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Dog Bites and Dog Attacks

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A dog attack is a frightening experience which can lead to serious physical or psychiatric injury, or even death. Young children are particularly vulnerable to dog bites or attacks.

What if my dog has bitten or attacked someone?

If a dog attacks or bites a person or other animal, the owner can be prosecuted for an offence and fined. Higher penalties apply in cases involving restricted breeds of dog or dogs previously declared dangerous, where a prison sentence can be imposed, which can be as much as 10 years if the attack results in the death of a person.  If the dog was with someone other than the owner at the time of the attack, both that person and the owner can be prosecuted. It is also a criminal offence to allow a dog to rush at or chase a person.

A dog owner may be ordered by the Court to pay compensation to an injured person for injury caused by a dog bite or attack. A court or the local council may also order that a dog be put to sleep or declare a dog to be dangerous, which has consequences for how that dog must be managed and housed in the future.

Is the owner of the dog always liable?

A dog owner will not always be liable for a dog attack or bite. The owner is unlikely to be found guilty of an offence or to be held liable to pay compensation if, before an attack:

  • a dog is being teased, abused or is assaulted by the person the dog then attacks;
  • a person known to the dog is being attacked in front of it;
  • the person injured by the dog is trespassing on the premises on which the dog is kept; or
  • another animal comes onto the premises on which the dog is kept.

What do I do if I was attaked or bitten by a dog?

If you are injured by a dog and the authorities do not pursue a prosecution, you can sue the owner of the dog for damages as a result of their negligence in failing to properly control their dog. However, in order to do so, you must show that the owner of the dog was aware that their dog had a dangerous propensity. In other words, you must show that they were aware that their dog was prone towards dangerous behaviours. Showing that the dog had previously attacked someone else or another animal is good proof of a dangerous propensity.

If you have been injured by another person’s dog and you would like more information about how we can help, contact us for advice about making a claim, or view more information on steps to making a public liability claim.