Police defend decision to destroy Hartlepool dog - what does the law say?
Police have defended their decision to destroy a dog left abandoned in Hartlepool - but what is the legal position?
Officers responded to a report from Hartlepool Borough Council of a distressed German Shepherd tied to a pole on Mainsforth Terrace in the town at 10.07am yesterday.
Cleveland Police says hours of working with partner agencies including the RSPCA, a re-homing charity and consultation with numerous veterinary professionals in order to calm the dog were unsuccessful and the difficult decision was made to destroy it.
They said the dog became increasingly aggressive as time went on and numerous attempts were made to find the owner failed.
So what was the legal basis for the decision to destroy the animal?
Website askthepolice.uk, the official police resource for England and Wales, outlines the legal position: "If a dog poses an immediate threat to the safety of the public, the police or other responsible person (e.g. vet/local authority) can order that the dog be lawfully destroyed," it says.
"It is a criminal offence for the person in charge of the dog to allow it to be 'dangerously out of control' anywhere in England and Wales whether or not a public place."
A dog may be considered dangerously out of control 'if it injures a person or an assistance dog, or it causes a person to worry that it may injure them or an assistance dog, and the person in charge of the dog has no proper control of it.'
A court can also decide that a dog has been dangerously out of control if it it either attacks another person's animal or the owner of an animal thinks that they could be injured trying to stop it attacking from doing so.
If the dog has been established as dangerously out of control but does not pose an immediate threat to the public etc., the police and local authorities now have the power to act early to prevent dog attacks before they occur.
These measures could include; attending dog training classes, repairing fencing to property to prevent the dog escaping or requiring the dog to be muzzled when out in public.
There are various penalties owners can face , depending on the circumstances, including
• a fine and/or imprisonment for up to six months for having a dog that is dangerously out of control;
• a fine and/or imprisonment of up to five years if the dog injures someone;
• a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 14 years if the dog kills someone;
• a fine and/or imprisonment of up to three years if the dog causes Injury to an assistance dog (e.g. a guide dog)
Owners may also be banned from owning a dog in the future and the dog may be destroyed.