Government backs up bark with bite: Manchester’s vicious dog owners to be prosecuted for attacks on own land

By Glen Keogh

Owners of vicious dogs in Manchester will be prosecuted for attacks on their private property after the government announced a change in the law this week.

As part of the new bill to have every dog in the UK micro chipped by 2016, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced that the laws on dog attacks will also be extended to cover private property.

This will close a legal loophole which meant dog owners have been immune from prosecution when attacks occurred on their own land.

Mr Paterson said: “Most people take proper care of their dogs but there are a small minority of people who behave irresponsibly, allowing their dogs to threaten and attack people.

“People, like health and postal workers, who have to go on private property just to do their jobs, deserve protection under the law.

“By giving the police extra powers to clamp down on law-breakers, those responsible for the worst offences will be held to account regardless of where the attack takes place.”

In November 2012, MM reported that the Royal Mail had commissioned a report calling for Parliament to introduce tougher legislation to protect postal workers from dog attacks.

The report showed that 130 postmen and women were attacked in Greater Manchester between April 2011 and April 2012.

The new legislation will enable the police to prosecute the owners of dogs who have attacked, but householders will be immune from prosecution if their dog attacks a burglar or trespasser on their land.

However the RSPCA remains sceptical on the measures – believing the Government has not gone far enough.

David Bowles, head of RSPCA public affairs, said: “We don’t believe [the laws] will reduce the number of stray dogs, make owners act more responsibly to their dogs or ensure fewer dogs bite people or other animals. 

“The Home Office proposals on anti-social behaviour do not provide sufficiently early intervention and could label some dog owners as anti-social when their failing may only be a lack of understanding.”

While unprovoked dog attacks in Greater Manchester remain relatively rare, there have been some notable cases.

In October 2011, a man from Gorton was jailed when he set his Japanese Akita on a woman in an unprovoked homophobic attack – but his dog was spared.

The woman suffered puncture wounds and severe cuts and bruising to her arm as she tried to defend herself.

Mr Bowles added: “The number of warnings the RSPCA issued to dog owners due to poor welfare last year was up by 12% on 2011, while the number of dog bites that required hospitalisation has gone up by 26% in the past four years.

“If the Government is serious about tackling these very real problems then, we don’t see how the proposals will help reduce either of these figures.”

Government measures will also allow the police to decide whether a suspected prohibited dog needs to be kept apart from their owners until the outcome of court proceedings.

Previously all such dogs had to be kennelled until after proceedings had concluded even if they posed no risk to the public.

Photo courtesy of Saskia Bierman, with thanks

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