Reasonable apprehension - dog being dangerously out of control

28 June 2021

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question: 

A person is walking home along a footpath with her dog which is on a lead. The suspect is walking along the adjacent footpath in the opposite direction. His dog which is off lead, sees the other dog, runs towards it, briefly taking hold of the dog by the back of its neck.

The suspect subsequently grabs his dog by its collar and removes it. While brief words are exchanged between the dog owners, the suspects dog escapes its collar and again ran towards the other dog. The person was able to get herself and her dog into a nearby garden, avoiding another confrontation. At no time did the suspects dog attack/ attempt to attack the person, however she stated she was in fear for her life.

Does this amount to reasonable apprehension of injury for an offence of a dog being dangerously out of control to be made?

Answer:

Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 outlines the offence of a dog being dangerously out of control.

As you have stated, section 10(3) outlines when a dog is considered as being dangerously out of control:

'10(3) For the purposes of this Act a dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person or assistance dog, whether or not it actually does so, but references to a dog injuring a person or assistance dog or there being grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will do so do not include references to any case in which the dog is being used for a lawful purpose by a constable or a person in the service of the Crown.'

CPS guidance outlines that this is not an exhaustive definition and the ordinary meaning of the words should still be applied. If a dog is factually deemed to be acting in a way that could be termed 'dangerously out of control', for example attacking livestock, a prosecution may still be brought.

The offence under section 3(1) is an offence of strict liability. However, it was not Parliament's intention to render the owner of a dog absolutely liable in all circumstances; the prosecution had to prove an act or omission that had caused the prohibited state of affairs to come about as in R v Robinson-Pierre 2013. There had to be some causal connection between having charge of the dog and the prohibited state of affairs that has arisen. Section 3(1) required proof by the prosecution of an act or omission of the defendant (with or without fault) that to some more than minimal degree caused or permitted the prohibited state of affairs to come about.

As outlined above an attack on a person is not required, only that there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that the dog will injure a person. It is our opinion that in the circumstances whereby the dog attacked another dog more than once due to the owner failing to have proper control (i.e. ensuring the dog was on a lead) and this caused the reasonable apprehension the dog will attack a person an offence will be made. The case of R v Gedminintaite and Collier 2008 also outlined that behaviour of the dog and where the handler has no proper control over it is sufficient evidence a dog is dangerously out of control.

Please also see a link to the CPS guidance for dangerous dog offences:

https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/dangerous-dog-offences

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