01 July 2021

Man’s best friend has proven good company for the owner and it is widely reported that increasing numbers of people in the UK have purchased a dog during the pandemic. Sadly, however, what has also increased is the incidence of poor behaviour in our once content animals, and, dog bite injuries.

This seemingly out of character behaviour in pet dogs has been noted to rise during the pandemic; with owners’ day to day patterns changed beyond recognition.

Recent advice published by The Dogs Trust website reveals the difficulty dogs have when a change in routine, such as lockdown, or lockdown relaxation, takes place. Problems with the dog’s behaviour then arise because their earlier experiences and memories do not match the new, changing routine.

So, changes such as the owner suddenly being around or not being around, are enough to cause stress in the animal – and that’s when the behaviour can change to aggression and bites – a response to stress and fear.

Such new and poor behaviour then becomes an established personality pattern within the animal. The owner is often aware of the poor behaviour but at a loss as to why their once docile dog is now behaving like a guard dog. This lack of understanding means that measures to reduce the risk of the effects of aggression – namely a dog bite - are not taken, such as using a muzzle or keeping the animal on a lead.

Legal Position

Certain breeds of dogs for example Pit Bull terriers, as listed under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, will render their owners liable for the injuries caused by a dog bite. No previous poor behaviour in the animal needs to be proven, the owner is simply strictly liable for the injuries caused. (The owner is also likely to be criminally prosecuted). This is because it is accepted that the dog is an animal that is likely to bite.

Breeds of dogs causing injuries, but not listed under the Act, will only result in liability if the injured person can show that the dog was likely to bite. This ‘likelihood’ test can be a stumbling block for some dog bite claims. This is because proving a previous pattern of poor behaviour in a dog, an animal which is often unknown to the victim, can be difficult.

Obtaining and producing evidence to show that a pattern of aggressive behaviour was present is so important. Such evidence can originate from vet records, neighbours, other incidents and local knowledge. If such a pattern exists, the victim will be in a stronger position to show the dog was likely to bite – and a successful claim may well follow.

Our Service – raising a claim

At Battens, we are experienced in bringing dog bite personal injury claims. We understand the need for evidence and how best to obtain it. We can identify when an owner will be legally responsible and know how to analyse the potential to raise a successful claim.

We have seen an increase in incidents of late; particularly involving people out running for exercise in parks, footpaths and other public spaces where dogs can be off-lead.

More than anything, through our experience, we understand the trauma of the experience, the nature of the injuries, the post-traumatic effect and difficulty it can create for the victim to gain confidence again in the presence of dogs. As has been noted in numerous press reports, dog bite injuries, particularly affecting children, can lead to extensive scarring and life changing injuries.

Contact us

If this has happened to you, get in contact with us. Our experienced staff will be happy to explain the process and explain what information and details are required, for example, the dog owner’s details and the extent of any owner insurance. Both are important pieces of information. We can assess if your case is suitable for a No Win, No Fee arrangement and advise accordingly.

For more information and advice contact Michelle Green on 01935 846156 or email