Dog attacks on the rise but claiming compensation can be complicated

Neille Ryan

Partner & Head of Personal Injury

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March 16, 2023

Three decades on from the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act the number of dog attacks is on the rise, but despite legislation to prohibit dangerous animals it can be complicated for the victims of an injury to claim compensation.

The number of dog attacks recorded by police in England and Wales has risen by more than 30% since 2018, with nearly 22,000 cases of out-of-control dogs causing injury reported in 2022, according to a BBC investigation. However, proving the owner’s liability and receiving compensation is not straightforward.

Neille Ryan, Partner and Head of Personal Injury at Furley Page, said: “If you are injured by a dog there are several ways in which you may be able to claim compensation from the owner.

“These include establishing that the owner was at fault for the dog’s actions (common law negligence), demonstrating that the dog was dangerously out of control or a breed prohibited by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, or pursuing a claim under the Animals Act.

“The Animals Act makes the animal’s owner strictly liable, but only if certain tricky criteria are met:

• That the damage is of a kind which the animal was likely to cause, or which was likely to be severe; and
• It was due to characteristics not normally found in that species, or not normally found except at particular times or in particular circumstances; and
• Those characteristics were known to the owner.

“It can be difficult to prove all of the conditions and if one is unfulfilled then the owner has a defence. For example, if this was the first time that the animal had acted in a certain way then the owner can argue that they didn’t know about the particular characteristic or behaviour which caused the injury.

“Furthermore, even if your claim succeeds, you may never see a penny of any compensation if the owner does not have valid insurance to cover the damages and costs. All pet owners would be advised to get insurance to cover themselves in the event of any claim.

“For those injured by pets, it is essential to contact a specialist Personal Injury Lawyer, such as one accredited by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers or the Law Society’s Personal Injury Panel, as claims against keepers of animals can be a legal minefield and professional advice and support will be invaluable.”

For further information, please contact Neille Ryan on 01227 763939 or email