Dog Attacks on Cats in the UK (in plain English)

This is about dog attacks on cats and the law – late 2013. It is written in plain English that is easy to understand so it is for kids as well as their parents.

Dog attack on cat

It is against the law to let a dog become out of control and dangerous so that it attacks and kills a cat 2. When it happens, it is very hard to prove that the dog’s owner has done wrong. It should be a crime and the dog’s owner should be punished. The trouble is that the way the law is written it makes it hard to punish these people.

The most important law about animals in the United Kingdom is called the Animal Welfare Act 2006. You can add to that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 when it comes to out of control dogs.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, if the RSPCA or police are to catch a dog owner whose dog has killed a cat they have to prove to a judge that the cat’s suffering was not necessary, which is obvious and that the dog’s owner knew or should have known that what he was doing would end up causing the cat to be attacked and suffer. It is difficult to prove that.

Both the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 don’t really do the job of protecting cats from dog attacks.

There are probably more than two dog attacks on cats that end up killing a cat every week. As far as I know, not one of the owners of the dogs has been charged with a crime. Some of the attacks are deliberate when dog owners order their dogs to attack cats1. This is particularly horrible.

An example of a dog owner ordering or allowing his dog to attack a cat is when two very strong and aggressive dogs almost killed a Siamese type cat in Manchester this summer. The man saw his dogs attack the cat, Lexi, but did not stop them. The only reason why he finally did stop his dogs, by hitting them with a golf club, was when the cat’s owner heard the noise and came out of her house. Lexi was almost killed but a vet saved her life – just.  In Manchester, during July 2013, three cats were killed by dogs when the dogs’ owners ordered the dog to attack or allowed it to happen.

Although there is not a complete list of dog attacks on cats in one place, Cats Protection, Britain’s main cat rescue charity, checked out lots of newspaper stories over months and figured out that there were at least two attacks every week. There may be many more. We don’t know. Not knowing exactly what is happening is also a problem.

There are lots of examples of dogs attacking and killing cats. In one case a cat owner was devastated when her old cat, which she had cared for all her life, was killed by a Lurcher and she saw the whole thing. This happened in June 2013. A Lurcher is a large dog that can used as a hunting dog.

Often when a dog attacks a cat the same dog attacks a person, usually a child.

Parliament, the place where laws are made in the UK, is discussing the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill. When law is not yet the law, but being discussed, it is called a “bill”.

The reason why there are these discussions is because there are too many dog attacks on people in the UK. Dogs can kill people, normally children, as well as cats. It seems that Cats Protection have also asked that the law is changed to protect cats as well as people.

Cats Protection told Parliament that they thought that changes should be made to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 so that if a dog owner sets a dog on any other animal including cats, the dog owner will be doing something against the law, arrested, and punished. Also, even if a dog attacks an animal without the dog’s owner being involved, it is important that the owner can still be punished under the law. The idea is to make changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 by putting the changes in the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill and referring to the other act.

The basic idea is to make things far more clear so that the RSPCA, who make sure the animal laws are followed (enforced), can succeed in taking dog owners to court to be punished when their dog attacks and injures or kills animals that are described as “protected” under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

[Final note: Anyone can prosecute a person privately if that person has been involved in criminal behavior.]


  1. Cats Protection
  4. Original photo on Flickr
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Dog Attacks on Cats in the UK (in plain English) — 17 Comments

  1. I used to live in Costa Rica and saw that many people take the law into their own hands where dogs are concerned. Although in general Costa Ricans like dogs, a lot get poisoned. Why this seemingly contradictory situation? Poisonings usually occur over noise, aggressive behavior, actual attacks on people or other dogs, or a perceived threat especially to children. People frequently acquire a fierce large noisy dog under impression it will protect them and project an impression of a dangerous fearsome animal worthy of respect with the idea that they too are worthy of respect. The consequences of this rather primitive approach are numerous and often counter-productive. This may seem to have little to do with dogs killing cats in the UK but it shows the other side of the nature of dogs that is less than socially beneficial, and sometimes downright dangerous. In Costa Rica problems between neighbours over dogs have led to arguments getting out of control and people end up shot dead. Working dogs are OK but to have a big nasty dog to show you are big shot, is not OK.

    • I thoroughly agree your comment. The word “dog” and “protection” go together and it is not good for the dog. One of the reasons for the domestication of the dog, perhaps the main reason, is to protect the human. This results in some people liking aggressive large dogs, which are dangerous to cats, other animals and vulnerable people.

      People in many parts of the world are still like their ancient ancestors when it comes to keeping dogs: chain up an aggressive dog to stand guard. It is unpleasant for the dog.

  2. It’s long past the time that we need more laws to protect cats and I hope this bill passes into a law.
    To hear of cats killed in their own gardens by loose dogs while the dogs owner stands by watching is horrifying. Dog owners should be prosecuted! They should be made to keep their dogs on leads where there are any houses around and they should be fined on the spot if they don’t.
    A few months back Babz and I saw a neighbour’s big dog savage a smaller one, it shook him just like a bit of rag, the dog has died since! We were worried about the child of the family after that but some dog owners won’t admit their dogs can be dangerous. A few weeks ago another dog killed a child, the mother stabbed the dog to death with a kitchen knife to stop the attack but it was too late. It’s very worrying that this is happening more and more and I think it’s because many young dog owners are getting more aggressive types of dog, they are a sort of status symbol!
    Why cats get so much more bad press than dogs I’ll never know because I’ve never heard yet of a cat killing another cat, or a dog or a child!

  3. You’re right. There is a growing tendency to keep large aggressive dogs and the people who get these dogs don’t seem to be thinking through the potential consequences.

    There is certainly an almost complete disregard for cats who are outside. One reason is that the owners aren’t prosecuted when their dog attacks a cat. They appear immune from prosecution. This breeds an irresponsible attitude towards others and in the breeders of these dogs.

    There is no place in the UK for large aggressive dogs. As you state a change in the law – making it much clearer and stricter – is overdue.

    I would bet that the attacks on cats are quite a lot more commonplace than even the twice-weekly rate assessed by Cats Protection.

    What about cats inside the home, behind closed doors? Totally unreported.

    • ‘What about cats inside the home, behind closed doors? Totally unreported’

      You are right Michael, how many cats are second class citizens to the family dog and have to spend their days avoiding being attacked by the dog! How many are actually hurt by the family dog? Especially the declawed cats in the USA and Canada. Some people say they will have their cats declawed to protect the dog, I think that is disgusting!
      I do love dogs but I will never understand why some people think they are more important than cats and they get priority, it’s just not right!

      • Me too I dont understand the heirarchy. The 2 mama cats ond one leftover kitten I am going up to see everyday now live with a dog who is away for a couple weeks – a huge dog who just barges around and runs at them and all sorts – they just have to keep out of the dog’s way to not be bothered by it. They can’t eat their food half the time because of the dog either taking it or just blocking access to it. The dog ones picked up a newborn and it died a few days later. I hate that dog even though it seems to lovemeto no end. I trynever to go there when the dog is there because it’s not possible to play with the cats unless we are alone. I have to give them treats up high on the table and thedog is just there – big big tall dog – head up on the edge ofthe table wanting the treats. The humans will do anything for that stupid dog and nothing almost for the cats. Stupid humans, stupid dog.

        • Oh Marc that is awful, those poor cats bullied by that blasted dog! Not the dog’s fault I know but like you I can’t help hating it!
          They sound really stupid people and there are too many like them. I can’t bear to think how many cats have to live in fear of dogs and have their food taken by them, it must be even worse a life for indoor cats, they can’t even escape for a bit of peace and to go and do the things cats like to do.

  4. The worst dog attack that I witnessed wasn’t involving a pit bull or rottweiler but a little jack russell. He shredded 2 kittens before my eyes. I love dogs but some are born hunters.
    Many people fail to keep their dogs under control. They expect us to monitor our cats; but, their dogs can do what they want.

  5. It was awful and happened in a blink. I was able to grab the third baby and hold her over my head, but this dog was jumping trying to reach her. I never expected that such a little dog would do that. That’s what raccoons do.

  6. The easy solution is to ban people letting their cats run wild. The hypocrisy here is typical of cat owners. Yes dogs should be controlled, but so should cats, who murder, maim and torture countless wild birds, mammals and amphibians, as well as going into other peoples gardens and catching/killing peoples expensive pond fish, winding up/teasing dogs which then make noise and also defecating all over peoples gardens. Cats are predators that devastate our already struggling wildlife, not only from the amount of animals they kill, but also by out-hunting our natural predators. When cat owners properly control their cats, then, you can criticise dog owners!

    • You obviously dislike cats, You sound as if you hate cats. You are not able, therefore, to provide an unbiased viewpoint. Cats do not “murder”. Murder is a human concept. In the UK (and the article is about the UK) in my experience, we don’t have the sort of problems you describe.

      Cats don’t wind up and tease dogs. That is a ridiculous idea. Cats don’t kill a massive number or animals. That skill is the exclusive domain of humans. Here is a recent article highlighting that:

      • And you are obviously tottaly impartial!! Cats kill masses of UK wildlife! Every single cat owner I’ve ever known has complained about their cats bringing home dead or dying prey! And cats do murder, they kill for pleasure, often tormenting their prey until they tire of it, when they kill it, and just leave it! I’ve also seen countless cats sit just out of reach of dogs, dangling their tails deliberatley winding the dogs up. My old neigbour had a little staffie dog, and a cat would sit on a small wall just out of reach, then when the dog was called in for barking, the cat would move on to wind up a Yorkie down the road, or the Rotwieler next door. I worked in an Aquarium and had hundreds of people recite how cats had killed their expensive fish, and we aided an amphibian charity in providing cat/heron proof pools where frogs and toads could breed and find food free from predation. I like pretty much all animals, but no, no I do not like cats. Having seen one torment a small shrew like creature, tossing it in the air, pouncing on it, clawing it, before killing it. (I was on the top of a building looking down on it, unable to intervene). My Grandads sister had her budgie killed by someone elses cat that got into her house, knocked the cage over, and with the plastic base of the cage broken by the fall, the cat grabbed the budgie before being chased off where it dropped the bird as it couldn’t find a way out. The budgie was her companion, and she was devestated. Fyi, had it killed one of my cats, that cat would have followed. Cat owners think their cats have the right to wander where they like, causing other people and wildlife problems, and demanding their cats go unscathed. I repeat, When you control your pets, you can critise others.

        • You make too many wild statements that are unsubstantiated. Horribly biased. You don’t even understand the meaning of the word “murder”. You have no idea what a cat is thinking and to claim that cats kill for pleasure is idiotic. I could go on but I don’t want to waste my time.

          I am unbiased and sensible. I like cats. I like all animals. I like truth and sensible opinions. I dislike people who can’t think straight and sensibly. I dislike people who have a problem. You are one of those people. You are probably that nasty person called Woodsman trying to get a comment on a website that has banned you.

          Any more comments you make will be deleted unless the comment is sensible. I suggest you do some more serious studying on the subject of cats and make sure the sources are good. There is a lot of bias and hate out there.

          You can comment again if you list (based on good sources) the numbers of animals killed by cats in one year in the UK. Answer: you won’t find the information. You’ll find poor estimates. No one knows. So, stop being biased.

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