Dangerous dogs

Date published: 22 March 2023 11:00

What is an offence involving a dangerous dog, and what can be done?

Every dog owner living in South Yorkshire has a legal responsibility to keep their dog/s under control.

It is a criminal offence for the owner of a dog - or the person in control of the dog at the time if this is not the registered owner - to allow it to be dangerously out of control either in a public place or on private property.

By law, a dog doesn’t have to carry out a physical attack to be considered dangerous. It is also considered dangerously out of control if it causes a person to fear being harmed by the dog, even if harm or injury is not actually caused. Where injury does occur then it is an automatic aggravated offence and, upon a successful conviction, is open to a higher sentence by the court.

It is also important to remember that all dogs must now be microchipped by law, and the details of ownership correctly updated with the relevant organisations.

When do I contact SYP?

If you are genuinely concerned that a dog is dangerously out of control, has bitten a person or another animal or is likely to do so, then you can call us.

There are currently four banned breeds in this country:

  • pit bull terrier-type
  • Tosa – a Japanese breed
  • fila Braziliero, or the Brazilian mastiff
  • Dogo Argentino, or the Argentine Dogo

If a person is breeding, selling, giving away or advertising for sale a banned breed of dog, then you can also call us.

The police can also be called if a dog has been worrying livestock.

When do I contact my local council?

Local authorities may have a dog warden service who are there to deal with stray dogs and are also best placed to work with dog owners for lesser offences. These can include:

  • Dogs regularly escaping and straying from their homes. This also includes if they are escaping or wandering due to a broken fence or insecure premises perimeter
  • For dog on dog attacks – these incidents are not an issue for the police
  • Noise issues from dogs barking persistently
  • Dog fouling – particularly on authority-owned land/property

What about if there are concerns regarding a dog being around children?

Every year a number of incidents unfortunately take place where a child is bitten by a dog in the family home or at an address they are visiting. It is always good advice never to leave a dog and children together without adult supervision.

Children don’t always appreciate the impact their behaviour can have on a dog and the response it may cause. This can be both good and bad behaviour from a child. They might not be being cruel to a dog or winding it up, they may be trying to be over-friendly and hugging the dog more than it likes.

Child safety issues are usually managed by a partnership approach which includes the police and local authorities etc. However, where there are real concerns over the presence of a dog in a home where children are present then advice can be obtained initially from the police.

How do I report a dog attack or bite?

If you are involved in an incident which matches the criteria above for being dealt with by the police, please call 101 or report it via our online crime reporting portal.

In an emergency or if an incident is ongoing, always dial 999.

If the incident does not match the above criteria for police involvement, it can be reported to your local authority via the following methods:

Frequently asked questions:

  • I want to report a dangerous dog, but I want to remain anonymous. Is this okay?
    We can’t ignore the reporting of a banned breed dog. Our officers can attend to speak to the dog owner about their dogs.
  • If the dog has done nothing wrong, will it be put to sleep?
    Not necessarily, no. If we have a banned breed dog and there are no aggravating factors then we will try and deal with it civilly. The dog will likely be seized under Section 4(b) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
  • Can restorative justice be applied if the banned breed dog has caused minor injuries?
    If there is a banned breed dog involved in an incident we cannot issue a restorative justice. All suspected banned breed dogs must be seized and put before the courts.
  • If a dog which has bitten somebody is not a banned breed, what will happen?
    Any dog that has caused an injury will be considered for seizing. A risk assessment will be carried out by officers to come to a final decision.
  • I witnessed an incident where a dog jumped up at a person and they banged their head. The dog did not bite them. Is this an offence?
    Yes, it would be. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 references any animal that causes an “injury, not just a “bite”.

Other relevant materials:

There are other sources of information available online to help you make informed decisions about what to do regarding a suspected dangerous dog, as well as other subject areas.

The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Partnership Board have put together a guide on children interacting with dogs and how their behaviour can affect an animal. It also has helpful hints and tips on how parents and children should and shouldn’t behave with and around dogs to avoid any nasty incidents. This can be viewed here.

Included in this is ‘Dogs and Children: A Guide to Staying Safe’ by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), which outlines different behaviours children can look out for in dogs so they know to avoid them and stay safe. This is also available separately from the RSPCA here.

All the above forms part of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Partnership Board’s practice guidance for safeguarding children from dangerous dogs.