Irresponsible dog owners who allow their dog to attack people or assistance dogs will face tougher prison sentences from today.
Changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act will also mean dog owners can now face prosecution if their dog attacks a person in their home or on any private property, except if they attack a trespasser.
The maximum sentences for allowing a dog to attack someone have also been substantially increased.
The maximum prison sentences in England and Wales are now:
- Up to 14 years, from two years, for a fatal dog attack.
- Up to five years, from two years, for injury.
- Up to three years if an assistance dog is attacked.
Animal Welfare Minister Lord de Mauley said:
Dog attacks can have horrific consequences for victims and families and it is only right those responsible should face tough punishments.
Irresponsible dog owners will not only face longer prison sentences, but will also be liable for prosecution regardless of where an attack takes place, even in their own home. This will give protection to those who provide vital services in the community – postal workers, nurses, utility workers - as well as people visiting family and friends.
For the first time, the Dangerous Dogs Act also includes a specific offence to protect assistance dogs from attacks.
Guide Dogs Chief Executive Richard Leaman said:
An attack on a guide dog can be devastating. It can rob someone with sight loss of their independence and freedom, leaving them virtually housebound.
We’re delighted that irresponsible owners can now be given tougher sentences if their dog attacks an assistance dog.
With an average of 10 guide dogs being attacked every month, we’re looking to the police to fully use their new powers to protect vulnerable people from these sometimes life-changing attacks.
The changes will also see new preventative powers for the police and local authorities so they can act early to stop dog attacks before they occur. These measures include steps the dog owner can take to address their own or their dog’s behaviour, for example:
- Attending dog training classes.
- Repairing fencing to their property to prevent the dog escaping.
- Requiring their dog to be muzzled in public.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said:
The coalition government is already making real progress in defending the public from out of control dogs and their irresponsible owners. Today’s measures will protect individuals and also assistance dogs, which bring security, confidence and independence to their handlers.
Later this year, new measures under the ASB, Crime and Policing Act will enable frontline professionals to crack down on anti-social dog owners who allow their animals to foul public places, menace members of the public and cause distress in the community.
Further measures to help tackle irresponsible dog ownership will come in to force in April 2016 when microchipping will be a legal requirement for all dogs in England, and from March 2015 in Wales.
Photo above Copyright iStockphoto/Thinkstock.