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Dogs Legislation

I have found a dog which is loose, what should I do?

The police no longer have responsibility for stray dogs.

In the past, anyone finding a stray dog would have to report it to or take it to a police station. Now, anyone finding a stray should either take the dog to the Council's acceptance point for stray dogs, or contact the council to report the dog.

Once a stray dog has been collected, it is taken to kennels where it will be kept for seven days. If you find a stray dog, you should under the law:

  • return the dog to its owner
  • contact council for the area in which the dog was found

Local authority contacts for Northamptonshire:

I have lost a dog, what should I do?

As above, contact the council area in which the dog was lost to establish whether or not it has been located.

My pet has been attacked by a dog, can the police do anything?

It depends on the circumstances but there have been decisions in the past by courts and authorities to suggest that it is the nature of a dog to kill and wound small animals. Therefore, in the event of your pet being wounded or killed by a dog, it is not a certainty that the police would take any action. The only possible recourse is to take civil action against the dog owner but this would depend on the circumstances.

However, there are different regulations where the attack involves farm animals and this is an offence. This answer does not take into account deliberate attacks or dog fighting, which are also offences.

I have found a dog that is worrying livestock, what can I do?

You can report the incident to your local police as there is an offence relating to dogs worrying livestock.

I have been bitten by a dog, what can I do?

You can report the incident to your local police as there is an offence of having a dog dangerously out of control.

The dog owner (and if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog) may be prosecuted and could face imprisonment and/or a fine, and the courts can make a variety of orders in relation to the dog, which range from muzzling to destruction.

What happens if my pet dog bites an intruder in my house?

This will depend on the exact circumstances of the incident. The following should be used as a guide only for possible scenarios, as each case will be considered individually.

  • if you set your dog onto an intruder and the person suffers injury then you may face prosecution and the court could order the dog to be kept under control/destroyed (dangerous dog not under control).
  • if an intruder breaks in whilst you are out and is attacked by the dog then it is unlikely that you would face the need to defend a possible court order.
  • There is also civil liability to consider in any damage that your dog may cause. It should be noted that most dogs will simply bark at an intruder but will not follow with a physical attack.

    Dogs that are 'dangerously out of control'

    You could be breaking the law by allowing your dog to be 'dangerously out of control'.

    Any dog is 'dangerously out of control' if it injures a person or asssistance dog , or if it behaves in a way that makes a person worried that it might injure them.

    Please be aware of the following points:

    • the maximum penalty for allowing a dog that you own or are in charge of to be ‘dangerously out of control' is  fourteen years' imprisonment or a fine - or both
    • if you do not keep your dog under control, your dog could be destroyed and you could be banned from keeping a dog. Or, you might be ordered to keep your dog muzzled when taking it for a walk
    • if you use your dog to injure someone, then you may be charged with malicious wounding. The maximum penalty for this is five years' imprisonment
    • if your dog is ‘dangerously out of control' in  any place in England and Wales (whether or not it is a public place) you could be committing an offence.
    • What type of dogs are illegal to own?

      Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, it is illegal to own/sell/breed/give away/exchange dogs of the following type:

      • Pit bull terrier (could also be called American Staffordshire Terriers, Am Staffs, Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Irish Blue or Red Nose, and some American Bulldogs)
      • Japanese Tosa
      • Dogo Argentino
      • Fila Braziliero
      • or any other type of dog appearing to have similar characteristics bred for fighting.

      If it is alleged that a dog is of a type which is prohibited it is presumed to be the case until the owner proves to the contrary.

      The police can seize your dog if they believe it to be a banned type. The maximum penalty for possessing a banned dog is a fine of £5,000, or six months' imprisonment – or both.

      What should I do if I suspect my neighbour has an illegal type of dog?

      You can contact your local police station or ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, and report the information to them. The police will then make any necessary enquiries and take appropriate action.

      I am concerned that someone is being cruel to their dog/animal, what can I do?

      If you witness cruelty to an animal then contact the RSPCA's 24-hour-a-day cruelty line, on0300 1234 999.

      It is important to have ready the following details: a description of the animal(s) involved, the exact location of the animal(s), the names and addresses of any other witnesses, the registration number of any vehicle involved, and the name and address of the suspect(s) if known.

      The police also have powers to deal with cruelty to animals but the RSPCA are the experts in the field and are better equipped to deal with it.

      There is a dog in a car or vehicle that appears to be hot and distressed, what should I do?

      This does depend on the level of distress.

      It is not advisable to force entry to the vehicle yourself. Your first step should be to call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 to inform them of the details namely, the condition of the dog, the registration number and location of the car. A dog warden service may also be able to help. They should despatch an inspector/warden to deal with the situation if s/he can. S/he will call the police if it is necessary to break into the car.

      If the matter is getting near life or death for the animal call the police directly and ask for an estimated time of arrival. If the police don't have time to get there, then you have to decide if you should take action. The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if:

      'at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence you believed that the person or persons whom you believe to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question ... would so consent to it if s/he ... had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances'

      (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971 - this legal reference is slightly modified for clarity)




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