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Dangerous Dogs

Volume 585: debated on Monday 8 September 2014

The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the Petitioners welcome the changes that the Government have made to its guidance on “controlling your dog in public” as it is now against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control in private places such as your own home and a neighbour’s garden; further that the Petitioners believe that, although improved, the updated guidance does not go far enough as penalties are only imposed on owners if their dog injures a person or a guide dog; and further that a local petition on this matter has received over 400 signatures and an e-petition over 1,750.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons introduces legislation so that penalties can also be imposed on owners if their dog injures another dog.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Peter Aldous, Official Report, 22 July 2014; Vol. 584, c. 1355.]

[P001377]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

On 13 March 2014, the criminal offence of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control, contained in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, was extended to all places. The Act was also amended specifically to make it an offence to allow a dog to attack an assistance dog. This additional offence was considered necessary because there had been a number of attacks on assistance dogs. Such dogs are specially trained and may be more prone to injury if attacked because they are trained not to leave their owner.

The maximum penalties for offences in connection with dangerous dogs were also increased. The maximum penalty for allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control and it killing someone was increased from two years, imprisonment to 14 years; if the dog injures someone the increase was from two years, imprisonment to five years. The maximum penalty for allowing a dog to attack an assistance dog is three years, imprisonment.

There is other existing legislation available in cases where dogs worry, injure or kill livestock. It is also an offence for a dog to be at large in a field of sheep. Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 the owner and anyone else under whose control the dog is at the time will be guilty of an offence if it worries livestock on agricultural land. Under the Animals Act 1971 anyone who is the keeper of a dog that causes damage by killing or injuring livestock is liable for the damage caused. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal. A person could therefore be prosecuted if his dog causes injury to another animal.

In addition new measures under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 allow police or local authority officers to serve warning notices on people committing acts of antisocial behaviour. This includes such behaviour where it involves a dog. This enables action to be taken at an early stage in cases where for example a dog is running loose and bothering people or other animals. These new measures are due to come into force on 20 October. DEFRA officials are also preparing a dedicated practitioners’ handbook for cases of antisocial behaviour involving dogs.

We consider that the existing law allows action to be taken in circumstances where a dog is regarded as dangerously out of control including where a dog chases another animal or where a person reasonably fears injury may be caused to them even if in fact they are not injured. We do not feel that it is necessary to extend the law specifically to deal with dogs chasing other animals because, provided a dog is dangerously out of control, an owner could be prosecuted under existing legislation.