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Tougher prison sentences for dog owners who allow their dogs to attack people

Irresponsible dog owners who allow their dog to attack people or assistance dogs will now face tougher prison sentences.

Changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) 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.

For the first time, the Dangerous Dogs Act also includes a specific offence to protect assistance dogs from 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.

The British Veterinary Association has welcomed the new dog control laws but has warned that more work is needed to make the failed legislation effective.

BVA President Robin Hargreaves said:"We welcome these amendments as we have long argued that the Dangerous Dogs Act fails in its aim to protect the public and their pets. We are pleased to see the inclusion of preventive measures in the form of antisocial behaviour tools. These are not the Dog Control Notices we had campaigned for but we hope they will allow the police and other enforcement agencies to act before attacks take place.

"We welcome the new protection afforded to guide dogs but are disappointed that the opportunity was missed to extend this protection to other animals. Dog attacks on innocent pets have distressing consequences for animals, owners and vets, and can be a precursor to attacks on people.

"We are particularly disappointed that the ineffective breed-specific elements of the legislation remain in place, despite evidence that they fail to protect the public while stigmatising certain breeds. This was a missed opportunity and we will continue to campaign for further overhaul of the legislation.

"Our members also believe that more needs to be done on educating the public if we are to see a reduction in the terrible incidents like those we've seen in the headlines in recent years."

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