Public concerns for kids and dogs

small child walking dog

A dog can be a wonderful companion for children and there are many benefits to children from living with a dog. However, care needs to be taken when letting children take the dog out for a walk on their own. A recent event occurred where a client’s children of 7 and 9 years of age were out with their dog.
Something spooked him and he managed to pull away and run off. He was missing for two hours and was later found running back and forth across a busy road in a state of panic. Fortunately an accident was not caused. Indeed this event may have contravened section 3 paragraph 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act. This act does not just apply to banned breeds or aggressive dogs as many people believe, but dogs which are or appear to be dangerously out of control.
Sadly, worrying incidents in the hands of children are not that rare. Even our own dog was attacked by a dog which was being exercised by two young children 8 and 10 years old who threw a ball towards our dog. Their dog chased the ball and then attacked our dog. She required veterinary treatment for four deep puncture wounds in her throat. A similar incident involved a client whose children were walking the dog. Another dog attacked their dog. This can be very distressing for the children and potentially puts them in danger too if they try to intervene to protect their dog.
So, having a dog is wonderful fun for children and yet, dog owners should be aware that they still retain full responsibility for any even occurring whilst the children are walking the dog in public. Children under the age of 16 are not legally held responsible for a dog’s behaviour. It is the responsibility of the owner or person in charge, where ‘person in charge’ means the head of the household where the dog is in the care of a person under the age of 16 years.
It is better all round to make walking the dog a fun-filled family activity rather than the responsibility of a child.
Denise Nuttall
Provisional Member, APBC