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Dogs and the law

Dogs and the law


Most people love dogs as they’re usually friendly, loyal and fun companions. However, their strong jaws and teeth can cause extensive damage, and their often boisterous behaviour sometimes causes accidents.

But after fairly recent changes in the law, there is more to being a responsible dog owner than keeping them fed and watered and taking them out for a walk every day. Dog owners are now legally responsible for the actions of their furry little pals, which is where what’s known as ‘third party liability insurance’ can prove very useful.

Could you afford to pay damages?

Being legally responsible means you could potentially have to pay out hundreds or even thousands in compensation if your dog was in an incident where someone was seriously injured, or property was damaged.

Dog owners need to ask themselves if they’re willing to take the financial risk of having to meet such costs.

How third party liability insurance helps

Third party liability insurance is there to cover legal costs and fines if you’re deemed responsible by law for your dog causing accidental damage or injury.

The sort of things your dog might do which could leave you facing major compensation claims are various but typically include:

  • Biting and mauling someone causing injury, or even death, and possible emotional trauma to the victim.
  • Causing a road accident while running off the lead in which serious injuries occur and/or damage to vehicles.
  • Running into someone, leading them to fall over and injure themselves.
  • Damaging a neighbour’s property by running wild in their garden or house and knocking over and breaking objects.
  • “Worrying” a farmer’s sheep, or other livestock

Civil law suits… or worse

In incidents such as those above, the affected third party could decide to take civil action against you in the courts. If you’re found to be in the wrong, you could be ordered to pay damages running into hundreds of thousands.

And if you’re deemed to have deliberately encouraged your dog to cause injury, you would face a criminal prosecution for ‘malicious wounding’. Likewise, the charges could also be criminal if any damage caused is decided to be deliberate.

It’s not something that most dog owners with a well-behaved pet think is possible, but they need to accept that it is.

Of course, it’s best to ensure you and your dog avoid becoming involved in a legal liability case.  If your dog has had aggressive incidents in the past, here are some steps to reduce the risk of trouble:

  • Keep your dog on a leash when outside the home
  • Muzzle your dog in public
  • Keep your dog away from strangers or visitors who come to your home
  • Never leave your dog alone with non-family members or with small children
  • Avoid playing games, like tug of war, which encourage your dog’s aggressive tendencies
  • Get your dog spayed or neutered- this lessens aggressive tendencies and the likelihood of biting
  • Ask your veterinarian for the name of an experienced trainer and enroll your dog in obedience classes

How to get third party liability insurance

Most third party liability insurance for dogs comes with pet insurance policies and usually provides a very high level of cover of up to £1million or more.

However, such cover doesn’t always come as standard and might need to be purchased as an ‘optional extra’, so double check with the insurance provider. Some pet insurers exclude cover for a claim where a dog has previously exhibited dangerous or aggressive behaviour, so you need to be aware of any terms and conditions.

Insurance and microchipping for dogs

Your insurance can be invalidated if you haven’t had your dog micro-chipped. This became a legal requirement for all dog owners in April 2016, so make sure your dog is chipped, and that the details on it are up to date.

Policy Expert

Policy Expert is an online Insurance broker, dedicated to helping customers find the insurance policy that’s right for them. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do, so we have a team of experts with a real passion for making sure people get the cover that’s right for them. Policy Expert is driven by a desire to help you find not only the best value insurance, but the right insurance for your individual needs. Policy Expert’s home insurance also gives liability cover for you and your family, for dogs that are kept as pets in the UK ( as long as they are not listed as dangerous under the Dangerous Dogs Act). For more information, you can call our experts on 0330 0600 600 or visit for more ways to reach us.


Published 20 March 2017