There has been front page coverage in the Mirror today on the increasing number of dog attacks reported this year.
These attacks are deeply distressing and our sympathy goes out to the families of those who have died as a result of out of control dogs. Dog attacks can have horrific consequences, which is why it is a criminal offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control, with the police able to seize such dogs.
There have been nine tragic fatalities this year as a result of dog attacks, several of which involving children. We take this disturbing rise extremely seriously and are exploring measures to reduce dog attacks and promote responsible ownership.
The Government has also worked with animal welfare partners, the police and local authorities to promote safer interactions between children and dogs. The Canine and Feline Sector Group #DogSafetyCode reminds all the public to:
- Be alert – Always keep an eye on your children around dogs. Never leave them alone together
- Be aware – Dogs use signals to tell us how they feel – What is your dog telling you?
- Be safe – Any dog can bite. Accidents happen fast.
The code of Practice for welfare of dogs provides guidance to owners about handling their dogs responsibly to prevent the occurrence of attacks or chasing. It sets out how dogs need to be trained and introduced gradually and positively to different environments, people and animals.
Allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control can lead to a prison sentence or a disqualification order which prevents the owner from keeping dogs for a certain period of time. This offence can be applied to attacks on animals as well as people. The Dangerous Dogs Act also prohibits certain types of dogs that are considered a serious risk to public safety.
It is important that the police and the courts are able to employ a range of measures to limit the risks to public safety. Community Protection Notices can be served by police and local authorities on dog owners whose dogs are behaving aggressively - and can require them to take appropriate action to prevent a reoccurrence of the offending behaviour. Breaching of a CPN is also a criminal offence, leading to a maximum penalty of £2,500.