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The DDA Watch Guide to Changes in Dog Law:

all dogs affectedThe Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 received Royal Assent (passed as a new law) on the 13th of March 2014.

Contained within this extensive new piece of law are sections which now apply to all dogs of all breeds and types.

Here we take a look at how the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA) is amended.

Part 7-Dangerous Dogs; sections 106-107 amends the DDA and came into force on the 13th of May 2014.

Part 2 of our guide will cover the ‘community protection notices’ which will be introduced in October 2014.

This information is intended as a guide – if you find yourself affected by the legislation you should seek legal advice-contact DDA Watch for help and seek professional legal advice.

The key areas of change are:

1.   The extension of section 3 of the DDA to apply to ALL places
2.   The extension of section 3 of the DDA to apply to assistance dogs
3.   Extended rights of seizure
4.   Increased sentencing
5.   Courts’ new assessment in deciding whether a dog is a danger to public safety
6.   Civil Proceedings

1) Section 3 of the 1991 Act has been extended in England and Wales:

The current offence of having a dog ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public place, or a place where the dog is not permitted to be, has been extended to apply to ALL places - including private property. (Section 3(3) of the 1991 Act is repealed as it is no longer required.)

‘Dangerously out of control’ is defined as a dog is presumed to be on any occasion when there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that the dog will injure any person, whether or not it actually does so.

There is a possible defence, for limited situations, under the ‘householder’ clause.

A householder case is where -

the dog is dangerously out of control while in or partly in a building, or part of a building, that is a dwelling or is forces accommodation (or is both), and at that time—

the person in relation to whom the dog is dangerously out of control is in, or is entering, the building or part as a trespasser, or the owner of the dog (if at the time present) believed the person to be in, or entering, the building or part as a trespasser.

This exemption relates to a building that is a place where a person lives-whether a building is a ‘dwelling’ is a question of fact that will be determined by the court hearing the case.

Our understanding is that the householder case applies only to dwellings, or Forces accommodation, and not to private land around a dwelling or to a non-domestic property.

Defra previously stated that the householder case definition is not intended to apply to ancillary or associated buildings, such as sheds or outbuildings, or to outdoor areas such as gardens and paths.

2) Assistance Dogs:

Section 3 of the 1991 Act has also been extended to apply to assistance dogs.

A new offence is created under section 3 - for a dog to be dangerously out of control when there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any assistance dog, whether or not it actually does so.

If a dog injures an assistance dog, an aggravated offence will be committed under section 3.

The definition of an assistance dog is given in section 173(1) of the Equality Act 2010, that is, a dog which has been trained to provide assistance to a deaf or blind person or certain other specified categories of person with a disability.

3) Rights of Seizure:

The rights of enforcement officers (for example, a local authority dog warden or police officer) have been extended - to seize dogs from BOTH public and private places (for example-in your home/garden) if it appears to such an officer that any dog is dangerously out of control (England and Wales).

4) Increased Sentencing:

There is an increase in the maximum prison sentences available if found guilty for an aggravated offence (injury caused) under section 3 (which is currently up to 2 years imprisonment) to;

•    Up to 14 years if a person dies as a result of being injured
•    Up to 5 years in other cases where a person is injured
•    Up to 3 years where an assistance dog is injured or killed

5) Whether a dog is a danger to public safety (England, Wales & Scotland):

The DDA is amended in relation to the test which the court must consider when deciding to issue a destruction order or a contingent destruction order - a court must consider the character of the owner or keeper of the dog as well as the temperament of the dog and its past behaviour along with any other relevant circumstances when deciding whether the dog poses a danger to public safety.

If the court decides that the dog would pose a danger to public safety, this constitutes a reason for making an order for destruction of the dog as opposed to a contingent destruction order.

If found guilty of owning a prohibited type of dog (BSL-Sec 1) the court will continue to have two options – to order exemption (that the dog is added to the Index of Exempted Dogs within two months or to issue a destruction order; but the court must now make an assessment of ‘suitability’ as part of the process of deciding whether the person should be allowed to keep their dog (exemption).

Section 1 (BSL) and Section 3 (applies to all dogs) convictions:
Where a person has been convicted of an offence under section 1 (BSL) or section 3 (applies to all dogs) the court MUST consider;

- the temperament of the dog and its past behaviour, and

- 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

The court may consider;
-  any other relevant circumstances

to reach a decision (whether to issue a destruction order or a contingent destruction order).

6) Civil Proceedings:

Section 4b applications- the same test of danger to public safety will apply when the court considers the need for a destruction order under section 4B of the 1991 Act (destruction orders otherwise than on a conviction).

When deciding whether to order a ‘type’ dog destroyed or exempted, the court MUST consider;

- the temperament of the dog and its past behaviour, and
- 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

The court may consider;

-  any other relevant circumstances.

Section 4B is also amended to enable civil proceedings to be brought in respect of dogs seized under ANY enactment.

DDA Watch opinion of the Amendments:

DDA Watch did not and still does not support the amendments to the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) as contained within the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

We do not support the extension of section three of the DDA to ‘any’ place – for example, your home, your garden, private land, outbuildings, and commercial buildings and we believe that this extension of ‘dangerously out of control’ to private property will leave dogs and their owners open to vexatious complaints, not adequately protected from trespassers and intruders, with dog owners being potentially criminalised when their dogs are just acting as dogs can do in their own homes.

As previously stated, the legal definition of ‘dangerously out of control’ is: a dog is presumed to be such if on any occasion there are grounds for ‘reasonable apprehension’ of injury to any person - whether or not the dog has actually injured a person.

There has been a lot of publicity regarding dogs which have caused injury in the home –  it is important to note that all of section 3 has been extended – a dog doesn’t need to have caused injury to be deemed ‘dangerously out of control’ and injury can include for example being knocked over by a dog or accidentally scratched.

Offences where any injury has been caused should not be of strict liability as is currently the case; defences should be permitted for dogs alleged to be ‘dangerously out of control’ e.g. when a dog is acting in self-defence.

Furthermore, we do not believe that barking or growling alone, at an assistance dog should result in either a criminal prosecution or civil proceedings under the amendments.

The ‘householder case’ is not an adequate defence-what if someone is trespassing in the dog owner’s garden and their dog runs at them and they stumble over? What if a dog is barking at something in its own garden and someone alleges they felt fear, or an invited guest later alleges a dog was ‘dangerously out of control’ in its own home, or neighbour disputes?

We do not support the extension of powers to enter private property or to seize a dog from private property e.g. our homes and gardens without a warrant, if the dog appears to be 'dangerously out of control’.

We do not support amending the DDA so that when deciding whether a dog would constitute a danger to public safety, a court MUST consider whether the owner is ‘fit and proper’ and may consider ‘any other relevant circumstances’.

The definition of what is ‘fit and proper’ is wide open to interpretation as are ‘any other circumstances’; for example, a dog owner's disability or having children is considered and a pet dog is given a death sentence because of it. There should not be a mandatory condition as to what the court takes into account. This vague description which is forced onto the court is open to abuse and will result in the death of more innocent pet dogs who are not a danger to anyone.

The focus should be on the total repeal of disastrous breed specific legislation which does nothing to protect the public, nor address the real problems of irresponsible owners and breeders, but instead creates misery, suffering and the death of innocent pet dogs.

Education should have been the way forward, with dog bite prevention, promoting safety and responsible dog ownership for all.

Legal aid should be extended to cover civil proceedings under the DDA– if no legal aid is possible, how are dog owners expected to form a defence and represent themselves and their dog in court?

These amendments are a missed opportunity to repeal the failed, unworkable and highly expensive Dangerous Dogs Act and replace it with workable non-breed specific legislation which could really make a difference.

These amendments mark a dark and depressing milestone in the disastrous DDA and take what already does not work and makes it even worse.

Further Information:

•    The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 – with explanatory notes http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/12/contents/enacted

•     High Court Ruling – DDA Section 3 https://www.facebook.com/notes/dda-watch/high-court-ruling-dda-section-3/638418746197000

•     Public Survey – DDA Amendments https://www.facebook.com/notes/dda-watch/public-survey-dda-amendments/574838585888350

•     NO to DDA Amendments https://www.facebook.com/notes/dda-watch/no-to-dda-amendments-repeal-bsl/541291162576426




DDA Watch Ltd is a not-for-profit company, registered in England & Wales, registration number 7393352.

Care has been taken to ensure that our information is correct. The information and advice given by DDA Watch is for general purposes and is intended for guidance only, it does not constitute legal advice. The information and opinions expressed should not be relied on or used as a substitute for legal advice, if you require details concerning your rights, legal advice or find yourself affected by legislation it is recommended that you seek professional legal advice. 

Information given is for England and Wales only. Legislation in Scotland and N.Ireland may differ.


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