Who is responsible for a dog dangerously out of control?

29 January 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

A is the owner of a dog and gives it to B to look after whilst on holiday. B lets C walk the dog alone, when an incident occurs and the dog is deemed dangerously out of control. Who commits the offence?

Answer: 

Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 creates offences relating to a dog being dangerously out of control.

Section 3(1) specifies:

'3(1) If a dog is dangerously out of control in any place in England or Wales (whether or not a public place) -

(a) the owner; and
(b) if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog,

is guilty of an offence… '

A defence is available for an owner of the dog under section 3(2):

'3(2) In proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) above against a person who is the owner of a dog but was not at the material time in charge of it, it shall be a defence for the accused to prove that the dog was at the material time in the charge of a person whom he reasonably believed to be a fit and proper person to be in charge of it.'

It is our opinion that this defence will apply to the owner; having given B the dog whilst on holiday, this is likely to be seen as a formal transfer of charge as outlined in the case of R v Huddart 1998.

Whether B or C 'was the person for the time being in charge of the dog' would be an issue for the jury to decide and should be examined in detail during interview. The case of R v Rawlings 1994 discussed control of a dog transferred between persons and stated 'in charge' was a matter of fact and degree. It is our opinion that C would be likely deemed the person in charge of the dog at the time as B would likely state and believe they transferred charge of the dog to C by letting her walk the dog alone.

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