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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Where does the law stand on dog on dog attacks?

I've just heard today of an incident locally where a German Shepherd dog attacked and killed a Papillon. The German Shepherd was with its guardian but not on the lead [or under control]. The Papillon was being walked on a lead by its guardian.
The police were contacted, but have advised that they cannot do anything until the dog has killed three dogs? Is this correct, please?
Thank you
Nicki, by email


  1. I think the police are wrong here. As I understand it, the owner can be brought to court if his or her dog is "danagerously out of control", which obviously it was. There was an incident in South-east London a year or so ago, where a Mastiff killed a small terrier when out on a walk.
    The police, as they often say on these occasions, maintained that since it was "dog on dog" they could not prosecute. But they did prosecute eventually, thanks to pressure from the local paper.
    Unfortunately the killer dog died while in police kennels, so it never came to court.
    Recently, two Staffs killed a Sheltie on Putney Heath and I've heard that the police there said they could not do anything, again I believe using the "dog on dog" excuse.
    I think the owner needs to put pressure on the police and get something published in the local paper.
    Julia Lewis

  2. I heard of a tragic story recently regarding this matter.
    A mastiff owner was walking her dog in a local park. The mastiff was dog aggressive and so she kept it on a lead at all times and kept away from other dogs.
    Two children walking their Cavalier came near the woman and wanted to stroke the mastiff. The woman immedietely told them to stay away from her, as her dog was not friendly. The children ignored her and ran up to her with their dog. The mastiff unfortunately grabbed their dog, shook it and killed it.
    The police were called and they said that they could not do anything as it was dog biting dog. They also said it was because the Mastiff owner had acted responsibly and warned the children. (although they did advise muzzling the dog when out)
    However, if the mastiff had bitten the child, it would have been a different matter irrespective of the warning.
    They did mention that if the dog was let off the lead and it bit another dog, this would be deemed as irresponsible dog ownership and they may then prosecute the owner.

  3. I am not a legal advisor so the following is not to be taken as such - you can find plenty of information from excellent lawyer Trevor Cooper's site on the specifics. As I understand it, the Dangerous Dogs Act would not cover dog to dog aggression - it covers dog-people aggression (amongst other things such as breed legislation). The DDA is enforceable by the police as it would constitute a criminal offence. The Dogs Act 1871 would cover attacks of the sort you describe and is a civil matter (local authorities) which requires a different approach and probably would not involve the police. I have never heard of the 'three dog rule' you describe and cannot see it written in the laws themselves. It may be referring to the dog needing to be assessed as to whether it poses a genuine threat. There does appear to be a lot of case law revolving around this kind of thing nowadays so there are clearly variations. It appears there is a lot of misunderstanding around the laws pertaining to dogs in general so my advice would be to contact one of the Dog Law team.