STAFFIES – LEICESTER, SONNY & SOCKS
PROBLEM – POLICE DANGEROUS DOGS ACT (DDA) COMPLAINT
A slightly different client case study, involving three young Staffie males and their distraught owners, Simon & Jackie Eaton, who contacted me having been dealt with by their local dog warden and the Police as their dogs had allegedly been dangerously out of control in a public place.
These dogs were being exercised by Simon and Jackie in some fields near to their home, where public access was allowed. The dogs chased after a pheasant and they were attempting to recall them, when they spotted a lady on the adjacent footpath. The dogs abandoned their pursuit of the pheasant and ran up to the lady in typical enthusiastic Staffie style. They did jump up at her and possibly attempted to lick her to death, but there was no aggression whatsoever. Jackie and Simon apologised and called their dogs away and continued their walk.
They were subsequently shocked to receive a visit from the local dog warden and a Police Community Support officer, stating that they had received a formal complaint and were investigating a possible offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act. They were told that the complainant had agreed to restorative justice, on the understanding that the dogs were only to be allowed in public whilst muzzled in the future. The shell-shocked Eatons agreed to this and then subsequently called me for help and advice. I was horrified at this apparent inappropriate use of this legislation and I agreed to be present at the next scheduled visit of the Police and dog warden.
I attended their home and met the dogs in their garden. I deliberately told Simon to leave them in the garden unattended, with the intention that I would just walk through the gate to see how they would react. I was confident from the owners account of their dogs, that there was no risk to me whatsoever and this was borne out by the reception the dogs gave me. Yes, they did jump up at me but they did so with happy, pleased to see you body language and in my opinion there was no way anyone, other than perhaps a complete dog novice would have thought they were being other than friendly.
At the meeting, I advised both the Police officer and the Dog Warden that the Eatons had not committed an offence under the DDA and therefore they could not be required to enter into the restorative justice system. The officers had no choice but to withdraw from their position, when faced with someone who had a better knowledge of the law than they did. The matter was subsequently withdrawn and having been previously recorded as a detected crime, was officially no-crimed by the Police.
The issue at the heart of this matter was whether or not the dogs were dangerously out of control. The Police initial position was that they were, because a person feared injury. So whilst it is not strictly neccessary for someone to be bitten, for an offence to be complete under this Act, there is a requirement that a person should have REASONABLE apprehension that they will be injured on his walks.
These dogs showed no aggressive intent whatsoever and the complainant who was a dog-owner herself, had clearly over-reacted and this was most likely because of the breed of the dogs and not what they had actually done. Yet another case of breed not deed, instead of vice versa. Jackie and Simon accepted that their dogs had been momentarily out of their control, but the crux of this case was that at no time were they DANGEROUSLY out of control, hence the Police withdrawal.
Jackie and Simon happily agreed to undertake some training with me in order to improve their control and after a few short weeks, a very relieved Jackie wrote this very nice email:-
"Myself and Simon would like to thank you for all your knowledge, advice and guidance over the last few weeks.
I barely slept a wink prior to your first visit to us, but you truly have helped us in so many ways and we can’t thank you enough. If it wasn’t for you our beautiful dogs would have been muzzled by now which would have been so unnecessary due to a member of the public totally over reacting. We have learn’t so much in a very short space of time and this has all been down to yourself and your calm methods that you use which truly work.
Our dogs are so much calmer and more responsive than they have ever been. We were determined to put everything you told us into practice as we wanted to be proud owners of our staffies and wanted to be able to walk out into public areas without people crossing over to avoid walking past us.We have to say that Leicester and Sonny have made so much progress, we thought that they would take along time to train and Socks would be the easiest, how wrong could we have been!!
We will carry on working hard with them and we would recommend you to anyone who has any issues with their dogs and I have been singing your praises to all my work collegues as it has made our lives so much easier now. You have given us the confidence to let our dogs off their leads in public again. Once or twice my heart skipped a beat when you first suggested we did this but now we are more than happy to trust them off lead.
After yesterday’s session we drove home and couldn’t believe what a difference a few short week’s could make and we were absolutely delighted with ourselves and our dogs"
Jackie & Simon Eaton.
My advice to any dog owner who finds themselves on the wrong side of the law, when their dog has not actually done anything wrong, is not to readily enter into the restorative justice system, without consulting someone who has a good knowledge of the Dangerous Dogs law. Unfortunately, and as an ex-Police officer myself it pains me to say this, you cannot rely on the average Police officer’s knowledge – of dog legislation at least. As I write this, I am involved in another similar case to this one and will record the details on this site in due course.