The law, and what to do if you are attacked by a dog when carrying out a scan at a client’s home

What to do if you are bitten by a dog during a scan:

• Wash the wound thoroughly. Run under a cold tap for 10 minutes, even if the skin isn’t broken.
• Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Tell your doctor or medical practitioner that you have been bitten by an animal.
• Report the bite (important). Taking photos of the wound straight after it happens can be helpful. Your police and local authority’s dog warden should be informed of any dog bites to take steps to prevent this happening in future. They may also be able to give you advice to prevent it happening again in future.

 

The Law

Under the Dangerous Dog Act 1991 (Amended 2014), it is an offence for a dog to be “dangerously out of control” on private and public property. This means dog owners can be prosecuted if their dog attack someone in their home, this also includes front and back gardens. Similarly, the Animal Act 1971 imposes “Strict Liability” on the owner of a dog for its action. This means that under the law, the owner is responsible for an injury caused by their dog regardless of whether they themselves are at fault.
Section two of the Animal Act 1971 sets out a three-stage test that needs to be satisfied for strict liability to be applied, the stages are as followed:

• Was the dog likely to cause damage? – In order to prove this, it would be necessary to show, for example, that the dog had a history of biting people; secondly, that the damage done was likely to be severe. The answer to this will depend on the facts but taking the case of a dog biting a visitor, there is usually a strong argument that damage was likely to be severe.

• Caused by the Characteristic of the Animal – The first part of this section deals with unusual animals. This doesn’t mean exotic animals that you wouldn’t normally expect to encounter but instead if the dog in question is unusual in some way because it was unusually prone to bite or particularly aggressive. The second part of section (b) relates to normal characteristics of the species only displayed at particular times or in a particular circumstance. Biting is a classic example of this type of behaviour. All normal dogs are capable of biting but will only do so in particular circumstances.

• Known by the owner – The final section deals with the knowledge of the owner. Does an owner know that a dog will bite in particular circumstances? If so then this section of the Act will apply.

If not all of the above three clauses apply, or there is some ambiguity, you are still protected under ‘duty of care.’

 

Negligence and Duty of Care

All Dog owners have a “duty of care” to people who may encounter their Dog. If they don’t do “all that they should or do something that they shouldn’t”, and their Dog injures someone, then it is said that they have “breached their duty” and have been negligent. The fact that a dog might bite someone would suggest that the dog owner has been negligent because they failed to properly control the animal. However, knowledge plays a part: for a dog owner to be held negligent it would have to be shown not just that they potentially failed to prevent the attack but also that they were aware that the attack could happen.

 

Summary

If you get bitten, immediately inform:

• The police
• Your local authority, giving as much information as possible and bearing in mind the owner’s duty of care and/or the three requirements to fulfill the Dangerous Dogs Act.
• Speak to your insurer for advice – make it clear that you are looking to claim against an at-fault party, not on your own insurance. They may have advice for you.

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