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Dog attacks on deer can result in severe injuries and no alternative but to euthanise the unfortunate animal. Reports have become all too frequent involving both wild deer and those enclosed in parks and other public places. 

Very often the dog’s owner is shocked and surprised that their normally docile pet could behave in this way. They may even have been unaware of the real dangers that allowing their pet to chase deer can cause.

Even the most placid of domestic dogs can be triggered by the sight of a running deer or other animals into behaving outside their normal character. This is true no matter how well trained or reliable they are at other times. 

Once in full pursuit, their owner is often ignored and the dog can run completely out of control as its hunting instincts take over.  It may be lost from sight in a very short period of time as the pursuit continues.

Even if the target animal is not caught, the act of being chased can cause the deer detrimentally high levels of stress.


Particular care should be taken to keep dogs under close control when walking them in places where deer, other vulnerable wildlife or farm stock are known to be present. 

This is especially important between the months of May and August when the newly born young of most deer species are likely to be left alone while their mother feeds (though muntjac fawns might be encountered at any time of year). 

When their young are threatened, parent deer can overcome natural fears and be unusually defensive of them; their flailing forefeet are sharp and can cause serious injuries. 

Another key time to be aware of is during the annual deer rut, which for the larger deer species takes place mostly around October and November. Adrenaline-filled stags (and especially those in parks) are more likely to stand their ground, rather than flee and can defend themselves vigorously with both antlers and feet.

The key to preventing the indiscriminate chasing of deer and any resulting attack is to remain in full control of your dog at all times. 

The British Deer Society strongly recommends that however well trained they are considered to be, dogs should be kept on leads in all places where deer or other sensitive species might be present.

In addition, when walking in the countryside please make sure you are aware of and follow the countryside code.


Injuries to animals caught and mauled by dogs tend to be to the rump and legs initially; once the target animal has been pulled down or immobilised, the dog may then concentrate on the neck, shoulders and belly. 

The dog attack can be relentless.  Even smaller dog breeds can cause extensive damage and if more than one dog is involved, the effects of an attack can be even more severe. 

Sadly by this point, even if intervention is possible, the resulting injuries may be so traumatic that the deer is beyond veterinary help. 

The Risks of Intervention

Attempting to intervene in a dog attack can be dangerous to bystanders, who may receive indiscriminate bites from any dog, irrespective of its size or how docile or friendly it might be under normal circumstances. In some cases, a frenzied dog might even turn on the rescuer. 


Dog starting to chase a muntjac deer – photo by John Parish

Legal Responsibility

Dog owners should be aware of their legal responsibilities under various acts when it comes to dog attacks on deer. The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 imposes obligations on dog owners to ensure their dogs are under control at all times. If a dog attacks a deer, the owner may face prosecution under this Act, which could lead to penalties such as fines or other measures as outlined in the Act.

In addition to the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 holds dog owners accountable for any harm caused by their dogs, including attacks on deer. Prosecution under this Act may result in custodial sentences for the owner.

Furthermore, deliberately encouraging a dog to chase deer is considered an offence under the Hunting Act 2004. This Act prohibits the hunting of wild mammals, including deer, and perpetrators may face legal consequences.

For cases of unintended pursuit, the Dogs Act 1871 allows for civil proceedings against dog owners whose dogs are deemed dangerous and not properly controlled. This legislation applies to incidents involving both people and animals in public and private places. Courts may order the destruction of the dog and require the owner to cover the costs associated with legal proceedings.

Moreover, with the enactment of The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act 2023, specific regulations regarding the use of dogs for hunting wild mammals, including deer, have been established. The Act outlines exceptions and limits on the number of dogs permitted for various purposes, with NatureScot having the authority to issue licenses for exceeding these limits under certain conditions.

It’s important to note that the legal treatment of captive deer, such as those in parks or farms, differs from that of wild-living animals. Captive deer are considered property, similar to livestock, and owners have a wider range of options to prevent attacks. Penalties for attacks on captive deer may be more severe under applicable laws, and owners have the authority to take immediate action to safeguard their animals.

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