Today, the 15th of October 2013, sees a busy day in Parliament as MPs prepare to debate the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2013-2014. A key part of this debate will centre around changing existing legislation concerning dangerous dogs.
The proposed changes to the existing Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 would extend criminal liability for dog attacks to ALL places and would also create an aggravated offence if an attack took place on an assistance dog. Currently the Act doesn't include attacks which occur on private premises.
Some MPs are strongly in favour of introducing dog control notices, which would permit authorised officers to issue a notice enforcing certain conditions on the owners of animals which are deemed "out of control". Measures proposed include the power to have dogs microchipped, muzzled, given behaviour training, or even neutered, or even banning them from certain areas. Additionally, they would like to see the number of animals kept in a domestic property restricted if there was a risk to public safety. Animal welfare groups and Police support the proposals however it seems that the Government are not keen on the changes.
They believe that introducing "bespoke" dog control notices is a step which they are trying to get away from in the Bill. They say that "Legislating with a new tool to tackle each and every manifestation of antisocial behaviour is not what practitioners need and does not provide greater protection for the public."
Annually, the number of people injured as a result of dog attacks is estimated to be in the region of 200,000, and since 2007, eight people have died, six of them children. The annual cost to the NHS of dealing with injuries sustained as a result of dog attacks is in the region of £3million. Added to this, there are hundreds of incidences of livestock being attacked by dogs.
One of the most prominent voices in support of the proposed changes is Julie Hilling, MP for Bolton West, whose constituency became the focus for this subject earlier in the year, due to the extensive media coverage surrounding the death of 14-year-old Atherton girl, Jade Lomas-Anderson, who tragically died after being mauled by four dogs in a private home. Julie HIlling and Jade's family and friends have campaigned relentlessly for the changes and it is only to be hoped that MPs make the right choice and push the proposals through.
By Pauline Smith, personal injury team