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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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My Lurcher dog is very lively and plays in a boisterous manner

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My Lurcher dog is very lively and plays in a boisterous manner with many other dogs whilst out off lead and the owners are happy with this and some even seek him out so that their dogs can play with him. One lady, however, has reacted in a bad way to my dog playing with hers. Her dog, a bitch, is nearly always on lead and she says, for two years now, that she (the bitch) has bad legs and can't run but there is no sign of this as far as I can see. A few days ago our dogs met on lead and there was a friendly tussle and my dog was play-biting the back of the neck of her dog which is something that other dogs often do to him and he does to other dogs and to my arms whilst playing. There is never any damage done. The other owner said that my dog was biting her dog and that, "we can't be having that". We went our separate ways. The next day we met again and this time she was with an older man, about my age (66). She backed her dog against a hedge and stood in front guarding him. My dog was on his lead throughout and there was no attempted contact between the dogs. I'm afraid that her defensive pose triggered a foolish response in me and I said, "One word from me and he'll rip her to pieces", obviously in jest, I thought. The older gentleman took this as a real threat and said that he would use his stick on my dog. I said that I was joking and we parted again with no further interaction. A few days later we again met with the lady, her dog and a younger man who I believe was her husband. She stayed at a distance with her dog whilst her husband approached me in a manner that seemed aggressive to me. He said that the older man was his father in law and that he had a heart condition and had been upset by the previous encounter. I apologised for upsetting his father in law and admitted that, with hindsight, my remark had been stupid. After a while he seemed to calm down but warned me that there would be something else done if my dog, "sunk his teeth in", any time in the future. I asked if there had been any damage and he said that there had been none. This I knew already. I even offered to walk at a different time to his wife if he let me know when they walked but he, quite reasonably, said that this was too big a restriction. I did say that if I saw them again I would leash my dog if he was near but he is a running dog and is often quite a distance away from me and will not always recall if he wants to play with another dog. We parted on neutral terms. I worry a little about his threat, which may have been a legal one if not a physical one, and his, his wife's and her father's reactions to my dog who has never harmed anything bigger than a rabbit. My dog can spot another dog a long way off and will always want to play. Recall often works but not always, with a Lurcher. He cannot stay on lead on his walks as this would be cruel. This happened on private farmland and National Forest. The landowner is happy for dogs to run in this area.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
What would you like to know about this please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

If my dog approaches the other dog again in a similar manner which they perceive to be aggressive would the police investigate or take action against my dog? Could there be any civil action if the older man suffered a heart attack. I was advised by the husband at the last encounter that he had a heart condition.

It depends what he is going to allege. He is obviously of the view that your dog is dog aggressive. Whether that is right or wrong, that is the allegation he will make and police will act upon.
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 does not cover dog on dog aggression. It only covers injury to a person or reasonable apprehension of injury. That said, there are some constabularies that will say that a dog fight gives rise to reasonable apprehension of injury to any person close by so it isn't necessarily dispositive of the matter.
The injury to a person does have to be a direct kind. There are many Home Office directions that make clear that injury caused by dogs indirectly - like a heart attack - are not covered.
The Dogs Act 1871 does cover injury to other animals. It is only a civil matter even though the police deal with it.
Probably they would just give you words of advice if he makes an allegation unless there is a clear injury in which case there could be action.
It is usually better to avoid people like this though.
Can I clarify anything for you?
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