LETTER: Owners of dangerous dogs face jail

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Andrew Stephenson’s comments on dangerous dogs (August 24th) are only part of this long-running saga.

I was very pleased to hear that owners of dangerous dogs in England and Wales are to face tougher penalties under new guidelines from the Sentencing Council.

The new advice aims to encourage the courts to use harsher sentences, meaning more offenders will face jail sentences, more will get community orders and fewer will get discharges.

It’s already an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place or in a private place where it is not allowed to be. In addition, the ownership of certain types of dog, such as the pit bull terrier, is prohibited.

It is also an offence to breed from, sell or exchange (even as a gift) a prohibited type of a dog.

I wish the current Coalition Government was as keen to take action in this area as the Sentencing Council seems to be.

The last Labour Government launched a consultation on toughening existing laws to protect the public from out-of-control dogs in March, 2010.

The consultation closed on June 1st, 2010, but the Lib-Dem/Tory Coalition Government has taken nearly two years to set out its position.

Since June, 2010 there have been 5,000 patients admitted to hospital for injuries caused by dog attacks in England.

Several of these patients from Pendle have been people attacked while delivering election leaflets – including our MP’s mother.

However, as these attacks took place on private property, the current laws don’t apply.

I appreciate that 99% of dogs are good dogs if they are treated right.

It’s dangerous dogs that have been “demonised” by their owners that we are anxious to protect people from - the ones that are only used as status symbols and are not allowed to interact with other dogs and people and that is what makes them vicious.

In April, 2012, the Tory-led Government finally announced a further consultation about a number of proposals to tackle out of control dogs including extending dangerous dog laws to all private property – without penalising the owners of animals that defend them against trespassers – and consultation on whether to micro-chip all dogs.

The Government’s preferred approach is to make breeders responsible for micro-chipping the puppy before sale. Labour agrees with this;

The Government has been criticised by dog and animal welfare charities, postal workers, the police and many others for failing to act now by publishing a further consultation when it took them nearly two years to respond to the last consultation.

What the Government did move swiftly to implement was a relaxation of the quarantine laws for bringing dogs into the country.

The Government has announced some rather limp-wristed measures which could be used to deal with irresponsible dog owners in the Home Office White Paper on Anti-Social Behaviour published in May. Dog owners could be compelled to make their dog wear a muzzle, to put up a “Beware of the Dog” sign at their gate or provide a safe letter box.

There’s a difference between a barking warning dog and a demonised attack dog.

When protecting one’s property one is only permitted to use reasonable force and occupiers should be liable for personal injuries incurred on their property.

Offending irresponsible dog owners must be put on the rack. They should be guilty of a criminal offence, not just liable for damages.

Government action is well overdue and thousands of people have suffered debilitating injuries while the government has dragged its feet.

What more do they need before taking action?

We’ve had a comprehensive consultation, there’s cross-party support, now we need action. The Labour Party and post office workers have been calling for the laws about dangerous dogs to apply on private property for years and we fully back compulsory micro-chipping to identify the owners of dogs and encourage more responsible dog ownership.

IAN GRAHAM

Labour Candidate,

Pendle Central Division,

Lancashire County Council