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Last year, our Chief Legal Officer Rebecca Conway, wrote for Insurance Post on a surprising post-Covid Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) trend which seems to still be an issue to this day. Rebecca highlighted that the pandemic sparked an unexpected increase in LEI claims on dog attacks.

The news recently reported on a spate of recent attacks by the American bully XL breed, and Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak’s, subsequent announcement that the breed will be banned.

As a dog owner you‘re responsible for the behaviour of your dog, but what are your responsibilities exactly?

Dangerous Dogs Act

In May 2014 changes were made to the Dangerous Dog Act 1991 which states that all dog owners should be responsible for their dog’s behaviour with other people and animals.

Regardless of whether a person owns a large breed dog or a tiny one, and no matter how placid or friendly that dog is, the Dangerous Dogs Act and the law still applies.

It’s illegal to let a dog be dangerously out of control anywhere, for example:

  • In a public place
  • In a private place, such as a neighbour’s house or garden
  • In the owner’s home

Fundamentally, if a dog bites a person, it will be presumed to have been ‘dangerously out of control’. It’s worth noting that even if the dog doesn’t bite but gives the person grounds to feel that the dog may injure them, the law still applies.

The court could also decide that a dog is dangerous if:

  • It injures another person’s animal
  • The owner of the animal thinks they themselves could be injured if they tried to stop an attack
Under control

A dog is considered to be ‘under control’ if it’s on a lead held by someone able to control the dog. For example, a large dog wouldn’t be under control if its lead was held by a child, who would be unlikely to be able to restrain the dog if it strained against the lead.

It isn’t necessary for dogs to always be on a lead. However, dogs must be kept on a lead in designated pedestrian zones and on land where livestock is present.

Councils have byelaws to show the areas where leashing is required, such as in public parks.

In addition to conditions imposed by a court, where a dog has attacked a person or worried livestock, a council dog warden can impose conditions, regardless of whether the owner is prosecuted for those breaches.

If a dog attack has occurred or has been out of control, a dog warden may issue a notice requiring the owner to keep the dog:

  • Muzzled when in a public space
  • Under control when in a public place
  • Securely confined in a building, yard or other enclosure when not under control
  • Away from any specific place or any type of place
  • Neutered (if male) within 30 days of the date on which the notice comes into effect

If the imposed conditions aren’t followed, an owner is considered to have committed an offence punishable by a fine of up to £2,500.

Following the six months of imposed conditions, the owner can ask the council that issued the notice to review the continuing need for the conditions. Or the individual can formally appeal against the imposition of any control condition to a magistrate’s court.

Banned dogs

Lastly, certain breed types of dogs are banned in the UK:

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

It’s illegal to own these types of dogs without a certificate of exemption.

Exempt dogs must be:

  • Neutered
  • Microchipped
  • Kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public space
  • Kept in a secure place so they cannot escape

And owners need to have:

  • Third party liability insurance against your dog injuring other people
  • Be aged over 16
  • Show the Certificate of Exemption when asked by a police officer or council dog warden, either at the time or within five days
  • Let the Index of Exempt Dogs know if you change address, or your dog dies

A Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) policy attached to general household insurance, can provide access to experts who can help customers pursue a legal case against a dog owner bite; along with a 24/7 Legal Helpline and online Assistance Portal access, LEI provides additional comfort and reassurance to customers in a wide range of issues such as employment and consumer disputes and property matters.

For further information on the above, or details of our tailored products and services, please contact your Partnerships Manager or email

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