Defra has announced plans to extend the maximum penalty for owners of dangerous dogs, potentially up to life in prison.

Defra has announced plans to extend the maximum penalty for owners of dangerous dogs, potentially up to life in prison.

Defra wants your views on the maximum prison sentence for owners of dangerous dogsOn August 6, 2013, the department launched an online consultation asking for views on whether current penalties for dog offences are severe enough.

Since 2005, 16 people have been killed by dangerous dogs, however, the owners of these animals can only be sent to jail for a maximum of two years.

In February 2013, Defra announced plans to extend the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to cover dog attacks in private properties, as well making attacks on assistance dogs a specific offence.

Now the department has determined to beef up the maximum sentence in the event a dog kills a human or assistance animal.

Introducing the consultation, Defra animal welfare minister Lord de Mauley said: “Dog attacks are terrifying and we need harsh penalties to punish those who allow their dog to injure people while out of control.

“We’re already toughening up laws to ensure anyone who owns a dangerous dog can be brought to justice, regardless of where a dog attack takes place. It’s crucial the laws we have in place act as a deterrent to stop such horrific incidents.”

The question of extending sentences was debated in Parliament in July 2013, with it being argued sentences should be extended up to life imprisonment. However, it was also argued by MPs that a life sentence was seen to be extreme, and, by comparison, the maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving is five years, and 14 years for causing death by dangerous driving.

According to a department spokesman: “However, the point was made in the parliamentary debate on the amendment that the current level of maximum penalty for an aggravated dog attack of two years imprisonment is too low, given the devastating effect that dog attacks can have on people’s lives and on assistance dogs.

“Overall, there is a range of possible maximum sentences between two years imprisonment and life that might apply in different circumstances.”

The consultation survey is open until September 1, 2013, and can be completed via the new Defra website.

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