All responsible dog owners should be aware of the various Acts and Order governing the ownership and behaviour of dogs and to make sure that they meet the requirements of the law.
In this case, although a pub may be privately owned, all areas that are frequented by patrons can also be considered a “public” place – therefore, any dog allowed access to these areas would be subject to the following requirements:
The Control of Dogs Order 1992 mandates that every dog, while in a public place, must wear a collar with the name and address (including postcode) of the owner inscribed. If a collar is not worn when out in a public place, the dog may be seized by the police and treated as a stray – and the owner or any person in charge of the dog permitting him to be in a public place without a collar, will be guilty of an offence and possibly prosecuted and fined. Therefore, in this case, the dog must wear a collar and tag if it is allowed to roam freely in the pub.
The Dogs Act 1871 states that It is a civil offence for a dog that is considered dangerous to people or animals not to be kept under proper control – usually regarded as being on a lead or muzzled. However, this only applies if an incident has happened and in this case, it would be unfair prejudice to presume that this dog is dangerous to others simply because it is a large and powerful breed. There are many examples of large and powerful breeds that have been well-trained and socialised and are exemplary public companions.
More relevant perhaps is the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) 1991 which applies to all dogs, regardless of breed, and states that it is a criminal offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place. A ‘dangerously out of control’ dog can be defined as a dog that has injured someone or a dog that a person has grounds for reasonable apprehension that it may do so. Something as simple as a dog chasing, barking at or jumping up at a person or child could lead to a complaint, so it is important to ensure that a dog is under control at all times. Owners found guilty under this Act could have their dog destroyed, face the possibility of six months in prison and/or a fine not exceeding level 5 (at present up to £5,000).
Therefore, in this instance, if the pub owners can ensure that their American Bulldog is well-behaved and sociable and not likely to be a threat to any patrons, then there is no need for it to be muzzled to roam around the pub, simply because it is a large and powerful breed. It would be no different to a Labrador allowed to roam freely – or conversely, a Labrador which behaved aggressively.
Under the Guard Dogs Act 1975, it is possible to have a “guard dog” on your premises if the handler who is capable of controlling him is present on the premises and the dog is under control. However, if a dog is considered an official “guard dog” then it must be secured so that it is not at liberty to go about the premises. A warning that a guard dog is present must be clearly exhibited at each entrance to the premises.
Therefore, in this case, if the pub owners wish to use their dog as a guard dog, they would not be able to allow it to roam freely about the premises and they would have to prove that they have it under control. Conversely, if they wish to have it roam freely, then they cannot allow it to function in the capacity of a guard dog and attack any intruders.
For more information, contact The Kennel Club: http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk