Dog owners could face prosecution if their pet jumps up at a visitor in their own home, an animal welfare charity has warned, Daily Mail reports.
Changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act that came into force last week mean owners will be liable if dogs are 'dangerously out of control' on any private property. Previously the law applied only to public places.
And allowing a dog to injure a person is now punishable by up to five years in prison, up from a previous maximum of two years. The new rules - designed to protect postmen - mean every owner will need to reassess their dog's behaviour, according to Clare Williams of the National Animal Welfare Trust. Some may even need to bring in a 'dog whisperer' to train their pet to behave at the front door.
"The problem we now face is how the notion of an "out of control" dog is interpreted," said Williams. "A friendly dog may bark and lunge at someone when they approach the front door. This might not be aggressive behaviour but it could be seen as threatening."
The new Act states that a dog does not have to bite to be deemed dangerous - a person can simply feel that the dog may injure them.
She said, "The law hasn't been tried and tested yet, which is why we're warning owners to take care. Around the home and at the front door, dogs will naturally want to guard to some level. Even a friendly dog may jump up or even put its teeth around a person's arm, just because it is being playful. But even if it doesn't break the skin, this could be seen as threatening."
The Trust's website offers advice for dog owners to "avoid ending up in a position that no one wants to find themselves in".
It states, "This change in legislation should be a wake-up call to all dog owners to ensure their dogs are under control when they open the door otherwise they risk committing a criminal offence. It is not unusual for a dog to be reactive to any visitor to your door, so you need to decide how you are going to manage that situation. The easiest thing is to shut your dog in another room or in the garden, provided the dog cannot access the front door from the garden. If that is not an option, you will need to seek an experienced or qualified dog trainer or behaviourist to teach your dog some new behaviours." Williams added, "Although we would hope that a dog jumping up wouldn't result in prosecution, owners need to be aware of this legislation and not take the risk."
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