The most popular pet owned in the UK is a dog, with nearly 25% of the population owning one.   However, many owners are unaware of the potential consequences that can flow from owning a dog, and being accused of failing to keep that dog under control.

The police can apply to a Magistrates court for an order that a person keep a dog under proper control, or for an order that a dog be destroyed, if a dog is not kept under proper control, and is dangerous.   This is a civil complaint, and although as it is heard in a Magistrates Court, it is often wrongly said to be criminal.

The police can apply for such an order in the following circumstances:

  • Proceedings can only be bought against the owner
  • A dog is generally regarded as not being under proper control if it is neither on a lead or muzzled and the dog shows itself to be dangerous in its general behaviour; not just the behaviour towards a person
  • A single incident is generally insufficient to prove that a dog is dangerous, unless the single incident is exceptional
  • If satisfied a dog is dangerous and is not being kept under proper control, the court can make an order that the dog be kept under proper control or destroyed
  • A control order can be imposed with or without conditions such as leashing or muzzling
  • A person who fails to comply with the order is liable to a fine not exceeding £1000, and the court may also disqualify that person from having custody of a dog.

Amy French of our High Wycombe office recently acted for a client who had been summonsed to court to answer a complaint of failing to keep a dog under proper control, which related to a single incident where it was alleged that the dog, whilst off of the lead, had attacked another dog causing serious injury which lead to its death.

The client was of exemplary character and had a prominent role within the local community.  The dog was a rescue dog, having been assessed in terms of behaviour prior to re-homing and had shown no previous signs of aggression in the 5 years of ownership.  The client’s partner suffered a medical condition which made her house bound and the dog was therefore not only a family pet but a companion. This was therefore a highly distressing incident and something the client could not have foreseen by way of pet ownership.

By seeking early legal advice and representation in relation to the matter, we were able to secure the agreement of the prosecution not to seek destruction of the dog.  We were also able to negotiate favourable terms in relation to the control order and the conditions attached to the same.

Should you need assistance or advice on a similar matter we would encourage you to make contact with our specialist lawyers at an early stage, either by calling your local office or filling out the enquiry form here.