Taking The Lead is a campaign which aims to reduce the number of dog bite incidents in Merseyside.
It promotes responsible dog ownership and safe behaviour from people around dogs by highlighting the practical steps we can all take to keep everyone (including dogs) safe and looked after.
In Merseyside the police deal with around 1,000 dog bite incidents every year. In the UK almost 9,000 people annually are admitted to hospitals with dog bite injuries - an increase of 33 per cent in ten years.
The rise in dog ownership has led to many more new, inexperienced owners and also a trend in buying certain breeds. There are now estimated to be more than 10 million dogs in the UK - 10 per cent more than five years ago.
The law makes it illegal for a dog owner to allow their pet to be out of control in a public or private place if doing so causes other people to feel scared or that their safety is at risk.
Taking the Lead has been developed by Merseyside Police in partnership with the Merseyside Dog Safety Partnership, a group of experts in dog bite prevention who use police, hospital and academic data and research to identify how and why incidents occur and provide advice to people who own or look after a dog.
Our campaign will run throughout the summer holidays when the number of dog bite incidents rise as more people and dogs interact in local outdoor places like parks and beaches, as well instead the home.
Dog owners - do you know the law?
It’s against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control in either a public or private place. A public place could be a park, a beach, a field or on a local high street. A private place might be the owner’s home or a neighbour’s garden.
This part of the Dangerous Dogs Act applies to all dogs, regardless of size or breed, and a dog can be considered dangerously out of control if it:
Makes someone worried that it might injure them
Attacks another person’s animal, for example another dog
The owner of the dog being attacked fears they could be bitten if they try and stop the attack
The owner of any dog found to be dangerously out of control, or the person temporarily in charge of that dog at the time of the attack (for example a dog walker) could receive an unlimited fine if found guilty by a Magistrates Court or even sent to prison for up to six months. A magistrate can also ban a person for owning a dog again and the dog can be ordered to be humanely destroyed.
If a dog causes serious injury or the dog is encouraged to attacked by its owner, a longer prison sentence can be imposed and a more serious offence of malicious wounding can be considered by the courts.
Owners who are found to be responsible for letting their dog be out of control and cause someone’s death can be sent to prison for up to 14 years and be given a much larger fine.
The law also provides an extra deterrent to attacks on assistance dogs such as guide dogs by considering them an aggravating factor in an incident and giving the courts powers to impose further prison sentences of up to three years.
Do you want to be a responsible dog owner?
Taking the Lead aims to give new and current dog owners the right knowledge and support to fully understand all that it takes to be a responsible dog owner whose dog can be safe with and around other people and animals.
Our series of educational videos with experts from a range of organisations which make up the Merseyside Dog Safety Partnership cover important themes such as:
choosing a breed that’s right for your circumstances
selecting where to buy or adopt a dog from
training a dog so it remains in your control
ensuring a dog’s needs are met in the home
ensuring people act safely and sensible around your dog, including young children
the risks of amateur or illegal dog breeding
In the videos the head of our police dog section, Inspector Katie Wilkinson, speaks to each expert about the key things owners need to know and do in order to be truly responsible dog owners. You can watch the series as more videos get added to our Taking The Lead You Tube channel.
Follow the hashtag #TakingTheLead on social media this summer and help us reduce dog bite incidents in Merseyside.
What are the main things to get right?
choose a breed suitable for your lifestyle and circumstances and research different breeds first (the Kennel Club of Great Britain is a good place to start Getting a dog | The Kennel Club)
buy a dog from a registered breed or, if you are adopting a dog, use a well known and established charity or rescue centre
get your new dog registered with a vet so it can be microchipped in case it after gets lost, and ensure you get it vaccinated (find a net near you here Home - Find A Vet (rcvs.org.uk)
make sure you have all the equipment you need to ensure your dog is happy, safe and content, including a suitable lead, a collar, a crate or quiet place in the house to sleep or relax
slowly socialise your dog around other people and other dogs but don’t overwhelm it by rushing things – if you’ve adopted a dog it will take time to get used to you, your household and visitors to your home. And if you’ve bought a puppy it will need time to grow up and learn the basic good behaviours and get used to your commands
seek help if you’re struggling – it’s okay to find it difficult as training a new dog is a long-term commitment but rather than give up, contact one of the many charities and dog welfare organisations listed below for free support