Although the majority of dog owners are responsible and care for their animals, sadly certain individuals choose particular breeds of dog, some of which are already illegal, for use in criminal activities or as ‘protection’ dogs, creating an animal which is out of control, aggressive and dangerous, through no fault of its own. Many dog owners and victims alike will be uncertain of the laws surrounding dog attacks. If you are the owner, are you liable if your dog injures or attacks somebody? If you are the victim of an attack, can you claim for compensation and press criminal charges?
Karen Clarke (below), senior litigation assistant with Telford law firm Lanyon Bowdler specialises in helping the victims of dog attacks in claims for compensation. Karen comments “Responsible dog owners would not be held responsible as they ensure their dogs are kept under sufficient control so as to avoid causing injury. For successful compensation claims a dog owner would only be potentially liable for injuries if their breed of dog falls under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 or if they had the knowledge that their dog has previously shown a tendency of aggressive behaviour, or has previously bitten.”
“The Dangerous Dogs Act came into force in May 1991 and it states that any Pit Bull Terrier, (Pit Bull Type), Japanese Tosa and Fila Brazilliero, must be muzzled and on a lead whilst in any public place. As these dogs are classed as ‘dangerous breeds’ any injury caused will automatically lead to compensation, irrespective of any previous incidents. Owners of these breeds are committing an offence by not having them muzzled and on a lead, and failure to do so can lead to a fine, or imprisonment for up to 6 months, or in some cases both. In addition a clause within the Act, which is applicable to all dogs in the UK, states any dog "dangerously out of control in a public place" would also be liable for destruction.”
The programme “Death Row Dogs” gave an insight into this type of dog behaviour and showed the devastation of a family torn apart where their own dog had savaged their son to death. It also demonstrated how the dogs suffer. Often cross bred in an attempt to disguise the breed, they live with irresponsible owners who use the dog for their own means either for organised dog fighting or when dealing drugs. These dogs are left in poor living conditions and are often mistreated. When discovered the dogs are often put down and often this is through no fault of their own.
Karen summarises “I would urge anyone who has concerns about a dog having a vicious nature to report it immediately to the Police. Often attacks are not reported which means there is no evidence of the owner’s irresponsibility and no way of knowing what owners need education on how to control the dog. Similarly there would be no records of where owners are using dogs inappropriately.”
Lanyon Bowdler is Shropshire’s largest law firm, with 17 partners and in the region of 200 experienced staff, the firm is able to offer legal advice throughout the area from local offices. The head office is situated in Shrewsbury at Abbey Lawn Business Park, a further five offices are located in Hereford, Ludlow, Oswestry, Telford Town Centre, and Wellington.
Lanyon Bowdler is an award winning multi-disciplinary law firm, specialising in all aspects of the law. With a progressive outlook and a commitment to the environment, the firm embraces opportunities to work with the community – supporting charities and enterprising initiatives.
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For further information please contact Amanda Jones at Lanyon Bowdler on 01952 224046 or e-mail email@example.com
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