In 2013, 6,740 people required hospital treatment as a result of a dog attacks - a rise of 6% from 2012. Tragically, eight adults and 13 children have died from dog attacks since 2005.
Police and local authorities have been given new legal powers to tackle irresponsible dog ownership in an attempt to protect the public.
Police and local authorities will now have the powers to fine of up to £20,000 if an owner does not prevent a dog attack. If a complaint has been made about a dog to the council or police, its owners could be ordered to do any or all of the following:
- Attend dog training classes
- Muzzle the dog and/or keep it on a lead in public
- Microchipped and/or neuter
- Keep the dog secured in a garden by repairing fencing where necessary
In October 2013, Jade Anderson, 14, was killed by a dog, but the owner could not be prosecuted under the Dangerous Dogs Act because it did not happen in a public place. In May 2013, legal changes were made to enable prosecution for a dog attack on private property and maximum prison sentences were extended to:
- 14 years, from two years, for a fatal dog attack
- Five years, from two years, for injury
- Three years for an attack on an assistance dog
New Legislation allows the following orders:
A Public Space Protection Order
An order to restrict persistent anti-social behaviour in a public space where activities carried out in a public place are having, have had or will have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality
- A PSPO can be issued by the District, County, Unitary authorities and London borough councils
- A PSPO can exclude dogs from an area. Require that an owner pick up dog faeces, keeps dogs on a lead and can also restrict the number of dogs walked by one person
- Can be appealed at the High Court within six weeks by an interested person
A Community Protection Notice
- Issued if a written warning giving reasonable time for the behaviour to stop fails
- Police officers, Police Community Support Officers (if designated by Chief of Police), Local authority officers, Registered social landlords can issue a Communtity Protection Notice.
- CPNs can be issued to anyone over the age of 16 when the unreasonable and unacceptable behaviour of a dog affects the lives of those people that live locally
- A CPN can be appealed within 21 days of issue
Breaching a CPN
Should an owner breach the Community Protection Notice, the local authority could issue a fixed penalty notice or as is more likely in this case given the impact and repetitive nature of the behaviour, prosecute. A conviction for breach of a notice is a criminal offence and carries a maximum level 4 fine on the standard scale. The court can also issue an order to require certain things to be done that will prevent the behaviour reoccurring. In this case, it might be that the local authority microchips the dog or even that the owner gives up the dog for it to be re-homed. Failure to comply with a magistrate’s court order is contempt of court and carries a maximum sentence of two months’ imprisonment or a £5000 fine.
- For higher level incidents e.g. intimidation, attacks or incidents involving other animals an Injunction could be served
- Police (including British Transport Police), Local authorities, Environment Agency and Natural Resources Body for Wales, Transport for London can apply for an injunction that can be issued to anyone over the age of 10
- Injunctions can be served on anyone who "threatens to engage in anti-social behaviour, meaning: Conduct that has caused or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person. Conduct that has caused or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person"
- An owner could be required to microchip/ neuter/muzzle/ keep dog on a lead. Attend training classes. Attend behavioural classes. The injunction may also prohibit access to certain areas at certain times
- As with a CPN, an injunction can be appealed (over 18s to the High Court and under 18s to the Crown Court)
Criminal Behaviour Orders
- For serious and continuing anti social behaviour with dogs (e.g. where dogs are used to intimidate people
- A CBO can be issued to anyone convicted of a criminal offence
- They can be issued to under 18s for a period of 1-3 years and over 18s: for a minimum of 2 years – indefinitely. The court can vary or discharge a CBO and for those under 18 years of age they can be reviewed
- Can be appealed at at Youth/, Magistrates court or Crown court
- Under a CBO an owner can be required to go to compulsory training lessons and a limit to the the dogs an individual can own can be imposed. A CBO can also prohibiting access to certain areas at specific times. Microchipping, neutering and muzzling of dogs is also an option
Dogs are an important part of our lives, we all need to take responsibility to ensure that a few irresponsible owners don't give all dogs and certain breeds a bad name.