A dog is deemed to be a “chattel” in law which simply means that it is a personal possession. Sometimes disputes arise over ownership that result in proceedings before the county court. Usually the case is heard by the small claims court who will consider such things as ownership papers, in whose name the dog is registered at the vets, whether it is micro-chipped to anyone etc. The court will then make a ruling on ownership and, if appropriate, an order for the dog to be returned. The procedure in the small claims court is designed to be quite user-friendly in the hope that claimants will be able to conduct their cases without a solicitor. The ability to claim back legal costs is also limited.
The general law of contract applies to the buying of selling of dogs and it is up to the buyer to be satisfied that the dog they are buying is a healthy dog. It is important to research your breed carefully as most breeds have certain health defects that the breed is prone to and the breeder should have had proper health checks carried out to ensure that the dogs are not suffering from any such defects. More protection is available for the buyer if the breeder sells the dog in the course of a business or if the dog is misrepresented in some way.
A house has planning permission for use as a private dwelling house for people. If you keep a large number of dogs on the premises the local authority may decide that a change of use has taken place and invite you to reduce the number of dogs you have on the premises or apply for a change of use (which may or may not be granted.) As a rule of thumb any more than 6 dogs could present a problem but there is case law where larger numbers have been allowed. Much depends on the size of the dogs and the way in which they are being kept.
Dog Barking Complaint: Noise Abatement Notice
Barking is a natural thing for a dog to do but it can be a problem if your dog barks incessantly or at an unsociable time of day. If a complaint is made to the local authority you may find yourself being served with a noise abatement notice requiring you to take steps to resolve the problem. Usually the situation will be monitored (either by neighbours keeping a noise diary or by monitoring equipment being installed in a neighbour’s house) to see if it improves. If all else fails you may be prosecuted under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which could result in a heavy fine.
Claims for Injury or Damage
You could be liable if your dog causes injury to a person or damage to property. You are particularly at risk if the incident arose as a result of negligence on your part or if your dog had behaved in a similar manner on a previous occasion. If your dog’s dangerously out of control, you will be asked to provide details of previous incidents and to provide the veterinary records for your dog. These claims can be very expensive to defend if you do not have insurance. We recommend all our clients to take out third party liability insurance.
If you are investigated for, or charged with an offence of dog law, please call us on 01442 242999 for free initial telephone advice.
Case study – Ella
Ella caused quite a serious injury to a young child but no-one saw what happened. By adducing expert evidence the court were persuaded that the injury had been caused accidentally and not as the result of a deliberate dog attack. Ella is now subject to conditions that she is kept on a lead and muzzle whenever she is in a public place.
Case study – Ziin
Ziin escaped from her owners and bit a passer by once in the leg causing quite a serious injury. The court made a contingent destruction order allowing her to come home but then further proceedings were brought alleging that Ziin’s owner had breached the order. We successfully argued that the proceedings were invalid.
Case study – Snoop
Snoop has been a customer of ours on two occasions. The first time he was seized because he was a pit bull type dog and the second was after he escaped from his rear garden and alarmed someone by barking at them. The prosecution sought Snoop’s destruction but we were able to persuade the court to allow him to come home subject to conditions.
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