Barking Dogs Seldom Bite, by Noel Sweeney LL.B Dip. Crim. I M.A.

By Noel Sweeney LL.B Dip. Crim. I M.A.
www.noelsweeney.co.uk

I have been a practising barrister for over twenty years. The main areas of law I practise in are animal law, criminal law and human rights, plus a tinge of employment law. I have had a long-term interest in Animal Law.

Barking dogs seldom Bite

  1. When a dog barks at you it does not mean necessarily that he intends to bite you. He may just be excited to see you or indeed frightened of you. Nevertheless perhaps the key is to concentrate on the word ‘necessarily’.

Modern living conditions mean the give-and-take can be a balance rarely achieved between neighbours. Even visitors are not safe from ‘anti-social behaviour’ which is defined as ‘behaviour causing harassment, alarm or distress to members or any member of the public’. Postmen are now bitten by dogs at the rate of seven a day. If the householder allows his dog to bite the postman it could be the result of his negligence or causing a nuisance or a trespass.

Anti-social behaviour involving animals covers all aspects of everyday living and matters that detract from the quality of ordinary life. For one man’s indulgence is another man’s irritation, one man’s noise is another man’s music be it the sound of hip hop at midnight or the bellowing of a dog during daylight hours.

  1. Two recent cases will serve to illustrate that it is unwise to have a dog and try to bark too. In Pollard v. Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [1999] PIQR 219 a police dog handler used his dog to arrest a number of crapulent youths including Pollard. The dog bit him. The Court of Appeal held that the police were entitled to use reasonable force to arrest him. So his claim failed as in the circumstances using his dog to do so was reasonable.

In Gloster v. Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police [2000] PIQR 114 a police dog bit a police officer during an investigation. Hale LJ in the Court of Appeal said, ‘if such a trained dog is deliberately set upon a quarry without lawful justification then it will be an assault.’  However here the dog was merely doing what he was trained to do, helping his handler make an arrest. Consequently Gloster lost his appeal.

  1. Dogs are targeted to tackle the continued alarm felt by members of the public when they meet snarling dogs imitating their owners. Action can be taken against feckless reckless owners who wilfully cause others a problem by failing to control their unleashed dogs. A Civil Injunction could be obtained under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. A typical example would be an owner of a large dog attends a hospital for treatment. He has been drinking and is unsteady on his feet. He is abusive to the staff and his dog is barking and jumping up at other patients and visitors. The owner would be prevented from visiting the hospital unless he was sober and without his dog, unless he was on a leash and muzzled – the dog that is. The owner could also be forced to undergo training and education classes for his dog as well so in time both might be ideally well-behaved on future occasions.

4. If a dog threatens or attacks any animal, be it a cat or a dog or horse, that has an immediate impact on a person who with their charge. If the person has a ‘reasonable apprehension’ the attacking dog will injure them, it will give rise to a civil and criminal action. Whether or not the attacking dog actually injures the other animal or the person is irrelevant. The fear engendered of an impending attack amounts to an offence. In Dodwell v. Burford [1669] 1 Mod. 24 the defendant struck a horse causing the rider to be thrown off. Although that was an assault, if a dog caused a horse to bolt making the rider frightened for his safety, it would be an offence as both the animal and his owner could be spooked by the same act.

Noel Sweeney LL.B Dip. Crim. I M.A.

Noel Sweeney (renewal Jan 2020)

Noel Sweeney (renewal Jan 2019)

FOUNDER MEMBER Noel Sweeney LL.B Dip. Crim. I M.A. www.noelsweeney.co.uk I have been a practising barrister for over twenty years. The main areas of law I practise in are animal law, criminal law and human rights, plus a tinge of employment law. I have had a long-term interest in Animal Law. In connection with that I have appeared on both local and national radio including Radio 4, BBC Bristol and Radio Scotland to discuss the legal aspects of animal and human rights. The other participants included Professor Peter Singer, the foremost authority in the world on the philosophy of ‘animal rights’. I have also participated in a live debate on legal issues relating to animal welfare on television. The audience included experts from many different organisations and professions such as the R.S.P.C.A. and L.A.C.S. and philosophers and police officers.