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The law bites back: dog owners beware

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It was announced on this week that the Government aims to introduce tougher laws in relation to dangerous dogs, which is currently governed by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

There are approximately 210,000 dog attacks per year, resulting in over 6,000 hospital visits and costing the NHS a staggering £3 million per year to treat injuries caused by dogs. Perhaps more shockingly, since 2005, 16 people have unfortunately lost their lives as a consequence of dangerous dogs being out of control.

Clifford Clarke, 79, from Liverpool was mauled to death in his own front garden by an out of control dog in May this year and local girl Jade Anderson, 14, sadly lost her life when she was savaged by 4 dogs when visiting a friend’s house in Wigan in March. In 2009 John Paul Massey, a 4-year-old boy, was killed by his uncle’s pit-bull. These are only a few horrific examples of the results of dangerous dogs, there are many more.

It was announced by the Government in February 2013 that new measures would be introduced to tackle out of control dogs and prevent dog attacks. This would involve a change in the law to make sure that dog owners would be prosecuted irrespective of no matter where their dog's attack and potentially increasing maximum sentences given to the owners.

Currently, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 only allows prosecution for attacks by dogs in public places or private areas that dogs are prohibited from. The current maximum jail sentence for an owner of a dog that kills a person is only 2 years; whereas owners of dogs who attack but do not kill usually only attract a fine.

The new proposals, launched by Animal Minister Lord de Mauley, aim to introduce the tougher sentences as a deterrent to “stop horrific accidents” caused by out of control and dangerous dogs. This could result in a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for owners of dogs that kill; 10 years for owners of dogs that main but do not kill and 10 years for owners of dogs that kill assistance or guide dogs.

However, the RSPCA has warned that tougher sentencing “won’t prevent attacks” and plans to impose tougher punishments of owners of dogs that kill or main would do little to prevent attacks happening to begin with. The RSPCA suggests preventative measures to stop attacks happening in the first place would be more efficient.

A public consultation on the proposals will remain open until September 1st 2013 and responses gathered will inform recommendations put forward in Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

You can take part in the consultation here: Dog Attack Sentences 

Your opinion makes a difference.

By Laura Rogers, personal injury team

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