Leading animal charity Battersea Dogs & Cats Home cautiously welcomes today's new Government proposals to increase the maximum penalties for dangerous dog offences.
Under the new proposals dog owners could face a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment if a person dies as a result of their dog attacking and five years’ imprisonment if a person is injured by their dog attacking. However Battersea is disappointed that the Government is not going far enough to prevent such offences at an earlier stage.
The penalties are a significant increase from the current maximum limit of two years imprisonment but Battersea believes this still may not provide a strong enough deterrent to the minority of irresponsible owners who allow their dogs to become dangerously out of control.
The charity is calling for more preventative action to tackle those who put children, families and other animals at risk by their inability or unwillingness to control their dogs in the first place.
Nigel Yeo, Battersea's Director of Operations said:
"Battersea supports harsher penalties for irresponsible dog owners. Serious dog attacks can devastate our communities and we must have appropriate sentencing that matches the severity of the crime. However there is still a real need for more early prevention to stop attacks happening in the first place. So we're calling on the Government to take further steps to tackle the owners of dangerous dogs before they ever reach the courts and introduce the right measures that will protect those most vulnerable to attacks."
Battersea wants to see the UK Government adopt Dog Control Notices in the new Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. Such a move would enable Local Authorities to serve a notice on the owners of dogs that are deemed to be out of control. This would mean the owner would have to neuter the dog, muzzle it in public, attend a training course, and keep it on lead. If the owner does not comply with the conditions they would be prosecuted.
Battersea also wants to ensure responsible dog owners are protected in the new legislation, so they are not punished if an incident happened which they took all reasonable steps to prevent.
Nigel Yeo adds: "We recognise that the majority of dog owners are responsible, but sadly it only takes one bad owner to bring about tragic consequences. We must tackle this problem head on and harsher sentencing is just the beginning."