How dog bite law applies if you’re bitten by a dog
Every year, around 225,000 people seek medical advice after being bitten by a dog and around 5,000 people are admitted to hospital. Under current dog bite law, certain breeds are banned in the UK because they are deemed dangerous. However, any dog can be aggressive if they have not been trained and socialised or if they are abused. A new Dog Control Bill is currently being considered by the House of Lords. Under the bill, the focus of law will be on responsible ownership rather than specific breeds. If you have been bitten by a dog, Macks Solicitors are available to speak to you about making a compensation claim.
According to research conducted by ‘National Geographic’ using three different breeds of dog, a dog bite can exert around 269 pounds of pressure. The size of a dog’s head and the width of their jaw determine the force they can exert. A mastiff was able to exert 522 pounds of force – just under the force that a lion can exert (research from ‘Journal of Anatomy’). This is enough to cause serious damage. In 2007/08, the number of hospital admissions for dog-related injuries was 4,700. In 2009/10, this rose to 5,800. Around 225,000 people attend a minor injury unit or A&E department every year as a result of dog bites. Fatalities are less common; in 2008 there were four deaths as a result of dog bites.
Dog bites are most common in children. Boys, ages five to nine years are particularly likely to be bitten. The dog involved is usually either a family pet or a dog that belongs to a friend or neighbour.
As well as the damage that can be caused by a dog attack, there can be complications. Bacterial infection, such as sepsis, can spread through the body after a dog bite, which can be extremely dangerous.
A Dog Control Bill is currently going through the House of Lords. If passed, this act would repeal the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 2007. This would remove breed specific legislation and introduce Dog Control notices that would apply to all types of dogs that have acted dangerously and would apply to both public and private places.
At the moment, the Dangerous Dogs Act prohibits four breeds of dog: the Pit Bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Argentine Dogo and Fila Brasiliero. The focus of the new law would be that responsibility would lie with owners to make sure their pets are properly trained and controlled. The philosophy behind the bill is that a dog’s behaviour is determined by its environment, training and whether it is controlled by its owner. Certain breeds are bred for aggression but any breed can be well behaved or aggressive, depending on other factors. Campaigners argue that dog bite law needs to take this into account.
Any dog that is treated badly or trained to attack may bite a person. If a dog is disturbed whilst it is resting or eating or if someone takes something away from it, it may react with dominance aggression which is an attempt to re-assert its position. It may also react with defensive aggression if it is scared. Protective aggression may be directed to strangers who the dog perceives as a threat to its owner and predatory aggression may occur against children or small animals. This is particularly pronounced if there is more than one dog, forming a ‘pack mentality.’ Dogs may also respond with aggression if they are in pain or if they have been physically assaulted.
However, sometimes attacks seem completely unprovoked. A 30 year old man has been charged with allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place. His Staffordshire bull terrier attacked a woman and her two year old daughter in Radcliffe-on-Trent earlier this year. The girl was bitten and suffered a broken bone in her hand.
Also, this year, two Staffordshire bull terriers attacked a man and his dog, a Lhasa Apso cross called Snoopy, as they were out for a walk. The Staffordshire bull terriers had been let off the lead by their two owners and attacked without provocation. When their owners saw what was going on, they ran over but were unable to control their dogs. Both Snoopy and his owner were bitten and needed treatment. Snoopy has needed £600 worth of veterinary treatment and is still recovering from his injuries. Some of the bites on his body went through to the bone. The owners of the Staffordshire bull terriers walked off when Snoopy’s owner tried to talk to them about paying for Snoopy’s treatment. Snoopy’s owners are now calling for changes to dog bite law and support the new bill which will mean greater responsibility lies with the owners of dogs that attack.
There are certain things you can do to avoid dog bites. A dog should never be left unsupervised with a child, regardless of what type of dog it is or how it has behaved in the past. If you come face to face with an aggressive dog, stand still and place your arms against your chest. Avoid eye contact, which could be interpreted as a challenge by the dog. Don’t run away; try to back away slowly.
If you do get bitten, seek medical attention straight away; dog bites can become infected. If you are bitten by a dog abroad, seeking medical attention is particularly urgent because of the risk of rabies. Contact the police to report the incident – they will investigate further and take legal action where appropriate. If possible, try to get the contact details of the dog’s owner. If that’s not possible, write down a description of both the dog and its owner as soon as you can after the attack. Try to get contact details of any witnesses – witness statements will add evidence to your claim. Also take photos of your injuries as soon as possible.
Macks Solicitors are experts in dog bite law and have many years of experience in successful dog bite compensation claims. Speak to one of our expert solicitors now to discuss the details of your case, without obligation.