THE Government announced new laws in October, stating that owning an XL Bully dog will become illegal in the UK from February next year.
Glasgow-headquartered Complete Clarity Solicitors and Simplicity Legal has warned that all dog owners should be more aware of their legal responsibilities for their pets.
The advice comes as Britain remains in the grip of an increase in dog bites and attacks, some of which have had fatal consequences.
XL Bullies, which have featured in many incidents, have already been added to the list of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
More than 29% of the UK adults own a dog as a pet, according to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, suggesting an estimated canine population of in the region of 11 million.
Dog attacks can have devastating consequences. It is not just large dogs or breeds that are inclined to be vicious that can cause injuries, even the smallest dog can inflict serious harm.
Ellidh Clark from Complete Clarity Solicitors and Simplicity Legal said: “In Scotland, the law dictates that the keepers of dogs – who may not necessarily be the owner – are accountable for injuries caused by animals in their charge.
“The law is clear cut about criminal prosecution for attacks. However, raising a civil action for compensation in the event of sustaining injury, harm or damage can be more complex and those considering doing so should seek professional advice.
“Dog owners should also be aware of the contents of their own insurance policies in case a claim is made against them.”
Ms Clark said that if the keeper is a private individual, any claim could be made against their home insurance.
However, if the keeper is a professional service provider such as a dog walker, the claim would be against their professional insurance.
Unfortunately, dog owners are not currently legally required to have insurance.
Alan Johnston, Director of Scottish-based Greenwood Moreland Insurance Brokers, said: “Home Insurance policies will typically contain a personal liability section.
“While this part of a policy might initially appear to cover liability for bodily injury to others, in most cases there will be an exclusion for injuries caused by dog bites which occur away from the home address.
“However, if the owner of the dog involved in an incident has pet insurance, there would be a reasonable expectation of Third Party liability cover there.
“An injured party might find that a more fruitful avenue to explore if attempting to make a claim.”
Ms Clark pointed out that some victims of dog attacks might seek compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority if they could demonstrate that the dog was used as a weapon.
This would require evidence that the dog was intentionally set upon the victim by the keeper.
WHAT TO DO IF BITTEN OR ATTACKED
If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, remember to:
- Identify the dog’s keeper at the time of the attack;
- Report the incident to the police;
- Contact eyewitnesses and gather their information;
- Document your initial injury and any scarring that develops as a result of the bite