Most dogs are not normally dangerous. Unprovoked aggression is not natural or desirable behaviour in a pet dog. However, any dog can potentially become dangerous if it is not trained or kept responsibly.
Dog attacks on people
The police are responsible for investigating reports of attacks by dogs on people. If you are attacked by a dog in a public place this is covered by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. The police have the power (at their discretion) to take formal action against the dog owner in which case a statement would have to be taken from you. The law applies to all public places but not to the dog owner's private property. For example, a dog owner's private home or garden is not covered. The garden or shared staircase of a block of flats is covered. The staircase in a private house converted into two or more flats is also covered.
A less serious attack by a dog in a public place can lead to civil proceedings in a magistrates' court under the Dog Act 1871. Action can be brought by the police, a local authority, or members of the public. Magistrates can then issue an order to the owner that the dog is kept under control. The police can deal with any breach of the order under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
Dog on dog attacks
Attacks by dogs on other dogs are covered by the Dogs Act 1871. This civil legislation can be used by members of the public to take private action where their dog is attacked by another.
For more information on other laws involving dogs please visit our your dog and the law page or the Government's advice on Controlling Your Dog in Public.
Four breeds of dog are specifically banned in England under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. These are: Pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero. It is the type of dog, rather than the breed, which is used to classify the dogs under the act. This means that the physical and behavioural characteristics of a dog are used to decide if the Act applies to an individual dog.