Battersea Dogs and Cats Home welcomes maximum sentence of 14 years in jail for dog owners if a person dies as a result of an attack from their pet, but insists more preventative action is still needed.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has cautiously welcomed new Government proposals to increase the maximum penalties for dangerous dog offences.

Battersea believes preventative action is needed alongside harsher penalties if irresponsible dog ownership is to be tackled.Under the new proposals, announced yesterday (October 29, 2013), dog owners could face a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment if a person dies as a result of their dog attacking and five years’ imprisonment if a person is injured by their dog attacking. However, Battersea said it is disappointed the Government is not going far enough to prevent such offences at an earlier stage.

The penalties are a significant increase from the current maximum limit of two years’ imprisonment, but the shelter believes this still may not be a strong enough deterrent to the minority of irresponsible owners who allow their dogs to become dangerously out of control.

The charity is calling for more preventive action to tackle irresponsible owners.

Battersea’s director of operations Nigel Yeo said: “Battersea supports harsher penalties for irresponsible dog owners. Serious dog attacks can devastate our communities and we must have appropriate sentencing that matches the severity of the crime. However, there is still a real need for more early prevention to stop attacks happening in the first place.

“So we’re calling on the Government to take further steps to tackle the owners of dangerous dogs before they ever reach the courts and introduce the right measures that will protect those most vulnerable to attacks.”

Battersea wants to see the Government adopt dog control notices in its new Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. Such a move, it said, would enable local authorities to serve a notice on the owners of dogs that are deemed to be out of control, meaning the owner would have to neuter the dog, muzzle it in public, attend a training course, and keep it on a lead. If the owner does not comply with the conditions he or she would be prosecuted.

Battersea also wants to ensure responsible dog owners are protected in the new legislation, so they are not punished if an incident happened which they took all reasonable steps to prevent.

Mr Yeo added: “We recognise the majority of dog owners are responsible, but sadly, it only takes one bad owner to bring about tragic consequences. We must tackle this problem head on and harsher sentencing is just the beginning.”

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