The Lincolnite recently reported that a horse rider was injured with a broken collar bone after a dog startled her horse as she rode through a field next to a public footpath. The incident happened in Welton, near Lincoln, on July 27. Police were informed.

It appears that two women were riding in a field next to a footpath when a dog ran through the hedge between the field and the footpath and chased the horses from behind. The dog, thought to be a pointer type- a sporting breed if so-was not on a lead.

Horses will be easily startled by something from behind, as they do not have all round vision, but they will know or hear that something is there. As they can’t see what it is to assess whether it is a danger to them or not, they will often use their innate ”flight” reaction to try to get away from it.  One of the horses apparently reared and its rider fell, breaking her collar bone.

The paper reported that the dog’s owner did see what happened, but failed to stop or see whether the rider needed any help.  It was fortunate the rider was not on her own at the time.

You may be wondering what the dog owner did wrong. The riders were not on the footpath, where they are not entitled to be and she was with her dog on the footpath.

We can’t comment on the legal rights and wrongs of the situation as we don’t have all the facts.  But what we can say is that it’s often not as straightforward as that and the law can be complicated.

What we can also say is that in Injury Prevention Week, many situations and injuries involving dogs, other animals and humans can be prevented by having dogs, as the law requires, under close control/under control at all times and in many cases, this will mean having your dog on a lead.

Whatever sort of dog you own, not just a “dangerous” dog; it could be a large dog or a tiny terrier, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (and amendments) will apply to you.  The punishments for breach are significant and can include an order for your dog to be destroyed.

Under this Act, it’s illegal for a dog to be ‘out of control’ and  to bite or attack or otherwise injure someone. It is also an offence (and you may be surprised at this one) if a person is worried or afraid (has ‘reasonable apprehension’ in legal terms) that a dog may bite them, even if it doesn’t then go on to do so.

The Act does not only apply to dogs in public places, but ALSO to dogs on private property, including in your own home, which again you might find surprising.  But there are numerous tragic cases of family pets suddenly attacking people, especially children, in the home or the home of a family member.  Remember, the “home” extends to gardens as well.

This doesn’t mean that a dog can never be allowed to run free, as they love to do. The writer has 3 dogs and knows just how much they enjoy pootling and running about generally doing “dog stuff”, but it is a matter of common-sense.

If you are going through a field with animals in, put a lead on and walk through as quickly and quietly as you can.   Beware though, that animals, particularly if they have young, can perceive ANY dog as a threat and start to attack, so again, given that we are in Injury Prevention Week, try and think whether you really NEED to go through the animals, i.e. cows.  It may be best, say, to try and avoid them if they have calves at foot.

If you are in a park with young children playing, joggers, people picnicking or other dogs, play safe and put your dog on a lead.  Dogs love to grab a sausage roll where they can!

If you are walking your dog on a bridlepath with horses around, if you see horses coming towards you, clip the lead on or call your dog over and hold him or her till they pass.  It’s not just for the rider’s safety. A horse has an almighty kick when it wants to and there are very few dogs will come off best if that happens when the kick is aimed at them.  It may not be held to be the rider’s fault if it was your dog attacking or chasing the horse in the first place.

Teach your dog to sit quietly and not jump up at people or animals, or bark madly at them. They think it’s fun, you may think they’re playing…..until they’re not.

Civil claims for injuries caused by dogs can be brought under the Animals Act 1971, or just in plain negligence and the two are usually pleaded together. The Animals Act reads:

(s2)  Where damage is caused by an animal which does not belong to a dangerous species, a keeper of the animal is liable for the damage, except as otherwise provided by this Act, if—

(a) the damage is of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause or which, if caused by the animal, was likely to be severe; and

(b) the likelihood of the damage or of its being severe was due to characteristics of the animal which are not normally found in animals of the same species or are not normally so found except at particular times or in particular circumstances; and

(c) those characteristics were known to that keeper or were at any time known to a person who at that time had charge of the animal as that keeper’s servant or, where that keeper is the head of a household, were known to another keeper of the animal who is a member of that household and under the age of sixteen.

Dogs are not deemed to be a “dangerous species” so come under s2 of the Act and the “keeper” includes the owner, who will almost always be liable, on their own or along with someone else if in charge of the dog at the time.

But as the Animals Act is considered to be a very difficult Act to interpret, that’s perhaps for another blog!

Meantime, do try to keep your own dog and other people and animals safe by taking steps to prevent an accident or injury. It doesn’t take much effort and can save a lot of unhappiness all round.

One final point. If you haven’t got insurance in case a claim is made against you, you want to bring a claim, or for vet’s bills if your animal is injured, we strongly advise you to take it out.

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