Dangerous Dog laws are not effective enough
The proposed changes to the dangerous dog laws do not go far enough MPs say.
There are plans to make it a crime for dogs in England and Wales to be out of control on private property. These have been welcomed by the environment committee. It did however criticise a lack of action on threatening behaviour at an early stage that could reduce the risk of attacks.
Aggressive dogs are a huge problem in England. Research carried out for the British Medical Journal said that around 200,000 people a year are estimated to be bitten by dogs.
There is legislation that was formed in 1991 however campaigners believe it is not effective in dealing with aggressive animals. The laws only cover dog attacks that happen in public places rather than private areas like people’s houses or gardens.
MPs want to extend the law so that a prosecution can be brought against dogs and owners if the dog is aggressive in a private place.
It is an understandable request as there have been eight fatal attacks in private residences since 2007. This includes the attack in March where a teenager named Jade Anderson was mauled to death as she was eating by a pack of out of control dogs. In Jade’s case the police were unable to prosecute as the attack happened in a private home.
Of course there are complications. Should owners be prosecuted if their dog attacks a criminal burgling their house? Also what about an attack on an innocent child who goes to collect their ball from a neighbour’s garden? These are the sort of considerations that need to be accounted for.
The BBC reports that “the courts should be allowed to take into account the actions of responsible homeowners who took "reasonable precautions" to stop their animals from causing harm, such as putting up warnings outside properties and securing fences, as opposed to those behaving "negligently".
What the committee wants are law enforcers who have the power to tackle aggressive and out of control dogs before they are let loose and injure people and other animals. Without such powers, Steve Goody from the pet charity Blue cross said that "enforcement officers will remain powerless to tackle irresponsible owners and antisocial behaviour with dogs before attacks take place".
A government spokesperson said that:
"We are changing the law so that owners can be prosecuted for dog attacks on private property and our anti-social behaviour reforms will give the police and local agencies more effective powers to deal with owners who fail to take responsibility for their dogs."