The Government has proposed introducing longer sentences for those who own dogs who fatally injure someone, to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The current maximum sentence for those who allow their dogs to kill someone is two years custody. Proposals have been put forward by the Government to extend this to between three and ten years, however, in a consultation exercise launched yesterday the public will be invited to consider even longer sentences, including life imprisonment.
16 people have been killed by dangerous dogs since 2005, including 14-year-old Jade Anderson who was savaged by four dogs in Atherton in March of this year.
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.”
The proposals also consider allowing a prosecution to brought where a dog injures in a private place,for example, the owner’s home. At present, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 only allows a prosecution to be brought where the dog attacks in either a public pace, such as a park or a private place, where the dog is prohibited, for example, a neighbour’s garden.
The Communication Workers Union, which represents postal workers who suffer an estimated 5,000 dog attacks each year, has welcomed the proposals. They indicate that as many as 70% of such attacks take place on private property.
The union’s health and safety officer, Dave Joyce, said:
“Current sentencing arrangements do not match the serious nature of offences. Sixteen people have been killed since 2005 by dogs, yet the maximum prison sentence is just two years.
“Only one person has ever been imprisoned for a dog attack on a postal worker, and as the fatality rate from dog attacks grows, sentencing must get tougher.
“At the moment people are being handed vastly different sentences for very similar crimes, with one person receiving a suspended prison sentence while another walks away with just a £100 fine.”
However, the RSPCA wants to see more being done to stop such attacks happening in the first place.
Head of public affairs David Bowles said:
“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.”