Dogs attacking Pets
What you can do
Here’s some advice for pet owners who have had their animals attacked or killed by dogs/hunting hounds.
Disclaimer : Please note
In this article we try and explain what you can do if your pet is attacked and killed by a stray dog/hound trespassing on your property.
There is actually very little legislation in place that clearly makes it a criminal offence to allow a dog to kill a pet. Successful cases are usually civil and based on other factors, ie was a person injured, damage to your property, repeated trespass and commercial animals, duty of care & responsibility etc.
Are pets classed as your property?
Pets are generally classed as your property (i.e you are legally responsible for them), so therefore an attack on your pet is an attack on your property. (you would think so?)
There seems to be a double standard definition and this doesn’t always seem to apply to hounds/dogs attacking your small pets/animals. (Please note the wording “small pets/animals”, which we will explain later).
We have not found any cases which question or confirm if pets are classed as property when related to these sort of incidents, therefore pet property ownership maybe not be applicable in a court of law relating to small pet attacks. The success rate of a claim/case purely based on the loss of your pet caused by another animal attacking is low, as previously explained, but other factors may influence your case.
So why does the law allow dog owners to get away with allowing dogs to chase and kill your pets?
The law/courts tend to see dogs chasing and killing small pets/animals as natural behaviour :
a) There is a threat to a person.
b) Damage to your property has occurred.
c) Financial loss has occurred (i.e dogs killing animals that are used for commercial purposes).
d) It has happened in an area where there are restrictions ie (PSPO) Public Spaces Protection Orders.
e) A guide dog has been attacked.
f) It has become a repeated community nuisance/problem.
The law does not take into consideration the fact that :
a) There is a huge difference between natural behaviour … and … trained or irresponsible behaviour.
A one off incident where a dog has killed a domestic animal is very different from dogs/hounds that have been specifically trained to seek out, chase and kill animals or an irresponsible owner who has repeatedly allowed their dog to attack animals.
(It is a shame that the law & courts are unable to distinguish the difference and insist that dogs/hounds who have been trained to chase and kill are kept under close proper control)
b) This may have happened in a residential area or on private property.
(Sadly not applicable unless there is a PSPO in place)
c) Dogs should be kept under proper close control (on leads) especially in a residential area.
(Sadly not applicable unless there is a PSPO in place)
d) Dogs should be kept under proper close control on roads.
(Sadly this only applies on designated roads, for non-designated roads ie council maintained this will greatly depend on if the council have a PSPO in place in that area)
e) An irresponsible owner (Hunts) allowed their dog/hound who is trained to chase and kill onto your property.
(Sadly the law doesn’t consider hunting hounds as dangerous dogs)
f) A pet cat/dog is a companion animal and a member of the family. Losing such an animal involves emotional stress and can have a devastating effect on the family.
(Sadly we have not found a law which relates to emotional stress caused by a loss of a pet. If you know of any please do let us know).
A glimmer of hope – Maybe?
There is an important KEYWORD here “Dangerously“. It is important how the law defines this keyword :
1. “Dangerously” out of control – The law considers a dog to be “Dangerously” out of control if it :
• Injures someone.
• Makes someone worried that it might injure them.
(Unfortunately this does not mention other animals being attacked by dogs).
However, (a possible glimmer of hope?)
2. A court could decide that a dog is dangerously out of control if either of the following apply :
• If it attacks someone’s animal.
• If the owner of the animal (being attacked) thinks they could be injured if they try to stop a dog attacking.
Ok you may now think you have a case against the owner of the dog who has attacked your pet.
It would seem the courts have already decided that dogs who attack small animals/pets, it is considered natural behaviour.
Note : There have been a number of Acts which have been amended since this case, however, we have been unable to find any cases which challenge this. If you know of any, please let us know.
So where does this leave attacks on large animals (horses, lamas etc) not used for commercial purposes?
The law is very strange.
Who is responsible to enforce dog control rules/laws?
This responsibility is split between local councils and the police.
The Police tend to cover offences relating to :
• The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
• Orders under the Dogs Act 1871 with respect to a dog not kept under control.
• Dogs worrying livestock.
• Dogs attacking people.
• A statutory offence (Protection Notice/Orders) :
◊ (CPN) Community Protection Notice.
◊ (CBO) Criminal Behaviour Order.
◊ (CDO) Contingent Destruction Order on conviction under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 or Section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871.
• Dogs loose on designated roads.
• Dogs dangerously out of control which may put the public at risk (Please see the definition of “Dangerously out of Control”).
• Dogs chasing/attacking animals which maybe an offence within the law.
• L.E.A.D. initiative in collaboration with council.
Note : Sadly we have not found any laws purely based on “dogs attacking small animals” that make it an offence for a dog to attack your small animal pet. A prosecution maybe secured if other factors are involved.
The Council tend to cover issues relating to :
• Stray dogs in public areas.
• Nuisance controls.
• Microchipping of dogs.
• Dogs not on leads or fouling in PSPOs areas.
• Dogs loose on “non-designated” roads (i.e council maintained) which have a PSPO in place.
• Orders under the Dogs Act 1871 with respect to a dog not kept under control and in collaboration with police.
• L.E.A.D. initiative in collaboration with police.
Note : These council related offences tend to be enforced by Fixed Penalty Notices (FNPs) and unless these incidents take place in a PSPO area, put people in danger or become an ongoing nuisance to the community, there are very few rules to safe guard peoples pets from attacking dogs.
L.E.A.D. (Local Environmental Awareness on Dogs)
LEAD is a police-led initiative adopted by a number of forces and local authorities to encourage responsible dog ownership. (Sadly this is only voluntary for owners to comply unless it becomes a repeated incident)
In all cases where an irresponsible dog owner or keeper comes to the attention of the police or the local authority, contact is made, regardless of whether a statutory offence has been committed. The police will send a tailored “Coming to Notice” letter addressing the issue often on joint local authority/ police headed paper. The letter is accompanied by a LEAD pack, which includes, the Good Citizen Guide from the Kennel Club, literature with information on the breed of their dog from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the RSPCA dealing with care, training and welfare and information on socialisation, and park etiquette local bye-laws, the Dangerous Dogs Act etc.
Should the dog’s behaviour or irresponsible owner/keeper come to notice again, a second letter is hand-delivered. As the second letter is sent, an Acceptable Behaviour Contract – a voluntary agreement between the police and the individual – can be sought. Each contract is tailored, but can include conditions relating to muzzles, fencing, microchipping, neutering and training. All contracts include timescales for meeting conditions and a formal end date. If this is declined, the police (often the ASB unit) will normally monitor the dog’s behaviour for at least six months.
Continued anti-social behaviour could result in a formal statutory notice being sought: either a Community Protection Notice (CPN), a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO), a Contingent Destruction Order on conviction under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 or an appropriate Order under Section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871. CPNs and CBOs can also be issued in their own right and not always as part of a LEAD initiative.
In 2017 Defra surveyed police and local authorities in England and Wales on their approaches to dog control and welfare and in particular measures and policies to reduce dog attacks.
Reference was made to a lack of certainty in some areas over the split of responsibility between police and local authorities with respect to dog control issues. Varying degrees of enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 or engagement on dog control between local authorities was highlighted as an issue.
Where a dog attack has occurred or an offence suspected under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 or where a dog is worrying livestock then, as noted above, that will be a police matter given the possibility of criminal offences having been committed under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and the seriousness of the incident.
Guidance issued by Defra on dog control
Dangerous Dogs Law “Guidance for Enforcers” in 2009 : https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69263/dogs-guide-enforcers.pdf
Practitioner’s Manual on Dealing with Irresponsible Dog Ownership in 2014 : https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dealing-with-irresponsible-dog-ownership-practitioners-manual
Dog Control Acts
Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA)
Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 : Prior to this legislation there were no criminal offences available to enforcers directly to protect people from injury, or fear of injury by dogs. Therefore it is vital to understand that the intention of Parliament was the protection of people. This Act is used to deal with the most serious incidents and generally it will be the police who instigate proceedings.
This section creates a criminal offence of allowing any dog (i.e. of any breed or type) to be dangerously out of control in a public place or a place to where it is not allowed.
A dog can be regarded as being dangerously out of control on any occasion where it causes fear or apprehension to a person that it may injure them. Furthermore, if that dog does injure a person then the offence is aggravated. Legal action may be taken against the owner and/or the person in charge of the dog at the time.
This section is only used in the most serious incidents investigated by enforcers, and generally, it would be the police who would instigate proceedings under this section, however local authorities are able to act under this legislation also.
Note : Sadly this section applies to public places or where it is not allowed. It also does not cover dogs who purely attack small animal pets.
Dogs Act 1871
Dogs Act 1871 : Although over 100 years old now this Act is possibly the most effective piece of dog control legislation available to enforcers.
Civil proceedings are brought at a Magistrates’ Court and this can be done by the police, local authorities, or individual members of the public.
This legislation should always be taken into consideration when enforcers are investigating any incidents relating to dogs or when concerns are raised over an allegation of irresponsible dog ownership. Furthermore, it can be particularly effective when dealing with attacks on other domestic pets or livestock.
This section requires that the owner is brought before a Magistrates’ court on a complaint and if the Magistrate is satisfied that the complaint is justified they can make any order they feel appropriate to require the owner to ensure that the dog is kept under proper control or in extreme cases destroyed.
Importantly this is regardless of whether the dog is in a private or public place.
Proceedings must be commenced by way of a complaint.
Note : The problem with this Act is Magistrates/Judges tend to see dogs attacking small animal pets as natural behaviour, however, it may be possible to obtain a court order against the offender.
Protection of Livestock Act of 1953
The ‘Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act of 1953’ makes it an offence to allow a dog to chase or attack livestock, or to be ‘at large’ in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep. ‘At large’ is defined as not on a lead, or otherwise under close control. Remember – A farmer may shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing livestock. This gives added weight to the Country Code which states that you must ‘Keep your dogs under close control’.
Note : Sadly this Act does not cover the protection of domestic pets.
What can you do about it – Choices
Before taking any action, we strongly advise you to seek legal advice. Here we look at some of your options but this greatly depends on the circumstance of the incident, what evidence you have gathered, if property has been damaged or if a person has been attacked etc.
Evidence : It is vitally important you collect as much evidence as possible especially if it involves a re-occurring problem. Always take copies before handing over any evidence in case you also wish to take matters further with civil action or applying for a court order.
1. Getting a solicitor
Your first port of call should be seeking advice from a solicitor. They will advise you on the best course of action to take. Even a solicitor writing to the offending party may result in an agreement being made or the offending party offering a settlement/compensation. You may not need to proceed any further.
Being realistic about your aims and restrictions of the law is important. It is no good expecting the offending dog owner to be hung, drawn and quartered if the law doesn’t support this. A campaign to change the law maybe the best way forward if you are unhappy with the outcome of the incident.
2. The police may decide you have a case against the dog owner
For an incident purely based on a dog on small animal attack, the police usually say there is nothing they can do unless you felt threatened or property damage occurred etc. The police may also suggest the dog owner has broken a public order offence or they may suggest a private civil trespass prosecution.
3. Proceed with a private prosecution against the dog owner
Sadly unless there are laws in place to support your private prosecution, these cases are costly and hard to win unless you have lots of undeniable evidence i.e :
• the dog is a public nuisance.
• the dog has previously been a danger to pets in a public area.
• you can prove the owner is consistently irresponsible.
• You have evidence to prove the dog could be a danger to people.
• You may be able to take your case to court under the Dog Act 1872, Section 2. Proceedings must be commenced by way of a complaint.
4. Apply for a court injunction to prevent the offending party allowing their dogs on your property.
If trespass has occurred on your property, you should contact your solicitor to seek advice. A civil claim or injunction maybe the best way forward.
To gain a court injunction against a problem hunt/dog owner, there is a process to go through. The LACS had some success with this in 1986. It is vitally important you seek legal advice and collect as much evidence as possible. Based on your evidence, the court will need to be satisfied that the problem/trespass merits an injunction being ordered. Any damage to your property will also be taken into consideration or re-occurring trespass.
Injunctions are usually ordered where persistent trespass is occurring. A one off animal attack may not warrant an order. If you have a public right of way running through your land, this may complicate matters.
5. Warning Signage for Trespass
Displaying signage does not change the law, neither does it prevent hounds rioting on your property. However, what it does do is strengthen your case if you decide to proceed with a private prosecution against a hunt
i.e you have warned the hunt, private property, trespassers will be prosecuted and they have ignored this.
Trespass is a civil matter unless criminal damage to your property has occurred or you have been threatened/attacked. (Aggravated trespass is another matter).
Warning signs are normally more about protecting you against lawsuits, however they can make a good deterrent for people who allow their dogs/hounds to run riot. Signs are a good cheap deterrent for people with limited income, they will also strengthen your case should you decide to take matters to court.
If you do decide to use “warning signage” it is advisable to write to the offending party and also inform the police, stating you have given official warning to a hunt regarding their trespass
Link : Hounds off is an organisation that specialise in hunt trespass and we highly recommend you talking to them.
6. Proceed with a private civil trespass prosecution.
These cases can be costly which usually puts people off from pursuing. Hence why many hunts get away with trespass. Hunts often claim it was an accident, but where a hunt has persistently allowed their hounds to trespass and attack pets, there maybe a case.
7. Lobby the government for a change in law.
Considering we currently have an appalling government where the majority of their MPs support hunting and enable illegal hunting to continue at every opportunity they get; It’s highly unlikely they would restrict their money donating hunting chums.
Sadly the truth is, lobbying pro hunt tory MPs will be like banging your head against a brick wall, but it will show these pro hunt MPs the public’s outrage.
Until we have a government in power who support animal rights, nothing will change.
Should we continue to lobby other MPs who care about animals? YES. We must continue to push for better protection laws for animals and raise public awareness.
8. Going to the press.
Getting an incident into the national press is an excellent way of raising public awareness. Hunts do not fear the courts, but they do fear bad press.
There have been debates for years regarding which is the best way forward to expose the truth about hunting i.e through courts or national press.
Courts : While a successful prosecution is excellent and proves hunts are continuing to ignore the law and disregard public safety, the disadvantage (given the current biased system and loophole laws), is you may lose the case.
Also, while a case is in progress, it is discouraged to post anything which may affect the outcome. The problem with this is some cases can take years to get through the courts and the element of public outrage is lost. You may end up with a very watered down result two years after the incident. “Old News”.
National press : Some people believe going straight to the press while there is public outrage and combining this with getting their local MP involved to demand a change in law, maybe more effective, especially if a prosecution is unlikely. The disadvantage is, it’s hard to refer back to a newspaper clipping which may or may not be proven fact, while a successful court prosecution can be highlighted time and time again.
National press are also reluctant to report on incidents that are proceeding through the courts as this may influence the outcome and result in a case being thrown out of court.
If you have no intention of proceeding through the courts, then sending your evidence to the national press has huge benefits for exposing the truth and raising awareness.
Can you do both? : To a point yes, however as previously explained care must be taken not to impact on a trial.
Some people say, if a hunt offers you compensation for any inconvenience you may have suffered, or to reimburse for any damage or loss, you should take it.
Hunts are not obliged to offer compensation, the law seems to be protecting them from liability and they usually get away with it. However they tend to offer this to try and limit damage to their public reputation and if they do offer you compensation you may be wise to accept especially if you have no intention of going to court.
Tiverton Staghounds offered her £1,000 in compensation for “shock and trauma” on condition she remained silent. Later, however, the hunt withdrew the confidentiality clause when Mrs Hodgson of East Worlington, Devon, pointed out that she had a duty to inform police.
The hunt’s solicitors offered the compensation and promised to pay vet bills plus the cost of a new dog. They sought confidentiality but, when the Hodgsons refused, the firm agreed this would be “inappropriate”. The couple have now accepted the compensation.
10. Lobby councils to extend their PSPO.
We must continue to lobby councils especially if they allow hunting on their land. We must ensure councils place and extend their PSPO regarding :
• Hounds being under proper control.
• Hounds being on leads in public places and non-designated (council maintained) roads.
• Fouling in public places.
• Hounds being a public menace.
(PSPO) Public Spaces Protection Orders – (Local Authorities)
Local Authorities now have sole responsibility for stray dogs under s68 of the Clean Neighbourhood
and Environment Act 2005 (CNEA).
Some public areas in England and Wales are covered by Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) – previously called Dog Control Orders (DCOs).
Ss55-67 of the CNEA provides local authorities with powers through PSPOs to place restrictions on access to or exclude dogs from, open spaces to which the public have access, as well as the power, to make owners place dogs on leads. Local authorities may issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FNPs) for those who do not adhere.
In public areas with PSPOs, you may have to :
• keep your dog on a lead.
• put your dog on a lead if told to by a police officer, police community support officer or someone from the council.
• stop your dog going to certain places – like farmland or parts of a park.
• limit the number of dogs you have with you (this applies to professional dog walkers too).
• clear up after your dog.
• PSPOs only apply to public areas where and order has been placed.
PSPO’s in your area.
Local councils must let the public know where PSPOs are in place.
If dogs aren’t allowed in a park, there must be signs saying so.
If the council plans to put a new PSPO in place, it must put up a notice and publish it on its website.
The notice must tell you:
• where the new PSPO will apply
• if there’s a map and where you can see it
Fines are usually issued for PSPO breaches. A prosecution might be appropriate for repeat offenders, or if the offence is so serious that it merits prosecution. For example, a dog owner who allows their dog to be dangerously out of control despite being directed by an officer to put it on a lead may risk prosecution, rather than a fine.
Some councils have restrictions on the number of dogs allowed to be exercised, however, remember this only applies in areas where a PSPO is in place. On roads where no PSPO are in place, then the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 27, seems to apply.
There’s no law which says that a dog must be kept on a lead when using a public right of way, but local authorities can make orders under section 27 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to make it a requirement on specific paths. Like its owner, a dog should remain on the line of the path – an act of trespass may be committed against the landowner if it wanders away from the official route.
Procedures for making a PSPO (Dog Control Order)
The Dog Control Orders (Procedures) Regulations 2006 require that before a council can make a PSPO (Dog Control Order), an authority must consult any other primary or secondary authority within the area in which a PSPO is being made.
Authorities must also publish a notice describing the proposed order in a local newspaper circulating in the same area as the land to which the order would apply and invite representations on the proposal.
It maybe worth talking to your local council Dog Welfare and Enforcement Officer or contact your local council to enquire if any PSPO orders are in place in your area.
10. Extremely important – Police
Reporting to police : Whatever your course of action is, it’s vitally important this is reported to police and the incident is logged.
Often, it is felt the police sometimes advise people not to go to newspapers and then agree to charge offenders with offences knowing that the case is doomed to fail under these charges.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the webinar case.
Why would they do this you may ask?
♦ To restrict media coverage of an incident.
♦ To humour and control public outrage.
♦ To appear to be impartial.
♦ To appear that they are doing their job.
♦ Hoping the outrage will be forgotten.
♦ To hide a conflict of interest.
♦ To play down any involvement or failings.
♦ To allow certain individuals to get away with it knowing the case will fail.
♦ To protect certain individuals.
Under this current government, you couldn’t exactly claim police are corruption free. So many deals must be worked out throwing the unimportant offenders under the bus, while allowing the high profile offenders to get away with it. This was so plainly obvious in the Jonathan Seed case a few years ago.
While we have a biased police directive to only police hunts for public disorder (unless unquestionable evidence of intent is handed to them on a plate) and while this police directive is aimed at not acknowledging the crimes that hunts commit, but targeting those people who monitor hunts, the enforcement of hunt related crimes under this current police directive and government, will remain appallingly bad.
It is not surprising there is a lot of anger directed towards people who voted tory especially given the tory’s appalling track record on animal rights and enablement of barbaric cruelty.
Other related Links : Domestic Animal Attacks
When questions are raised regarding the lack of legislation to protect pets being attacked by out of control dogs, the government’s usual response is to say “there is sufficient laws in place”, however these laws tend to be related to dogs attacking people or livestock. There are actually no laws that specifically protect pets from dog attacks unless other additional offences have also been repeatedly committed.
Law needs to change
A recent incident involving out of control hounds invading a person’s property and killing a cat (Mini) has once again proved the law needs changing.
A new group is campaigning for “Mini’s-Law“. We at “Foxhunting Evidence UK” fully support this campaign & group and wish them every success.
At present, this tory government has no incentive to change any laws which may restrict hunting hounds or donations to their party.
Councils are also responsible for the control of dogs in public places, but their control normally only relates to their individually council controlled public open areas. Organisations must work with councils to ensure robust dog control by-laws are in place to protect domestic pets.
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