Man’s best friend – and then the dog bites

We are a nation of dog lovers – we have over 9 million pet dogs in Britain.

Most dog owners are responsible, but dogs are an animal and therefore can be unpredictable. No dog owner wants to think that their pet could harm a person, but the truth is over 200,000 people in England are bitten by a dog every year.

Vicki Wright, specialist personal injury lawyer looks at the compensation issues relating to dog bite claims in the UK, as well as possible punishment someone could face if their dog bites someone.


If you are bitten by a dog, it can leave physical marks but also mental scarring.

There is no automatic claim for compensation for dog bites. Bringing a civil claim can be difficult too,  as Courts accept that it is not always possible for a dog owner to constantly restrain their dog. Therefore it needs to be proved either:-

  • that the owner failed to take “reasonable care” to keep it under control; or
  • that the dog had a history of biting and the owner failed to keep it on a lead or perhaps even muzzled.

Vicki says, “I recently settled a case for £5,500 where my client suffered a dog bite to the hand whilst delivering papers. This was a great result because we successfully argued that the dog should not have been allowed to escape from the back garden through an open gate. It was accepted by the insurers that the owner should have taken greater care to keep their dog under control.”


Criminal courts

If your dog bites someone, you may also face punishment in the criminal courts.

Last year there were changes in the criminal law which saw a substantial increase to the maximum sentences that can now be imposed. These are:

  • an increase from 2 to 5 years for an owner whose dog causes injury
  • an increase from 2 to 14 years for an owner whose dog kills a person

The lengthier sentences will include matters where a dog has been bred or trained to be aggressive, or a dog has been used as a weapon or to purposely intimidate a person.

However, guidelines being considered by The Sentencing Council at the moment are expected to cover circumstances such as where a responsible dog over has taken precautions, but their dog has unexpectedly acted out of character and injured someone as a result.

Vicki concludes, “Britain’s love for their dogs will undoubtedly remain strong, but dog owners increasingly must be willing to accept responsibility for an unexpected incident involving their pet. And, someone injured by another person’s pet dog should rightfully be able to seek compensation for a dog bite.”