CAN I WALK YOUR DOG?
Flicking through Facebook, you often see posts from people offering to walk dogs. It might be that, during recent lockdowns and quarantines, people are trying to help by offering to walk someone’s dog for them. Or you regularly see youngsters offering to walk dogs, either free of charge or for a small fee. Seems very commendable and what could be wrong with it?
Sadly, the legislation in the UK makes this well meaning gesture much more complicated and risky than it seems.
Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991, amended in 1997) makes the “person temporarily in charge of the dog” the potential subject of a criminal charge. This means that whoever is walking the dog will be the person arrested, charged and subsequently convicted should something go wrong.
A dog can be deemed “dangerously out of control” under this Act should the dog injure someone (can be a bruise or a scratch!) or even if there is only “reasonable apprehension of injury”. It can be a tiny dog and a tiny injury! This is not rare, it is happening all the time. Police forces throughout the country spend £5 million a year on kennelling seized dogs!
So, if you’re walking someone’s dog and it bites someone or even jumps up and scratches someone, you could find yourself with a criminal conviction. It is Strict Liability law – it does not depend on actual negligence or intent to harm. There are no mitigating circumstances! If someone pokes the dog in the eye and it bites them, the dog, and you, are still to blame in the eyes of the law! The Dangerous Dogs Act is deeply flawed in many ways but unfortunately, it is the Law and the Police have to act on it.
There are other difficulties in walking other people’s dogs. If you trip, drop the lead and the dog runs off, you probably won’t have suitable insurance. Or if you get injured by the dog and you then can’t work?
If a youngster is walking the dog, how would that youngster cope if that dog were to be attacked by another dog? Do they have the confidence and ability to deal with that situation ?
If I post information like this, I often get criticised for being over-cautious, a killjoy or alarmist!
Sadly, I see on a regular basis what happens when things go wrong. I am regularly in Court giving evidence on cases where an owner, or walker, of a dog has been charged with a criminal offence and the dog is under threat of destruction.
For all of these reasons, if you need someone to walk your dog, a qualified and insured Dog Walker is always your best option. They have the knowledge and experience to deal with any potential problems and are insured against risk. In the age of an increasingly litigious society, the days of your son or daughter helping out by walking other people’s dogs are long gone, I’m afraid!