Owners could face prosecution if pet scares child collecting ball from garden
In a bizarre proposal of the law, home owners have been warned that they could be prosecuted if their dog scares a child that wanders into their garden, say for example, to collect a lost football.
It is all part of a proposed crackdown on dangerous dogs that law makers hope will protect workers like postmen and tradesmen while doing their jobs. There is a threat of court action from dogs that “nips, bites or barks”. This means that someone could be charged if their dog frightens a child for instance.
Dog campaigners however urge common sense to be used from police and prosecutors after they already ruled out that intruders breaking into houses would not be protected from such proposed laws. They would face the full force of the law plus the dog.
Individual cases will be up to the Crown Prosecution Service and whether they decide that going forward with a prosecution would be in the public’s interest however the Government did indeed confirm that legal action could be taken if a dog scares a child.
Helping lead the way, David Heath, the agricultural minister said: ‘We certainly want to deal with the issue of the postman or the political canvasser who gets bitten by a dog out in the yard or garden, where they have perfectly legitimate business.
‘But we also do not want to penalise the householder whose dog is doing its job of protecting property against an intruder.
‘Getting that balance right is critical. When someone is within a house, it can reasonably be assumed that unless they have been invited in, they must give a strong argument for why they have legitimate business in the house.’
It of course becomes very tricky when a child enters a neighbour's garden to collect a ball. On the one hand, they are intruding, but they are meaning to cause no malicious intent with their actions. The problem lies in that a dog will not be able to distinguish between an intruder and an innocent child.
The proposed change in rules come about after a 14 year old Jade Anderson was killed by a pack of dogs in Wigan. Because she was in private property, the owner of the dogs was not prosecuted.
Trevor Cooper from the Dogs Trust said that ‘The difficulty for dog owners is in how they can anticipate a child coming in to their garden.
‘What can a dog owner do to prevent it? Put the dog in a cage in the garden or build large fences? That would be unacceptable for us.
‘The Government is going to have to work out a way of not criminalising dog owners if they have done nothing wrong.
‘It's quite difficult for a dog to distinguish between a lawful and unlawful visitor. I would hope that common sense will prevail.
The debate continues.
Photo: Cortney Martin