The Government is proposing to increase the maximum penalties for dog owners whose animals are dangerously out of control, according to an announcement made by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The decision follows a consultation during the summer.
Current penalties stand at two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for aggravated. The changes, announced on 29 October, will see the penalties increased to:
• Fourteen years imprisonment if a person dies as a result of a dog attack
• Five years imprisonment if a person is injured by a dog attack
• Three years’ imprisonment if an assistance dog either dies or is injured by a dog attack
In coming to the decision the Government has taken into account the responses to the consultation and the need for maximum penalties to be proportionate to the offence. They have also compared the current maximum penalty with the maximum penalties for other offences.
Animal Welfare Minister Lord de Mauley said: “It is right that the punishments of those who allow their dog to kill or injure people or assistance dogs are proportionate to the horrendous impact dog attacks can have.
“We’re toughening up laws to ensure that anyone who owns a dangerous dog can be brought to justice, regardless of where an attack takes place. We’re also giving local authorities and the police new powers to nip issues in the bud and take action before a dog attack takes place.”
The increase in the maximum penalty for a dog attack on an assistance dog, such as a guide dog, reflects the devastating effect such an attack has on the assisted person. As now, each of the offences could also be punishable by an unlimited fine instead of or in addition to imprisonment. An amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act to effect these changes will be tabled for consideration during Lords Committee Stage of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.