in place to protect other animals from any further injuries. This could, for example, involve ensuring the dog is muzzled and on a lead in public places.

There is, however, no guarantee that the police or local authority will take any action with dog on dog attacks. We would still always recommend dog on dog attacks are logged with the Police and dog warden, which can provide evidence of persistent problem dogs/owners.

Where dog on dog attacks become a problem in specific areas, local authorities also have the power to introduce Public Space Protection Orders. This may mean that dogs are not allowed in certain areas of public land, or that restrictions will apply, such as dogs must be kept on a lead.

In terms of financial losses incurred (usually vet fees), if a dog injures another dog it may be possible to pursue a civil claim for compensation under the Animals Act 1971 and/or common law negligence. This is a civil matter and is heard in a County Court. It is not possible to claim for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity for the dog’s actual injury (as a person can), only the financial losses incurred as a result of those injuries.

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