My children were playing with my German Shepherd dog in our front garden when a man delivering leaflets came through our front gate. Our dog went straight for the man and he was bitten, once on the hand and twice on the leg. I have been charged and will have to go to court. I’m worried that I will get a criminal record and my dog will be destroyed.
It sounds like you have been charged with an offence of failing to keep your dog under proper control under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Under this law, as amended in May 2014, if any dog is dangerously out of control in any place, including on all private property, the owner or person at the time in charge of the dog, is guilty of an offence. This becomes an aggravated offence if the dog injures any person while out of control.
The law states that a dog will be regarded as being dangerously out of control if a reasonable person would think that it would injure a person, whether or not it actually does so. There is an exemption under the law which means that a person is not guilty of an offence when the dog acts dangerously out of control towards a trespasser entering their home. Unfortunately for your case, this exemption does not necessarily apply to dog attacks on trespassers in gardens, driveways or outbuildings.
With regards to the possible destruction of your dog, much will depend on the circumstances and when and where the dog attacked the man. There is a legal presumption for the destruction of a dog following a conviction for an aggravated offence unless the Court is satisfied the dog does not constitute a danger to public safety.
Due to the injuries you refer to this also appears to be an aggravated offence. Your case could therefore be dealt with either before a Magistrates court or the Crown Court. If convicted the penalties available to the court range from a discharge, at the lower end, up to a custodial sentence depending on the seriousness of the offence.
Given the potential complexities in this area of law you should consult a solicitor about the specifics of your particular case.
Ben Hoare Bell LLP has specialist criminal defence solicitors who can assist in cases such as this. To speak to a solicitor please phone 0191 565 3112 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that this advice was correct at the time of writing. However there may have been changes in the law or procedure since that date. If you are in doubt you should obtain up to date legal advice.