Wealden District Council
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Dangerous Dogs

What should I do if I’m approached by an unfriendly looking dog?

There is no simple answer, nor set formula to solve the problem of unfriendly dogs. However, most dogs tend to conform to predictable rules of behaviour. This information may help you to avoid trouble:

  • Even friendly dogs will bark at you, as it is their job to defend their territory. Others will see you as a threat to themselves or their handler when out walking.
  • Do not allow children to approach dogs they do not know. You can never be sure. Ensure that children do not poke the dog’s eyes or pull its hair etc. A dog only has one way to say “I’ve had enough”, and that is to snarl or bite.
  • Talk to the dog in a firm but friendly voice and if it approaches in a friendly way – no snarl or hackles up – stand still to allow the dog to sniff you, keeping your hands clear until you feel confident.
  • As you get closer the dog, look at how it reacts to you. If it stays put or backs off, it probably regards you as a dominant intruder and will be too scared to attack. If it walks or runs towards you with its tail wagging in a low position it is probably friendly and unlikely to bite you. Never run past a strange dog. This may make it chase you and you could get bitten as a result.
  • Always walk or back away slowly, facing the dog as you do so – until you are sure you are safe.
  • Show no fear. A dog can detect fear. Keep calm, walk away slowly and speak firmly to the dog.
  • Don’t stare. Staring is a threat – a dog may read it as a challenge and attack.

Please remember that dogs rarely attack, so don’t be over anxious of every dog that you meet. Behave in a friendly and confident manner and you will help lessen their fear.

My dog has been attacked by another dog – what can be done about it?

Unless a member of the public was at risk, this is a civil matter between you and the owner of the other dog concerned. We would recommend that you may seek advice from the Citizen Advice Bureau in the first instance.

I’ve been bitten by a dog – what should I do?

Under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, an offence could be committed if a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place. Even if it is not in a public place, but in a place where the dog is not permitted to be and it bites someone, or frightens someone, the owner could still be prosecuted. In this instance you should contact Sussex Police (Dangerous Dog Officer). It is important to obtain medical help if the bite is serious, especially if your anti tetanus inoculation is out of date (a booster is normally required every ten years).

What is a dangerous dog?

The following dogs, and also cross-bred pit-bulls, are considered to be dangerous dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro

It is illegal to possess such a dog without a certificate of exemption, which is granted once the dog is neutered, insured, and has a micro-chip implant. These dogs cannot be in a public place without being muzzled and being securely kept on a lead by a person who is not less than 16 years old.

Does my dog need to wear a collar and tag?

Yes – under the Control of Dogs Order of 1992, every dog (subject to few exceptions), while in a public place, must wear a collar with the name and address of its owner inscribed upon it or on a plate or badge attached to it.

Do I have to keep my dog on a lead?

As a responsible dog owner you are obliged to keep your dog under control at all times. Depending on your dog this may include keeping him on a lead.

Are there any areas where I can’t take my dog?

Dogs are banned under local bylaws from all of the Council’s fenced children’s play areas. Failure to comply with these bylaws is a criminal offence, the maximum fine upon conviction is currently £500.