Dog Attacks FAQs
It means that if a dog attacks an assistance dog then its owner will have committed an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act. If the dog injures the assistance dog, then its owner will be liable for prosecution and face a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
This law will be in force in England and Wales as well as Scotland, where the Parliament has agreed to adopt these measures too. Northern Ireland has laws in place to protect assistance dogs, though they don’t go quite as far as the new laws in the rest of the UK.
The new law also covers Scotland. In addition to this Dangerous Dogs Act the Scottish Parliament has the specific dog legislation, The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, which empowers local authority dog wardens to issue Dog Control Notices where dogs are deemed out of control. Notices can be of a nature of muzzling in public, undergoing dog obedience courses, or a ban from specific areas. It aims to curb dog behaviour before potentially escalating to becoming dangerously out of control. Through an agreement with Police Scotland they will respond to a reported attack on an assistance dog, either dealing with it via the Dangerous Dogs Act or referring and liaising with dog wardens if incident falls within The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act.
Yes, the law will cover all dogs which have been trained to provide assistance and does not stipulate that they have to be providing assistance in the moment that they are attacked.
A guide dog puppy will not be covered as it has not been trained to provide assistance. However, an attack of this type should still be reported to the police because the law does include some other measures which may apply. For example, the owner of the dog can be obliged to take responsible dog ownership classes.
The law is not specific on this point. It states that it will cover "a dog which has been trained to guide a blind person". An ordinary reading of these words would imply training to qualification standard. Whether this includes a dog currently undergoing training may need to be tested in the courts.
The law will cover all those assistance dogs which are already covered by the Equality Act 2010. This includes guide dogs, hearing dogs, epilepsy dogs, dogs which help people with physical disabilities affecting mobility, co-ordination and dexterity, and specific dogs that have been trained to help other disabled people.
We believe that responsible dog ownership, rather than targeting particular breeds, is the way to address this problem. As such, we do not support any further “breed specific” legislation.
Enforcement officers can take action against the worst offenders who do not chip their dogs. The dog should be chipped ASAP and linked to an owner and an address.
Microchipping can provide police with a targeted enforcement action specifically against status or weapon dogs and can help deal with dogs that are dangerously out of control. It would be impractical to check every dog for a chip and so this would in no way penalise responsible dog owners.
Report it to the police and to your local Guide Dogs mobility team. Your mobility team will be able to help you through the whole process from reporting it to the police, seeking veterinary treatment if necessary and pressing charges.
The law does not use the work 'attack' but says that an offence has been committed by the dog owner or the person in charge of a dog, if the dog is "dangerously out of control".
The definition of "dangerously out of control" is that "there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person or assistance dog, whether or not it actually does so". So the law has been broken even if there is no physical injury to the person or assistance dog, and this should still be reported to the police.
If a person or an assistance dog does get injured by the dog while it is out of control, then an aggravated offence has been committed. This is the more serious form of the offence and it carries stricter penalties.
We will be monitoring the number of attacks reported to us and any changes to the way these attacks are treated by police to ensure the new laws are effective. It is therefore really important that you tell your local mobility team and the police if your guide dog is attacked by another dog in the future.