Dog Owners to Face Higher Penalties for Dog Attacks in England and Wales

The Dangerous Dogs Act will increase maximum prison sentences for dog owners who allow their dog to attack or injure another person.

By | Posted: May 14, 2014, 3 p.m. PST

To set some history, the Dangerous Dog Act was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1991 in response to incidents of dog attacks resulting in serious injury or death, particularly on children. The act put laws into effect holding the owner of a dog involved in an attack responsible with potential time in prison.

Mixed Breed Dog

Fast forward to today. Although dog owners in England and Wales already face the risk of prison for allowing their dog to attack a human, sentences for injury have now been increased from two to five years, with fatal attacks increasing from two to 14 years, reports Changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act will hold dog owners responsible for dog attacks in their home or any private property with the exception of trespassers.

"Dog attacks can have horrific consequences for victims and families and it is only right those responsible should face tough punishments,” says animal welfare minister Lord de Mauley.

By making these changes to the Dangerous Dog Act, the UK is taking the steps many Americans wish would happen on this side of the ocean. In recent dog attacks in the United States, such as Mickey the Pit Bull we have seen an increasing trend in the US to protect the dog and place the responsibility and penalty on the owner and in some cases the victim or victims family.  

Internet Rallies Around a Pit Bull Who Mauled a Child>>

The updates to the act come after two babies in the UK were killed by dogs this year. In February, six-day-old Eliza-Mae Mullane was mauled by a family pet and only two weeks later, 11-month-old Ava-Jayne Corless was killed by a dog.

The good news is that aside from just adjusting penalties for attacks that can’t be undone, the changes are also being paired with prevention. Police and local authorities can now send owners to dog training classes or require dogs be muzzled in public, creating safer dogs and better dog owners.

Further measures are to come to promote responsible dog ownership, including mandatory microchipping starting March 2015 in Wales and April 2016 in England.

Another awaited update to the act is the important new inclusion of service dogs. While the prison penalties were originally put in place for attacks on humans, owners of dogs who attack a service dog will now face up to three years in prison.     

"We're delighted that irresponsible owners can now be given tougher sentences if their dog attacks an assistance dog,” Guide Dogs chief executive Richard Leaman tells the Guardian. "With an average of 10 guide dogs being attacked every month, we're looking to the police to fully use their new powers to protect vulnerable people from these sometimes life-changing attacks."

As is often said, there is no such thing as a bad dog, only bad owners.

What do you think of the new stricter penalties?  Tell us in the comments below.



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