The new Dangerous Dogs Act explained
People who breed dangerous dogs in the UK could face tougher sanctions under new dog sentencing proposals.
Maximum sentences were increased in the courts last year and now the Sentencing Council has drafted a new set of guidelines. Canine owners could face up to 14 years in prison should their dog kill someone; a dramatic increase on the two year sentence previously used.
It’s vital that dog owners understand what the new proposals mean as there are several small changes which could affect them.
Here are a few of the main changes that you’ll need to be aware of and what they mean.
The latest proposals follow on from changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 that occurred in 2014 and which also covers attacks on assistance dogs.
It is estimated that more than 200,000 people are bitten by dogs every year in England and the law was also extended last year to cover private property.
Essentially, this covers any areas where your dog might be, including inside your house and in the front and rear garden – an expansion on the old law which just covered public places.
While the Sentencing Council acknowledged that the majority of dog owners are responsible, the new rules aim to target those that act in an irresponsible manner. Drawing on the potentially devastating effects that dog attacks can have, the council states it is essential that long sentences are in place to punish those responsible.
Why you need to be careful
At the top end of the new sentencing proposals – all of which are currently up for consultation – are rules relating to people who have bred or trained dogs to be aggressive or to intimidate.
However, the guidelines also cover incidents where the dog owner is less culpable but may also face serious consequences.
For instance, a dog belonging to a responsible owner may escape and cause harm and tougher sentencing will now apply in such cases; increasing from two years to five.
Understanding Section 3
Under Section 3 of the Act, it is a criminal offence for the person in charge of the dog to let it be “dangerously out of control” in a public place.
This applies to all dog owners but the important part is that a dog DOESN’T have to bite to be deemed dangerous in the eyes of the law. A dog can be ruled as intimidating without physically attacking someone.
Issues with other animals
If a dog injures another animal or the owner of that animal believes they could get injured when trying to stop the attack, the dog could also be deemed as dangerous.
Under the new rules, the authorities can seize dangerous dogs in private locations as well as in public.
Should your dog be deemed dangerously out of control, you could face a £20,000 fine, up to six months behind bars, or both. You may also be banned from owning a dog in the future.
Keeping your pooch on a lead and ensuring it is fully trained will help reduce the risk of it being deemed dangerous.