Friday, December 24, 2010

Dangerous Dogs Act: the law

By Laura Roberts, The Telegraph

The Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced following concerns about the number of attacks of people

Under the 1991 law, it is illegal for any breed of dog to be out of control in a public place, but the Act does not cover the private property of the dogs' owners. As a result, police have been powerless to prosecute owners for some of the most horrific attacks by dogs in recent years.
Under the dangerous dogs laws police have to stop the breeding and sale of pit bull terriers and three other breeds and crossbreeds. However, animal organisation such as the Kennel Club argue that it is unfair to target certain breeds when behaviour is determined largely by owners and outside factors.
In August this year it was proposed that dog owners could face criminal charges if their animals bite anyone in their own home.
The changes - proposed by groups including the RSPCA, The Kennel Club, the Dogs Trust, the Police Federation and several unions - could also include "dog asbos" that would give wardens the right to order the owners of aggressive dogs to keep them under tighter control.
In 2008-09, there were 4,810 dog attacks on Royal Mail staff alone, with thousands more on police officers, council staff and other workers. More than 5,200 people were admitted to hospital as a result of dog bites in the same year, a quarter of whom were children.
Thousands more were treated as outpatients.
The proposed legal changes are largely a response to the growing problem of so-called weapon dogs - animals that are deliberately bred and trained to be aggressive because they are seen as a status symbol by irresponsible owners.
Keith Davies, a postman, almost lost an arm when he was attacked by two rottweilers in December 2008, but criminal charges brought against the owner had to be dropped because the attack took place on a private road.
In March this year, Taylor Leadbeater, aged two, came close to having her jaw ripped off by her family's French bull mastiff in Eltham, south east London. The dog had previously bitten another family member but no one was charged over the attack on Taylor because it happened at home.
Some attacks are fatal.
Adults attacked include James Rehill, 78, who was "dragged like a doll" through the street in a fatal attack by his dog in 2008.
Other cases include that of John Paul Massey, a fouryear-old who died at his grandmother's house in Liverpool last year after suffering "massive injuries" inflicted by a dog found to be a type of pit bull, a breed banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
In February last year, three-month-old Jaden Mack was killed by a Staffordshire bull terrier and a Jack Russell at his grandmother's home in Ystrad Mynach, South Wales.
The same month the government looked at proposals to introduce a comeptency test for dog owners. The proposals were outlined in a leaked document prepared by officials at the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra), titled Consultation On Dangerous Dogs.
However, it was feared the cost would impact on legitimate dog-owners while those the test was trying to target would simply ignore it.
The number of convictions for being in charge of a dangerously out of control dog rose from 547 in 2004 to 703 in 2007, according to the latest figures.

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