A 79-year-old Liverpool man died over the Bank Holiday weekend following an attack by an "out of control" dog in the garden of his home in the Clubmore area. The dog was put down by Merseyside Police, and two women in their late twenties - suspected of an offence under the under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act - were also arrested.
The latest incident involving an attack by man’s “best friend” is on the increase. In 2012, the Social Care Information Centre reported 6,450 hospital admissions for injuries caused by dogs across England, a rise of more than 5 per cent on the previous year.
While an attack on an elderly person is less common, tragically, around one in six, i.e. 1,040 of hospital admissions for a dog bite and “strike” injuries involve a child aged under 10. Nearly 50 per cent (494 admissions) required plastic surgery, and over 25 per cent (278 admissions) received oral or facial surgery.
Over the last four years, the NHS have also reported nearly four thousand incidents - more than a 40 per cent increase - and a rise in personal injury claims for people “treated for dog bites and other injuries from dog attacks”.
It also appears that where you live could make you more prone to an attack by a dog as, on average, those living in the north-east were statistically more likely to be admitted to hospital following an incident with a canine. In the North East Strategic Health Authority area, there were 21 admissions per 100,000 of the population compared to the lowest rate of 7 admissions for every 100,000 of the population in London.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, Part 2 (section 3), it is a criminal offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place. This includes any circumstance during which an injury of any sort occurs or there is a fear that an injury might occur. In addition, under Section 3(3) of the Act, the owner (or person in charge at the time) of a dog can be prosecuted if an incident occurs in a non-public place where a dog is not permitted.
An amendment made to the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1997 gives the Courts discretion on sentencing. Before the amendment, owners who were convicted under the 1991 Act of having either a prohibited dog or a dog, which had injured a person (no matter how minor the injury), faced a mandatory Court Order to have the dog destroyed.
Following the amendment, if the Court is satisfied that the dog will not constitute a danger to public safety, an alternative to making a compulsory order for the destruction of the dog is for the Court to impose a Control Order instead. Under the Order, an owner is instructed to take specific measures such as muzzling, keeping the dog on a lead and neutering if necessary.
Failure to keep a dog under control can lead to a fine of up to £5,000 and/or sent to prison for up to 6 months, and also the likelihood of being prohibited from owning a dog in the future.
Failure to prevent a dog from causing human injury can result in a prison sentence of up to 2 years and/or a fine. If a dog is deliberately used to inflict injury, prosecution for ‘malicious wounding’ can bring a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.