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Dangerous Dogs Law
Guidance for Enforcers
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
Telephone: 020 7238 6000
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Published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Cover Image: Pit Bull type dog, photo courtesy of the RSPCA.
PB13225 March 2009 Contents Guidance to Enforcers 2 General Guide 2 The Police 5 Local Authorities 7 Multi-Agency Approach 9 Annex 1 – The Main Acts 11 Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (as amended 1997) 11 Dogs Act 1871 12 Animal Welfare Act 2006 12 Annex 2 – Identifying Pit Bull Terrier (PBT) types 14 1 Guidance to Enforcers The purpose of this guidance is to assist police forces and local authorities in dealing with incidents brought to their attention involving dangerous dogs and allegations of people owning or breeding dogs prohibited under section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. It explains what the law is and assists each agency in defining their responsibilities and the areas where a joint approach would be advisable.
The guidance has been prepared by Defra in partnership with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), representatives of local authorities and the RSPCA. In preparing the guidance we have drawn on the experience of several forces who have established proven policies and procedures through good practice and developing multi-agency agreements with local authorities and the RSPCA.
The key legislation:
This guide is intended to give a brief overview of the key pieces of legislation. For more detailed
information, see the annex at the end of this document or the Home Office circulars listed at:
http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/welfare/domestic/dogs.htm Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA) Prior to this legislation there were no criminal offences available to enforcers directly to protect people from injury, or fear of injury by dogs. Therefore it is vital to understand that the intention of Parliament was the protection of people. This Act is used to deal with the most serious incidents and generally it will be the police who instigate proceedings.
Section 1 Section 1 prohibits the ownership of certain types of dogs, unless they are exempted on the Index of Exempt Dogs, and was intended to have a preventative effect. Prosecutions can be brought before a Court based on just the physical characteristics of the dog1 (i.e. what it looks like). In any incident dealing with a potential prohibited dog it may be worth contacting the Index of Exempted Dogs (IED) for advice and guidance at an early stage on 07000 783651 or 07721 036354 Section 3 Section 3 creates a criminal offence of allowing any dog (i.e. of any breed or type) to be dangerously out of control in a public place or a place to where it is not allowed. A dog can be regarded as being dangerously out of control on any occasion where it causes fear or apprehension to a person2 that it may injure them. Furthermore, if that dog does injure a person then the offence is aggravated. Legal action may be taken against the owner and/or the person in charge of the dog at the time.
This section should only be used in the most serious incidents investigated by enforcers, and generally it would be the police that would instigate proceedings under this section, however local authorities are able to act under this legislation also.
1 For further information about identifying Pit Bull Terriers please see Annex 2 which provides some general guidance 2 NB. Where a dog or dogs have been set on another animal if an owner of the animal or a bystander is in fear of their own safety this may be sufficient for seizure of the dog or dogs by the police and a prosecution under s3 of the DDA.
2 Guidance to Enforcers
Dogs Act 1871 Although over 100 years old now this Act is possibly the most effective piece of dog control legislation available to enforcers. Civil proceedings are brought at a Magistrates’ Court and this can be done by the police, local authorities, or individual members of the public.
This legislation should always be taken into consideration when enforcers are investigating any incidents relating to dogs or when concerns are raised over an allegation of irresponsible dog ownership. Furthermore, it can be particularly effective when dealing with attacks on other domestic pets or livestock.
Section 2 Section 2 requires that the owner is brought before a Magistrates’ court on a complaint and if the Magistrate is satisfied that the complaint is justified they can make any order they feel appropriate to require the owner to ensure that the dog is kept under proper control or in extreme cases destroyed. Importantly this is regardless of whether the dog is in a private or public place. Note proceedings must be commenced by way of a complaint.
Dangerous Dogs Act 1989 In addition to any civil order made under the 1871 Act, the 1989 Act allows a Magistrate to disqualify an owner from having custody of a dog for any period the Court thinks fit. The 1989 Act also provides enforcement provisions for breaches of any control order imposed on an individual under the 1871 Act.
Metropolitan Police Act 1839 and Town Police Clauses Act 1847 These provide for offences for anyone to allow an unmuzzled ferocious3 dog to be at large4 (i.e. not under proper control in a public place) and attack, worry, or put in fear any person, horse or other animal in any thoroughfare or public place in the metropolitan police district5, or any street in a town6.
Offences Against the Person Act 1861 This Act makes it an offence to maliciously wound or cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) to another with or without a weapon or instrument7. Section 47 also creates an offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH). These offences should only be considered in the most extreme circumstances due to the severity of the penalties.
With all prosecutions it is important that enforcement authorities share intelligence and information where possible and update each other on outcomes.
3 There is a distinction between a dangerous and ferocious dog Keddle v Payn  1 All ER 189 4 A dog on a lead is not at ‘large’ Ross v Evans  2 QB 79 5 S 54 Metropolitan Police Act 1839 6 S 28 Town Police Clauses Act 1847 7 Ss18 and 20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
The Police It is vital that every police service within the UK has a good, robust strategy and policy for dealing with dangerous dogs.
The policy must include identifying secure kennels that can be contracted by police should it be necessary for a dangerous dog to be seized prior to any prosecution.
Experience has shown that the costs to the police service can be considerable and therefore it is essential there is a standard operational procedure in place. The welfare of any dog seized is also a factor the police need to consider and they should note their duty to ensure the welfare of animals under their control (s9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006).
If procedures are not set in place to ensure that both the animal and the progression of cases are monitored closely, costs will escalate and the animal’s welfare may suffer.
The following forces of varying sizes have good established policies in place (which can be
considered good practice) and could be used as a template for creating a force policy:
• Metropolitan Police
• Merseyside Police
• Thames Valley Police
• Bedfordshire Police Enforcers should be aware that often there is a link between people involved in the irresponsible ownership of dogs or illegal breeding and selling of s1 prohibited dogs and other anti-social or criminal behaviour or activities. Therefore the police service is best placed to investigate allegations and suspected offences under this Act.
It should be noted that under s1 of the DDA the burden of proof is reversed and it is the owner, or person in possession at the time of the offence, who must prove to the Court that the dog is not of the prohibited type.
That said, experience has shown that there must be an element of (or access to) knowledge and expertise, within the police/dog warden (or equivalent) service responsible for the seizure and prosecution of the prohibited types of dogs.
The Dog Legislation Officer (DLO) It is advisable for every police service to have a trained police DLO. If this is not possible, every police service must have agreed procedures in place to gain access to a police DLO in order to facilitate this guidance. Experience has shown that each police service should have an officer/ person skilled/trained in depth in all dog-related legislation and have a good knowledge of the identification of the prohibited types.
Generally these officers are dual-skilled and experience has shown that this position is best suited to an operational dog handler or an operational officer who has had experience in this field.
He/she must also have good people skills and is likely to have knowledge and experience of dogs outside of the job.
Currently there are two Police Services running seminars for the role of DLOs:
• Metropolitan Police email: email@example.com
• Merseyside Police email: Dangerous.Dogs@merseyside.police.uk It is essential that DLOs are given the skills to function as a single point of contact (SPOC) to guide and assist enforcers in the investigation of dog-related allegations of crime.
Experience has shown that constables are not always aware of the workings of dangerous dogs law. Therefore early guidance from a DLO can in many cases resolve trivial and minor incidents by words of advice to owners. Where there is clear evidence of a serious offence the DLO is best placed to help and guide any investigation.
The DLO’s main responsibilities
• To be able to identify dogs that are alleged to be of a prohibited breed/type.
Identification of prohibited types has always been a difficult area under the 1991 Act. This legislation gives power to any constable or authorised local authority officer to seize any dog they believe to be prohibited. DLOs need to have expertise to make judgements as to whether or not a dog that is considered to be a banned type should be retained by its owner until court proceedings, therefore saving police costs and concerns over the dog’s welfare whilst in custody. This should be done via a risk assessment of all the relevant factors.
Many DLOs have become expert witnesses recognised by the Courts. Nevertheless, where a prosecution is instigated and an expert witness is required, the DLO may find it necessary to contact an experienced expert from within another force or from outside the police service.
• To oversee case management and ensure that proceedings are brought expeditiously where dogs are held in kennels.
Where a dog is being held in kennels the court must be made aware of that fact because delay will place heavy costs on police budgets and can impact on the animal’s welfare. There have been many examples where this fact has been forgotten and opportunities to expedite court proceedings were missed.
• Dog legislation officers should take responsibility and be consulted, wherever practical, prior to any dog being seized.
There are many occasions where it is not necessary to seize a dog. The DLO would be best placed to make an assessment on the decision to seize.
• To establish good working relationships with local authority officers, the RSPCA and local animal welfare organisations.
There are many occasions where concerns are brought to the attention of police but are not directly related to police priorities or responsibilities. Minor incidents should be dealt with by local authority officers, possibly with the support of animal welfare organisations where the situation can be rectified through advice and education. It is important to establish early on the roles and responsibilities depending on the circumstances of each case.
6 Guidance to Enforcers
Whenever it becomes apparent that animal welfare offences may be being committed i.e.
anything from a welfare offence, to cruelty or dog fighting, the RSPCA should be consulted at the earliest possible stage. They are the lead organisation on the investigation of animal welfare issues. They will assist and guide police and in some cases will take over and institute their own proceedings but it must be accepted that if there are no animal welfare issues involved the RSPCA will not become involved in straightforward s1 prosecutions. Those investigations will remain the responsibility of the police service.
Local Authorities Local Authorities now have sole responsibility for stray dogs under s68 of the Clean Neighbourhood
and Environment Act 2005 (CNEA). Further guidance is available on:
http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/localenv/dogs/pdf/straydogs-guidance.pdf Ss55-67 of the CNEA also provides local authorities with powers through Dog Control Orders (DCO). These powers include the ability to place restrictions on access to or exclude dogs from, open spaces to which the public have access, as well as the power, to make owners place dogs on leads. Local authorities may issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FNPs) for those who do not adhere.
Police Community Support Officers are also able to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) under this
Act. Further guidance can be found at: