The Rise of Dog Attacks: What Is Being Done about It?

As the summer approaches, so does the prospect of increasing numbers of dog attacks, especially on young children. A grim outlook, but one that is continuing to rise, according to hospital admissions statistics. There may be light at the end of the tunnel, however, as sentences for dog attack offences have just increased.

According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, Hospital Episode Statistics recorded 6,450 admissions for dog bites or strikes in the 12 months to April 2012, a 5.2 per cent rise on the previous 12-month period (6,130). During the same period, admissions for all conditions increased by 1.3 per cent.

Around 16 per cent (one in 10) of all people admitted to hospital as a result of dog bite and strike injuries involve a child under 10. But what is being done about these horrific statistics? The topic of ‘banned breeds’ and the legislation surrounding dog attacks has long been debated, with fierce criticism levelled from campaigners and animal welfare groups alike.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was, according to the RSPCA, ‘rushed through Parliament’ following a string of high profile dog attacks and the media attention that surrounded them. Many dubbed the legislation unfit for purpose as the premise that only certain (banned) dog breeds were responsible for attacks had no basis.

Any dog (especially in the wrong hands), has the potential to bite and it should be the owner’s responsibility to ensure his or her dog is under control at all times – inside and outside the home.

Responsible dog ownership starts with the legalities of having a collar and ID tag on every dog. It is essential to have a safe, well-fitting dog collar and to keep you dog on a lead when out in public. There is no excuse for not doing this as all these items – including muzzles if necessary – are readily available from sites like Basic, safe versions are not expensive and they ensure your dog is under control and legal. It could save a person’s life and you from prosecution.

The laws relating to dog attacks have just been updated by the Government, following the continued rise in high-profile attacks and hospital admissions relating to dog bites and wounds.

From May 13, 2014, anyone who allows their dog to attack someone will face tougher sentences, and owners will also face prosecution if a dog attacks anyone in their home or on private property (except trespassers).

The maximum prison sentences in England and Wales under the Dangerous Dogs Act are now:

  • Up to 14 years, from two years, for a fatal dog attack.
  • Up to five years, from two years, for injury.
  • Up to three years if an assistance dog is attacked.

The laws in Scotland and Northern Ireland were updated previously, and can be found under The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, and The Dogs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.



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