Dogs dangerously out of control: Section 3 Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

This could be extremely serious and can lead to a severe penalty for you as well as possibly leading to the destruction for your dog.


If you’ve received a summons to attend at a Magistrates’ Court anywhere in England or Wales under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (or you believe you are at risk of having these proceedings being brought against you) then don’t delay – speak to us now and we’ll give you preliminary legal advice. This is a FREE service. We will explain the law, tell you your options and you can decide if you would like to instruct us to represent you.


There are two ways to contact us:-

  • Phone us on 01304 755 557 and speak with either Trevor Cooper or Nik Starmer-Smith. If we can’t immediately speak to you please leave a message and we will call you back as soon as we can.
  • Alternatively email us the details to and we will call you.


This part of the Dangerous Dogs Act applies to every single dog in England & Wales, no matter whether it is a pure bred dog, cross or a mongrel and regardless of its size.


This is a criminal offence which can be brought against the owner of a dog (and if different the person in charge of a dog) if a dog is dangerously out of control. The offence applies regardless of where the incident takes place — even if it’s in your own home or garden.  ‘Dangerously out of control’ is defined as being ‘on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person or assistance dog’. Generally, if a dog bites someone or an assistance dog then it will be presumed to have been dangerously out of control.


The Police have the discretionary power to seize a dog (although they may need a warrant) but there is no provision for ‘bail’ for the dog pending a conclusion at Court.


If injury is caused to a person or assistance dog, then there is a presumption in favour of destruction of the dog unless the owner can prove that the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety. If the Court can be persuaded not to impose destruction, then the alternative is a Contingent Destruction Order ie. a requirement that unless the dog is kept under proper control then it shall be destroyed. The Court has the power to impose conditions to such an order.  For the owner and/or person in charge of the dog at the time of the incident the Court has the power to impose a prison sentence as well as a ban on keeping dogs.


For a case involving the injury or death of an assistance dog the maximum penalty is 3 years prison. For a case involving injury to a person the maximum penalty is 5 years prison. If the victim dies from the injury, the maximum penalty is 14 years prison. There could also be a big fine and compensation.


If the incident takes place in, or partly in, a building which is a dwelling (or forces accommodation) then if the victim is a trespasser this is regarded as a Householder Case and the Defendant may have a defence.  Whilst provocation isn’t a defence specified in the statute, case law suggests that the prosecution has to prove that there was something (more than normal) that you did or failed to do which led to the incident.


We have had many years of experience acting in these cases and have handled the defence of cases throughout the country at the Magistrates Court, Crown Court, Administrative Court (High Court) on Judicial Review and Case Stated, Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), European Court of Human Rights and the Criminal Cases Review Commission.


Please note that the above summary only relates to the law in England and Wales. You must not rely on it as constituting legal advice and so for specific guidance on your particular doglaw issues please contact us – see our “How we can help” section for details.