Unfortunately dog attacks are not uncommon. The Home Secretary, is currently contemplating banning ownership of the American XL breed of dog.

Dangerous dogs are a very hot topic at present – it seems that a week cannot go by without another tragic story in the news regarding the death or serious injury of someone at the hands of a dangerous dog.

The matter has become so serious that this week's papers are reporting that the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, is taking urgent advice on whether to ban ownership of the American Bully XL breed of dog, following a recent spate of high-profile attacks, the most recent of which was an attack on an 11-year-old girl in Birmingham over the weekend. Other high-profile attacks include the death of a professional dog walker in Surrey in January following an attack by a pack of dogs, including her own American XL Bully that she was walking in a park in Surrey.

Under Section1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, it is illegal to own, or have control of, a breed of dog which is typically bred for fighting, such as a Pitbull or Japanese Tosa. Under Section 2 of the Act, the Secretary of State can also impose restrictions on the ownership of other types of dogs which present a risk of serious danger to the public.

Currently, the police have powers to prosecute individuals who own, or are in control of, any dog which is deemed to be dangerously out of control in a public place. If the dog injures someone whilst out of control, that could constitute an aggravated offence and the owner could face a maximum prison sentence of 2 years. The court can also order destruction of the dog or order that appropriate control measures are put in place, such as requiring the dog to be muzzled or on a lead at all times whilst in public.

Dog cases can be costly to prosecute. Dogs seized by the police will be kept in police-controlled kennels pending the conclusion of proceedings. The dogs may also require veterinary treatment whilst under the care of the police. If proceedings are contested, or subject to appeals in the Crown or higher courts, the costs can run into many thousands of pounds. In current times, where many police forces are subject to tight budgetary restraints, forces are increasingly looking to recoup these costs from the dog's owners.

Weightmans are experts in dangerous dog legislation, regularly representing various police forces in England and Wales in relation to applications for destruction or control orders for dogs found to be dangerously out of control. Many of these hearings are strenuously contested by the dog owners and regularly require the provision of expert analysis into the behaviour and classification of dogs.

Our unique insight into legislation in this area enables us to advise authorities on the correct procedure to implement when seeking destruction or control orders in respect of suspect dangerous dogs, as well as the owners of dogs who may have had dogs seized by the police in anticipation of criminal or civil proceedings under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and Dogs Act 1871.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.