I am often asked whether a person can defend himself from an attacking dog. The answer is generally yes, but the the dog must be in the process of attacking and the defensive actions must be defensive not vindictive.
Patrick Walker, 36, of Brighton (a city on the south coast of England) has been convicted of animal cruelty because his actions appeared to be vindictive. He grabbed a hunting knife upon hearing that Catherine Stevenson, 17, was attacked by a pit bull in the park. He then proceeded to stab it 55 times.
He explained, “Catherine was crying. I got hold of the dog, took it to the bushes, and stabbed it as much as I could in the throat. I didn’t want him attacking anyone else.” (To read the article, click here.)
None of us wants a vicious dog to attack anyone. However, we cannot tolerate people grabbing hunting knives and killing dogs in the park, either. Yes, this dog seemed to deserve to die, but no, Mr. Walker was not authorized to administer frontier justice in the park. If the dog WAS attacking Catherine, that would have been one thing. But since it “HAD” attacked her, Mr. Walker was required to behave in a safer, less theatrical, more civilized fashion.