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Relevant legislation

While we all hope to avoid incidents involving dogs and horses from happening, there's some legislation that can be applied if a dog does attack your horse.

  • Last reviewed: 20th February 2023
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In many cases, one of the following pieces of legislation will apply. 

Section 3 Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (Updated 2014)

Makes it a criminal offence to allow any dog (i.e. of any breed or type) to be dangerously out of control in any place. Legal action can be taken against the owner and/or the person in charge of the dog at the time. 

For equestrians, a dog being dangerously out of control could include any occasion where they cause fear or apprehension to you, or might injure you. If the dog does injure you, then the offence becomes aggravated. 

Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021

Amends the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 in respect of offences in Scotland. Since the beginning of November 2021, dog owners face higher penalties if their dog attacks or worries livestock (including horses).  

You can find more information in the article, Livestock attacks – new penalties for dog owners in Scotland. 

Section 2 Dogs Act 1871

Requires the owner to be brought before a Magistrates' Court if you make a complaint about their dog. The magistrate will decide if your complaint is justified. If they are satisfied it is justified, they can then make any order they feel is appropriate to ensure the dog's owner keeps their dog under proper control or, in extreme cases, that they have the dog destroyed. 

Importantly, this is regardless of whether the dog is in a private or public place. 

Section 8 Animal Welfare Act 2006

Makes it an offence for someone to deliberately set a dog onto your horse, as the act creates several offences related to the fighting or baiting of animals, the organisation of animal fights and its associated activities. 

Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953

Makes it an offence for a person to knowingly or unknowingly allow a dog to worry horses and other livestock, on any agricultural land. Allowing a dog to worry a horse would involve someone letting their dog attack or chase your horse in a way that may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering. 

The owner of the dog, and the person in charge of the dog at the time, would be guilty of an offence. 

Other legislation that may be relevant

Although less common, sometimes the following legislation may apply

Animal Welfare Act 2006

Section 4 of this act makes it an offence for anyone to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal, either through their actions or failure to act. The person responsible for an animal may also have committed an offence if they allow someone else to cause unnecessary suffering by not taking steps to prevent this. 

Section 9 places a duty of care on anyone responsible for an animal to ensure the animal's welfare needs are met. This means it is an offence to not take all reasonable steps to ensure the animal's needs have been met. This includes anyone who abandons an animal, as by abandoning them, they haven't taken all reasonable steps to meet the animal's needs. 

Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Makes it an offence to maliciously wound or cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) to another, with or without a weapon or instrument. Therefore, this offence can include cases where a dog has been used to maliciously wound or cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) to another. Section 47 also creates an offence of assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH).  

These offences are only considered in the most extreme circumstances as the penalties are more severe. 

Metropolitan Police Act 1839 and Town Police Clauses Act 1847

Makes it an offence for anyone to allow an unmuzzled ferocious dog to be not under proper control, and attack, worry, or cause fear to another person, horse or any other animal. This offence can be committed in any thoroughfare or public place in the Metropolitan Police District or any street in a town. 

Dangerous Dogs Act 1989

In addition to any civil order made under the Dangerous Dogs 1871, the 1989 act allows a Magistrate to disqualify an owner from having custody of their dog for any amount of time the Court thinks fit.  

The 1989 Act also allows any control order imposed under the 1871 Act to be enforced if someone breaches this order. 

Public Order Act 1986 Section 5

Makes it an offence to harass, alarm or cause distress to another person by using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour. 

Helpful resources

The Defra website has further information and advice on the relevant legislation regarding dangerous dogs incidents.

Dealing with irresponsible dog ownership practitioners manual

Report an incident

Anyone can report their incidents or near misses to us; you don’t have to be a BHS member. Reporting your incidents helps us to better understand the rate of equine-related incidents and near misses across the UK.