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What can be done to reduce the worrying trend of dog related incidents involving horses

It's concerning to read in Horse and Hound about the recent incidents regarding dogs that have chased and bitten horses being ridden on the beach. 

Fortunately, it's reported that the horse riders, horses, dogs and the public using the beach at the time didn't come to serious harm on these two occasions. 

Worrying trend of increasing incidents

Worryingly though, there seems to be an increasing trend of dog related incidents over recent years. It's important that dog owners are aware that there's potential civil liability for incidents that happen if the horse rider and horse are injured. This is despite a perceived misconception that dogs will behave in this way from time to time. 

A dog running up to a horse at speed, jumping up or biting can cause the horse to panic and run or to kick out as a reaction to the dog, both of which could cause serious injury to the horse rider and others around them.

What the law says

The dog owner could face a civil claim for compensation for the injuries sustained and for reimbursement of vets’ fees and other expenses.  This would be on the grounds that they've failed to keep their dog under control.  

There's also potential for strict liability against the owner of the dog which means that there's no need to prove negligence, if the requirements of The Animals’ Act 1971 are met. This Act of Parliament provides that in certain circumstances, a dog owner or keeper is strictly liable for the injuries caused by their animal, even in circumstances where they are not negligent.

There's also the possibility in some circumstances that the dog owner could face criminal charges for allowing their dog to be out of control in a public place. This could lead to a fine or up to six months imprisonment. 

I've helped horse riders whose injuries have been caused by a loose dog running over to them and frightening the horse. It's often the case that the dog is usually well behaved and there's been a short period of disobedience when the owner or handler has lost the recall command for their dog. 

However, even when the dog owner has tried to do all they can to get the situation back under control as quickly as possible, if the requirements of the Animals Act are met, the owner would still find themselves responsible for the injuries sustained.


To reduce the risks of incidents, it's important that dog owners make sure that their dogs are fully trained and that they are aware of how their dog may behave. It's also important to be aware of your surroundings and look out for horse riders and others that your dog may show an interest in and thus prove difficult to recall before a situation escalates, or recall is lost.  

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping horse riders after they or their horse have been injured at our dedicated horse riding injuries claims section.

The owners of two horses who were attacked in separate beach incidents within a week have urged owners to keep their dogs on leads, as the consequences in both cases could have been so much worse.”