During the lockdown, owning a dog has become a popular choice for many people, particularly those living alone and facing months in isolation or those looking for a reason to enjoy the great outdoors. However, many are coming to realise that having a dog is not all fun and games. A dog is hard work and needs a lot of attention and training. A dog needs space, exercise and ground rules! Studies show that 62% of puppies bought during the pandemic have never left their home and 66% have never been around another dog prior to the recent easing of the lockdown. This lack of socialisation means that, unsurprisingly, the number of dog attacks and dog bite incidents is on the rise.
The majority of dog attacks involve pet dogs and occur due to a failure to keep the dog under control. Dog owners, or those deemed to be in control of a dog, have a legal responsibility to prevent their dogs from acting dangerously or causing harm to others. Incidents can occur anywhere but often in public places such as local parks where people are out walking or running or where there are other dogs. You may be a delivery driver or postman who suffers a dog bite whilst working. There have been several high-profile cases in the news recently involving dog attacks with tragic consequences. It is not yet a legal requirement for dogs to be insured but many dog owners will have pet insurance to cover any compensation payable as a result of their dog causing injury. Where there is no insurance in place the chances of recovering any compensation are slim.
It is possible that you are bitten by a working dog such as a Police dog or a dog being kept for security reasons.
What do I need to prove to succeed in a claim?
There is no automatic entitlement to compensation if you are attacked by a dog. In order to succeed in your claim, you need to prove three things under the Animals Act 1971:
- The damage caused by the dog, unless restrained, is likely to be severe. Puncture wounds can often be adequate to satisfy this requirement. The size of the dog and the size of the claimant are relevant considerations.
- The likelihood of damage would not normally be found in animals of this particular species, except at particular times or in particular circumstances. This requirement could be satisfied if the dog was in a confined space, or around other animals.
- The characteristics of the dog were known to the owner/keeper. The animal does not have to have acted in this specific way before. The Court has previously found that a first bite will satisfy the requirements of the Act. It could be enough to show that the dog was a ‘jumpy’ or ‘nippy’ dog.
If the dog is a dangerous species, under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, the owner is more likely to be held responsible for any injuries caused.
What do I need to do to bring a claim?
In order to assist with bringing the claim you should notify the owner of the dog as soon as possible that you have been injured; take photographs of your injuries and seek appropriate medical treatment; make a note of the details and circumstances surrounding the attack so that you do not forget anything important; if possible, exchange contact details with the dog owner; obtain the contact details of any witnesses to the attack.
It is helpful if you have reported the attack to the Police. This will ensure the precise details of the attack are recorded. The Police may be able to help with identifying the dog owner and advise on whether the dog has been involved in a similar incident previously.
What can I claim for?
You can claim for the injury itself including the pain and suffering as well as any scarring and any psychological symptoms. The amount of any compensation will reflect the severity of the injury and any long-term effects of the attack.
You can also claim for any expenses you have incurred as a result of the attack including the cost of any medical care or lost earnings as a result of having to take time off work. You can also claim for any clothing or personal items damaged in the attack. You will need to provide evidence of these losses.