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How the New Dog Laws Affect You,

the Owner/Guardian

By Theo Stewart and Lisa Tenzin-Dolma

In association with the International School for Canine Practitioners and the Dog Welfare Alliance
This presentation was created in response to the concerns of many dog
owners following articles in most of the newspapers. Please note that
prosecution for a single offense unless actual damage is caused is very
rare and unlikely. Most authorities will first give out warning and advice.

This presentation is designed to be used by dog professionals to address

existing concerns in the dog-owning public, with advice for dog owners
regarding the changes in the Dog Law and what they can do to play safe
with practical solutions and training. It is not to scaremonger, but to

By professionals we mean those who work with dogs in any capacity,

such as trainers, behaviour consultants, groomers, rescue workers,
boarding kennels, dog walkers etc.

What we say is accurate to the best of our knowledge. This is a privately

created presentation. We don't represent the law or the government.

Theo Stewart and Lisa Tenzin-Dolma

‘The aim (of the Act) is to encourage responsible
dog ownership and reduce other incidents
involving dogs, such as straying and the use of dogs
for intimidation, through early engagement and
education, and overall to prevent problems
becoming more serious and to thus reduce the
number of dog bites’.

(Dealing with irresponsible dog ownership. DEFRA Practitioner’s manual

October 2014)
An RSPCA official stated on the 14th May: ‘While we don’t
believe these changes will be effective in doing what they set
about to do, which is reducing dog bites and anti-social
behaviour with dogs, we do support the notion that all dog
owners should be responsible for their dog’s behaviour with
other people and animals.

There is, however, a concern that even the most well behaved
and well trained dogs could fall foul of this legislation
accidentally. For example, if a dog becomes overexcited,
jumps up and knocks someone down’.
‘Since 1991 it’s been illegal for dogs to be ‘dangerously out
of control in a public place’.

However, until recently dog bites and attacks on private

property were excluded from the legislation.

The main change in the law is an extension to cover

incidents which take place on private property. This means
in your home, including your front and back garden’.

This applies whether or not the person has been invited.

Owners can now be prosecuted for a dog attack on
private property.

Maximum prison sentences were extended to:

• 14 years, from two years, for a fatal dog attack.

• Five years, from two years, for injury.
• Three years for an attack on an assistance dog.
Whether you own a large breed dog or a tiny one and
however placid and friendly your dog is, the Dangerous
Dogs Act applies to you.

It applies to all dog owners in England and Wales.

Under the Act, it’s illegal for a dog to be ‘dangerously out of
control’ or to bite or attack someone.

The legislation also makes it an offence if a person feels

threatened (the term is ‘reasonable apprehension’) that a dog
may bite them. So ensure that your dog is kept under control
at all times and in all places.
• Jumping up
• Being boisterous and excited
• Uninvited interactions that cause anxiety or concern
• Not paying attention to the owner
• Unreliable recall
• Being off-lead in a public place without adequate
• Behaving in such a way that someone feels intimidated or
Even a friendly greeting can be misinterpreted
If your dog acts in a manner that a visitor views as
intimidating, even if your dog is being friendly,
you could be liable for prosecution.

This includes:

• Dogs who bark at visitors.

• Dogs who jump up while greeting visitors.

If your dog is excitable, it’s recommended that you keep
him/her in a separate room or crated while guests are in
your home, or until he/she has calmed down.

You can train your dog to settle on a mat or bed.

You may wish to call in a qualified behaviourist or

attend training classes that use only force-free methods,
so that your dog learns to pay attention to you and to
respond to requests to be calm.
You can teach your dog to go to his or her bed when visitors
The law makes it clear that dogs must not be allowed to be in
a garden without supervision where there is access to the

This is to protect postal and delivery workers, but it also

applies to visiting guests.

If your dog is running free in an outdoor access area to your

home and someone entering feels under threat, you could be

If your dog nips or bites a visitor coming into your garden,

you could be liable for imprisonment and your dog may be
Not all dogs are friendly like these two to people passing by or
entering the garden
Police and local authorities were given new legal powers to
tackle irresponsible dog ownership.

For the first time, police and local authorities are able to
demand that owners take action to prevent a dog attack or
risk a fine of up to £20,000. If a complaint has been made
about a dog to the council or police, its owners could be
ordered to do any or all of the following:
• Attend dog training classes
• Muzzle the dog or require it to be on a lead in public
• Require the dog to be micro chipped and/or neutered
• Repair fencing to prevent the dog leaving the property
Off-lead dogs can be considered to be ‘dangerously out of
control’ and may look threatening.
The law provides a defence if your dog attacks
an intruder in your own home, so this may be a
comfort to many dog owners.

However, rather confusingly, if your dog attacks

an intruder in your garden this will be an offence
which could land you in court.
No, the RSCPA campaigned for attacks on other animals to be included
in the legislation, but the recommendation was not taken up.

The exception is if your dog attacks a guide dog, either on-lead or off-
lead. This is now an offence, punishable by up to 3 years

If your dog is attacked by another dog, the incident should still be

reported to the police immediately.

If you suffer emotional distress through witnessing your dog being

attacked by another dog, the owner is liable for prosecution. This could
result in a fine, a control order, or the destruction of the dog who
instigated the attack.
Postal workers, utility providers and other authorised visitors to
your property should be able to carry out their work without
feeling afraid, being threatened, bitten or coming into contact
with your dog.

You know your dog better than anyone else. If your dog reacts to
the doorbell or new people at the door, it is sensible to introduce a
routine for managing them when the doorbell rings.

You should also ensure that your garden is secure. This can be
done by making sure your back gate can be closed or locked. This
is not only to reduce the likelihood of your dog escaping, but to
prevent trespassers who could inadvertently cause an incident in
which you would be liable.
If a passer-by touches or strokes your dog over or through a
fence, you could be held liable for any incident that occurs.
By law police can take any situation further if it somehow
relates to the Dangerous Dogs Act, but due to lack of
resources this is unlikely to be enforced unless damage is

The happy dog knocking down a child in the park is a

category 1 offence which can potentially have the dog put
to sleep, but the police are unlikely to have time to deal
with this.

However, is it worth the very small risk?

Ensure that all visitors are interacting safely with your dog.

You could provide your dog with their own personal space.
Then make sure that visitors understand not to approach
them when they are there.

This is particularly important in the case of visiting

children, as children’s body language can be confusing to
dogs and their high-pitched voices can upset or frighten
dogs. Children tend to want to make very close facial contact
with dogs, which many dogs find threatening.

The majority of dog bites treated in hospitals involve

It’s the responsibility of the owners to protect their dog from
unwanted attention.
Ensure your dog responds to basic commands so
that you can keep them under reasonable control
when in public places and in your home.

Reliable recall is essential if you let your dog off


Find a suitable dog trainer or behaviour consultant

who uses only force-free methods.
A friendly dog jumping up may scare someone.
This gorgeous boy is called
Kobi and he is friendly with all
people and dogs.

Someone may be scared of him

just on account of how he
Ensure your dog is under control at all times, indoors as well as outside.
It can help to use a well-fitting harness instead of a collar and lead, as this gives
you more control.

Spend time teaching your dog to behave calmly in the presence of other people
and dogs. This is an investment in your relationship for the future, too.
If your dog is boisterous or reactive, enlist the help of a qualified behaviourist or
trainer who uses only force-free methods. As many dogs are excited when visitors
arrive, it can help to call in a professional to work with this in your own home.

Be aware of other people’s perceptions of your dog. Many people don’t

understand dog body language, and may feel threatened even if your dog is
being friendly.

Educate yourself in the basics of dog communication so that you can tell if your
dog is feeling stressed or scared. Understanding what your dog is feeling through
observing him or her can avert potentially tricky situations from occurring.
Being able to ‘read’ your dog will help prevent you from getting on the wrong
side of the law – and could save your dog’s life.
• Secure boundary fencing with no gaps.
• Boundary fencing sufficiently high that a person can’t lean
over or put a hand over.
• A locked garden gate to prevent unexpected visitors
• An outside letterbox if your dog is reactive to postal or
delivery workers.

None of these safety precautions should be too difficult to put in place

• Block access to your front door with a safety gate, or put
your dog in another room before answering the door.
• Teach your dog to greet visitors calmly.
• Crate train your dog so that he/she has a safe, secure
resting place when you have company.
• It may be necessary to have an excitable or wary dog on
lead when other people are in your home.

None of these indoor safety precautions should be too difficult to put in

• The Yellow Dog Campaign has yellow leads, bandanas and
jackets for dogs who need space. Tell approaching people that
your dog is in training.

• Protect your dog from unwanted attention or touching. You

must be your dog’s advocate.

• Teach reactive dogs to be comfortable wearing a muzzle when

out. Chirag Patel’s excellent video on how to do this can be
found on YouTube on the DomesticatedManners channel.

• Teach your dog to be calm in the presence of other dogs and

• A professional dog walker – or anyone walking the dog -
is considered to be the ‘keeper’ of the dog in their care,
and is legally responsible for the dog when out.

• Do not let any young children hold your dog’s lead

during walks. Children under the age of 16 are not held
legally responsible for a dog in their care. Full
responsibility for the dog rests with the dog owner or the
adults in the child’s household.
• In Wales 2015 and England 2016 it will be the legal
requirement of all dog owners to have their dogs micro

• Hand in hand with this we hope that there will be more

people registered to scan all strays.
‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’.

Benjamin Franklin
Presentation created by Theo Stewart and Lisa

In conjunction with:

The International School for Canine Psychology &


The Dog Welfare Alliance:

©Theo Stewart and Lisa Tenzin-Dolma