New penalties for owners of dogs in England and Wales who kill or injure a person are being considered by the government.
The current maximum prison sentence for allowing a dog that kills or injures someone to be dangerously out of control is two years, but under new proposals owners could face life in prison.
Sixteen people have been killed by dogs in the past eight years and the government is seriously considering stiffer punishments.
The most recent and high profile case of Jade Anderson, who was killed in March by four dogs when she was at a friend’s house in Greater Manchester, has lead to calls for more to be done. Police have no plans to prosecute anyone in relation to her death, saying there is no evidence a crime has been committed under the current laws that are in place.
The last time a government took action on this area was when the Dangerous Dogs Act was passed in 1991 and then amended in 1997. But this only covers attacks by dogs in public places and private areas where animals are prohibited from being, such as a neighbour’s garden or a public park.
The proposed sentences have been criticised by the RSPCA, who say the measures are not the solution and think more should be done to prevent attacks in the first place.
“Unless you solve this problem of people not being able to control their dogs properly then I still think you’re going to see a rise in dog attacks and dog biting,” said head of public affairs David Bowles.
“What the government has proposed is only having a notice after the dog has committed the offence,” he added.
The government consultation on the issue of dog attacks will run throughout August and the process will be used to inform recommendations.
Animal Welfare Minister Lord de Mauley said: “Dog attacks are terrifying and we need harsh penalties to punish those who allow their dog to injure people while out of control.
“We’re already toughening up laws to ensure that anyone who owns a dangerous dog can be brought to justice, regardless of where a dog attack takes place.
“It’s crucial that the laws we have in place act as a deterrent to stop such horrific incidents.”
One group who will be pleased that further legislation is being planned are postal workers. Representatives of postal, utility and delivery staff have long argued for laws to be extended to cover attacks in dog owners’ homes; which they currently do not.
It’s thought that 23,000 postmen and women have suffered from dog bites and attacks in the last five years, with as many as 70% of these attacks taking place on private property.
Dave Joyce, the union’s health and safety officer, said: “This consultation is very welcome and hopefully indicates the government is serious about tackling the problem of irresponsible dog ownership.
“We want to see tougher sentencing, better enforcement and greater consistency in sentencing.”
This article was written by writer and blogger Matthew Crist on behalf of minnesota personal injury law firm – TSR Injury Law.