Scullion News & Resources

One of the worst experiences a dog owner can have is when their beloved family pet bites someone. With recent news reports of dog bites and calls to restrict certain breeds, owners should know they have options if the unthinkable happens.

The vast majority of Scotland’s estimated 600,000 dogs have caring, responsible owners who understand the joys and duties of raising a dog. Still, a small number of owners fail to properly control their pets, jeopardising public safety. As a dog owner, you are accountable for your dog’s behaviour. Losing control can result in fines, court dates, and even losing your pet.

By proactively training dogs and taking precautions like leashes in public areas, conscientious owners can reduce risks. While extremely rare, if a bite occurs, cooperating with authorities and seeking professional behavioural help show good faith. With open communication and preventative care, owners can often keep pets in loving homes. Failure to control your dog could lead to getting a Dog Control Notice (DCN), landing you in court.

Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010

In short, the 2010 Act empowers local authorities to have “authorised officers” issue DCNs against irresponsible owners. These civil penalties can be levied on any dog owner over 16 if their pet is deemed “out of control” in public areas.

For owners under 16, the notice would go to parents or legal guardians instead. If the officer cannot reasonably identify an owner, they can serve DCNs to anyone over 16 who seems to be routinely caring for the dog. The law refers to these caretakers as “proper persons.”

The goal of DCNs is not to punish well-intentioned dog lovers but rather to promote greater accountability. By outlining clear expectations and consequences for letting dogs endanger others, the notices aim to encourage more conscientious animal custody and community safety.

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 states that anyone taking charge of a dog cannot let it get dangerously out of control, whether in public or in private. If found guilty of violating this, one may face up to 2 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Courts can also decide to disqualify offenders from having dogs for any length of time that seems suitable.

Your options

Nobody knows your dog like you do. It’s important to quickly recognise behaviours that show when your pet gets nervous, hurt, or agitated. We strongly recommend taking proactive steps to avoid your dog biting anyone. Dogs rarely bite maliciously. If your dog would benefit from one-on-one behavioural training, explore this option sooner rather than later. Not only will this improve your relationship, but being proactive could save your pet’s life.

If your dog has bitten someone already, stay calm. You have options. First and foremost, seek legal advice from a solicitor experienced in this area—your pet’s future depends on it. Thereafter, consider how to assist your dog. Could a medical reason explain the bite? Would behavioural lessons help? Would a muzzle in public or around others keep your dog safer?

If you can show this behaviour is out of character and have addressed the issue, it will help your case. Also, try gathering evidence to assist your solicitor, like exchanging contact details with the injured party, photographing injuries, and documenting your pet’s previous good behaviour. Don’t worry about statements—leave that to your lawyer.

Why Choose Scullion LAW?

Our lawyers use their skills and experience to mitigate the circumstances and ensure we achieve the best possible outcome for you and your beloved pet. We understand how important your pet is as well as appreciate the emotional turmoil that you would experience if faced with a prosecution of this nature. We regularly work with expert dog therapists and behaviourists so that we can provide you with strong, professional legal advice. This creates a great chance to achieve the best possible results for you and your family.

Our commitment to excellence is reflected in our five-star rating across 1,000+ reviews on Review Solicitors, Trust Pilot, and Google. We’ve also earned recognition in the industry, receiving multiple Criminal Law awards. In September 2023, Scullion LAW was shortlisted for Crime Firm of the Year and Crime Rising Star of the Year at the Legal 500 Scotland Awards 2023.

We’re here to assist you. For more information, please complete our online enquiry form. A member of our friendly team will get back to you shortly. You can also call us 24/7 on our Criminal Defence hotline: 01698 2811 55.

Our friendly and approachable law team are ready to support you

Speak to us today