Call for life sentences over dog attack deaths

Published: 27 August 2013

Wandsworth Council is urging the Government to give courts the power to impose life sentences in dangerous dog attack cases that result in a person’s death.

The local authority outlined its stance in response to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra) consultation on whether the Government should amend the maximum sentence for aggravated offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Wandsworth believes longer sentences should be introduced where someone allows a dog to be dangerously out of control and the dog injures or kills a person or an assistance dog.

The maximum sentence is currently two years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both - but the council believes that if someone dies as a result of a dangerous dog attack the courts should be able to impose a life term.

In cases where the attack causes the death of an assistance dog, the council told Defra the maximum sentence should be 10 years in prison - the longest term put forward in the consultation options.

Wandsworth's community safety spokesman, Councillor Jonathan Cook, said: "The council believes that these maximum sentences should be applied to send out a clear message that irresponsible dog ownership will simply not be tolerated.

"For the past five years we have been at the forefront of calls to introduce more effective rules on dog ownership in order to rid our communities of reckless owners and the pain and suffering they can cause to others.

"We have taken practical steps to promote responsible dog ownership, such as offering free microchipping to council tenants and leaseholders and providing the service at a reduced rate to other residents - but feel strongly that more serious deterrents are needed to help combat this issue."

Wandsworth currently has a record of more than 5,000 dogs living in the borough, with an average of three dogs per week being microchipped since 2009.

It has been a condition of council tenancies and leases since 2009 that all dogs must be microchipped and registered with the council. In February the Government announced it would bring in compulsory microchipping for all dogs from April 2016.

As well as microchipping, Wandsworth has been piloting a free dog neutering scheme in partnership with the local RSPCA branch, which aims to prevent unwanted litters of puppies from certain dog breeds.

Earlier this year the council welcomed newly-published legislation making it an offence for a dog to be dangerously out of control in any public or private place. This closed a loophole which meant that dog owners whose animals attack people on private property were immune from prosecution.

Wandsworth has spearheaded the call for changes in legislation for the control of dangerous dogs. The council has been working alongside organisations like Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club and the RSPCA for many years to encourage responsible dog ownership.

For information on the work of the council's dog control officers, including how to get your dog microchipped, visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/dogs email dogcontrol@wandsworth.gov.uk or call (020) 8871 7606.

Meanwhile, concerns about the way a dog is being treated in Wandsworth can be reported in confidence to the council's Dog Control Service on (020) 8871 7606.

ENDS