Under suggested new dog laws owners will not be liable to prosecution if their dog attacks a trespasser even if that person has the best of intentions in being on the property. The view taken by Ministers considering the proposed new laws are that dogs cannot be expected to “ascertain the intentions” of those entering a property before reacting. The government are currently reviewing the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 with the intention of extending the law to deal with attacks within the home. These changes would enable a dog owner to be prosecuted if their dog causes injuries even if that dog was in a place where they were allowed, such as the owner’s home. The Ministers latest decision will mean that dog owners will not be able to be prosecuted if the dog bite victim was trespassing in the dog owner’s home. The government has however rejected the idea of a similar exemption in relation to attacks on people trespassing in gardens or outhouses stating: “A child retrieving a ball from a garden, or a neighbour retrieving garden cuttings, should be protected from dog attacks. Such a distinction reflects the higher likelihood of a trespasser inside or entering a dwelling having malign intent. No offence would be committed if a dog was “dangerously out of control in relation to a trespasser who is in, or in the process of entering a dwelling, regardless of the intention of the trespasser”. Solicitor James McNally of Slee Blackwell solicitors who specialises in dog bite claims comments: “It has been clear for years that the law needs changing but the government need to be very careful that in trying to appease this “nation of dog lovers” they don’t water down any legislation to such an extent that it offers little protection to victims of dog attacks. There are already laws in place which would prevent those committing a criminal act from being able to make a claim for personal injury and the Crown Prosecution Service already consider the merits of any criminal prosecution. In my view it is very unlikely that a dog or dog owner would be punished if say a burglar is bitten by a dog in the house they are breaking into. What does however seem very likely to me is that the argument that someone is a “trespasser” is one that will be run and abused by defendants and their insurers if a claim is brought against them. This is potentially a very unnecessary clarification which unless properly legislated is going to be very problematic.”

Government remove protection for “innocent” trespassers under new Dog Bite laws
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