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Dog attacks

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021

The petition of Emma Gambrill,

Declares that current legislation in the form of the Dogs Act 1871 and Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 does not account for dog-on-dog attacks where the dogs behave dangerously and are clearly out of control of irresponsible owners; further that this means that owners of dangerous dogs do not face robust action when their dogs attack other dogs; further that this problem was recently horribly highlighted in the case of Enfield North constituent Emma Gambrill’s dog, where her beautiful border collie, Blue, was attacked and mauled to death by two Cane Corso dogs that escaped from their garden, and where the owners who were present in their garden and were witness to the event were unable to control their dogs; and further that attacks such as this leave owners and families distraught and traumatised.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to review the Dogs Act 1871 and Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, to set out whether this problem could be addressed by making dog-on-dog attacks a criminal offence, and to ensure that irresponsible owners of dangerous dogs face more robust action.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Feryal Clark, Official Report, 27 April 2021; Vol. 693, c. 330.]


Observations from The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice):

I was very sorry to hear about the incident involving Emma Gambrill’s dog. I would like to thank the petitioners for raising the issue of dog on dog attacks.

Under section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (“the 1991 Act”), it is an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control. For the purposes of the 1991 Act, this includes any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that the dog in question will injure someone, whether or not it actually does so. The maximum penalty for such an offence is 14 years’ imprisonment if it results in the death of a person; five years in the case of injury; three years if it is an attack on an assistance dog; and six months where no injury is caused to a person.

The law does not specifically exclude an attack by a dog on another animal from the offence of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control. In March 2018 the Government wrote to all police forces and local authorities about the range of powers and measures available in relation to dangerous dogs. The note included a specific reference to section 3 of the 1991 Act and reminded all parties that it applied to attacks on animals as well as people.

The Government also amended the 1991 Act to tackle irresponsible dog owners, so that from May 2016 it became an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in any place, including in the home. Section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871 also allows for a complaint to be made to a magistrates court by any individual or authority that a dog is

“dangerous and not kept under proper control”.

The court may make any order it considers appropriate to require the owner to ensure that the dog is kept under proper control. If considered appropriate, the dog can be destroyed.

Additionally, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”) includes specific measures to enable the police and local authorities to tackle irresponsible dog ownership before a dog attack occurs. Practitioners can intervene at a much earlier stage and help prevent situations involving irresponsible owners of dogs becoming more serious. The 2014 Act includes streamlined measures to tackle antisocial behaviour, including where such behaviour involves a dog.

The main tool to tackle this form of irresponsible dog ownership is the community protection notice (CPN). These notices can be issued by local authority officers or the police on dog owners, or anyone temporarily in charge of the dog at the time, whose dogs are behaving in an unruly way—for example, where a dog threatens or is allowed to attack another dog. These measures allow the authorities to intervene in situations before a dog becomes dangerously out of control. The CPN could require the dog’s owner, or the person in charge of it, to take appropriate action to prevent a reoccurrence of the offending behaviour. To breach a CPN is a criminal offence and could lead to a significant penalty.

The Government are determined to crack down on irresponsible dog ownership and to that end we are encouraging police forces across the country to use these tools.