The Dangerous Dogs Act

Changes To The Dangerous Dogs Act

Changes to the dangerous dogs act

A dog doesn’t have to bite to fall foul on the Dangerous Dogs Act

The amended Dangerous Dogs Act comes into effect in England and Wales on 13 May 2014. This law applies to all dog owners no matter what size or breed, whether your pet is a Chihuahua, a Cockapoo or a Collie cross.  We are now held more responsible than ever with a huge increase in fines or jail time.

 

 

Which elements of the existing Dangerous Dogs Act should dog owners be aware of?

Section 3 of the Act applies to every single dog owner in England and Wales. Under this section, it is a criminal offence for the person in charge of the dog to allow it to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public place.

Also, a dog doesn’t have to bite to be deemed dangerous in the eyes of the law

Generally if a dog bites a person, it will be presumed to have been ‘dangerously out of control’, however even if the dog does not bite, but gives the person grounds to feel that the dog may injure them, the law still applies.  Not many dog owners are aware of this, and it is important to hold that thought when looking at the changes.

What’s changing on 13 May 2014?

While owners need to be fully aware of all the changes, the biggest difference from now on is the Act also covers incidents on private property in addition to public spaces. This includes your own house and both front and back gardens.
In addition:
• It will now be an offence for your dog to attack an assistance dog (Guide Dog, Hearing Dog etc).
• Prison sentences will be increased for those convicted of some offences
• Police or an appointed local authority now have powers to seize a dangerously out of control dog in a private place. The existing legislation already covers public places.

So what should dog owners be doing now?

Ensure your gardens are safe

The most important point to consider is how to keep unexpected visitors or delivery drivers safe on your property. The requirement for the law to cover private places as well as public ones has long been campaigned for by the Communication Workers Union. Numerous Royal Mail and other delivery services employees are injured by dog bites each year and up until now there has not been the legislation to enable action to be taken to ensure their future safety.

You need to make sure that any visitor can safely access your front door without encountering your dog

There is a slight grey area in these changes in that if the person attacked is a burglar or trespasser your dog may not be considered dangerously out of control if it is in a building that is your private dwelling at the time of the attack. However, this does not cover incidents in your back or front garden so while the law is yet to be tested, all dog owners should ensure that all areas of their gardens where their dogs could encounter unexpected visitors are secure.
If necessary it is also worth talking to your neighbours and asking them not to let their children climb your fences to retrieve balls etc to be on the safe side.

Manage your dog when someone knocks at the door

Not so much a dangerous dog

Not all breeds are dangerous

We all know that fewer letters are being sent through the post, but the rise in internet shopping means that more parcels and especially signed for parcels are being delivered, which requires the delivery person to knock at the door. This change in legislation should be a wake up call to all dog owners to ensure their dogs are under control when they open the door otherwise they risk committing a criminal offence.

It is not unusual for a dog to be reactive to any visitor to your door, so you need to decide now how you are going to manage that situation. The easiest thing to do is to shut your dog in another room or in the garden, provided of course the dog cannot access the front door from the garden. If that is not an option, then you will need to seek the services of a qualified dog trainer or behaviourist to teach your dog some new behaviours around the door.

You also need to consider how your dog greets people. What you view as a dog being friendly by jumping up at visitors may be seen as threatening behaviour by a stranger.
Owning a dog is a huge responsibility and should not be taken lightly, however by taking some time to think about what these changes mean to you and your dog, you will be taking steps to keep everyone safe and avoid ending up in a position that no one wants to find themselves in.

Recent Posts

Predatory Aggression In Dogs

Predatory aggression in dogsThe number of attacks made by dogs on humans and other pets is sadly on the increase.  Whether this is down to the owners lack of knowledge, lack of proper training, poor socialisation or bad breeding, there is one possible cause that appears to be over looked.  That of predatory aggression.

What Is Predatory Aggression?

It can be difficult at times as your dog snuggles up to you, looking at you with big, round brown eyes or bounds around you in a goofy way begging for attention that at one point in his/her development, your pet is descended from hunters.   

Every dog has some level of prey drive (the motivation to chase, catch and kill small furry or feathered creatures) because hunting and killing was a way of life for their ancestors and their only means for survival.  This is hard-wired behaviour that is still present in our dogs today.  It is important to remember that predatory aggression by dogs does not reflect a psychological problem and neither is the dog being vicious, malicious or vindictive.

Predation is a natural survival-related behaviour even though it may sometimes alarm or disgust us.  The entire predatory sequence displayed by all predators involves searching, stalking, chasing, catching, biting, killing and then eating.

The problem we have as dog owners is that predatory behaviour is not preceded by a significant mood change or threatening gestures.  This absence of warning signals plus the fact that killing is the natural end point for predatory behaviour is what makes it dangerous for target animals, children, cyclists, joggers or anything else that moves quickly.

In domesticating dogs, certain parts of this see-chase-grab-kill sequence has been diluted but never fully eliminated.  For example, the herding breeds are very strong chasers, but do not go for the bite-hold-kill as readily as other breeds. Terriers, on the other hand, will readily grab-bite and kill.  How many of you have seen your dog grab a toy then shake it’s head rapidly from side to side?  That innocent and sometimes comical act is in reality, the final phase of the predatory sequence, the kill.    

So despite domestication, dogs still have an instinctive desire to chase, grab, bite and kill things that look like prey.  Incidentally, this is why so many dogs like to chase a ball or play with tug toys etc.  In the case of the domesticated dog, predation is instinctive and not based on hunger as is the case in wild predators. 

The level of predatory drive depends on the individual dog and what it has been bred for.  Movement always starts the sequence and allowing a dog to chase down small animals or toys will strengthen that prey drive.  Predatory behaviour may be exhibited by dogs of any sex and age and dogs showing intent or becoming agitated by the movement or vocalisations of children or other pets need to be closely monitored.

There are some people who do not regard predatory aggression as a proper form of aggression given there is little mood change and because a dog that chases after, catches and kills a rabbit shows none of the affective signs associated with dominance or fear aggression.  As far as the dog is concerned, it is just business as usual. However, when viewed another way, it seems reasonable to me to classify predatory aggression along with other forms of aggression as it results in damage or destruction of another creature.

So, what constitutes prey?

You may have seen during springtime for instance, dogs or cats killing birds and upsetting wild rabbit nests.  Our response, should we witness this sort of behaviour often ranges from being horrified to dismissing the action as the animals natural instinct.  We rarely see it as a problem.  However, it does become a problem when this predatory drive is directed towards running children, cyclists, traffic or small dogs and cats.  For us these targets are not prey, but to the dog they move like prey, sound like prey, and look like prey, hence the danger.

The results of such cases of mistaken identity can range from annoying to painful and even life-threatening.  A dog exhibiting the predatory mode may slink up on their prey and, when within range, launch an attack.  They then accelerate towards their target, either nipping at heels or biting at calves or thighs, perhaps hanging on in an attempt to drag their prey to the ground.  Sometimes other dogs will be drawn in to the attack displaying “group” aggression.  When the subject is a young child who is attempting to run away, the results can be disastrous.

What makes this type of aggression dangerous is it cannot be trained, medicated or counter conditioned out of the dog.  You may have a dog who previously chased cats, who can now be commanded to stay or sit around a cat but they will still chase a cat down at some point especially if you are not around.  This aggression can be shocking to the owners as it manifests so suddenly and is directed to what we do not see as prey.  For the dog however, instinct dictates otherwise.

Risks of Canine Predation

Realistically, there is no real treatment for predatory aggression and the only sure way to control predatory aggression is 100% avoidance of the situations that put humans and animals at risk.  The sudden high arousal level, a fixed focus on the prey subject and difficulty distracting the dog, are all indicators of a poor prognosis.  Dogs that are born with a high prey drive and have it fine-tuned by experience will always be likely to display this behaviour under certain circumstances.  Quite simply, they cannot help themselves.  This means if your dog chases cats, it cannot live with a cat.  If small dogs are the prey, your dog cannot be around any small dogs, especially when out on walks. 

As previously mentioned, this behaviour is neither malicious nor vindictive but simply biologically driven and natural  though unacceptable and downright dangerous when expressed toward humans. It therefore remains the responsibility of dog owners to recognise and appreciate tendencies in their dog and to take precautions such as keeping the dog on a lead etc.

It is your responsibility as a dog owner to recognise that if your dog only comes back to you when there are no distractions then your dog does not have a reliable recall and therefore should not be off the lead until one is taught.  It is not enough if your dog attacks another animal or child to say “he/she has never done that before” or “he/she only wanted to play”.

Reward-based obedience training will increase owner control, but will not prevent predatory behaviour when the owner’s back is turned or when the owner is absent.