Call for dog control notices to reverse rising trend of attacks

MP John Healey has called for tougher laws to help stop dog attacks.

It follows an attack on Goldthorpe woman Rebecca Lowman last month, who found police could take no action because the incident happened on private property.

Mr Healey backed amendments to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which will update the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, and was heard in the House of Commons this week.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, the MP for Wentworth and Dearne said he welcomed “long-awaited” plans to close the loophole preventing prosecution if a dog attacks in its owner’s or a relative’s home, which was a “significant loophole in the law.”

But he said ministers had been too slow to make that change and now had the chance to act ahead of a serious and growing problem, by introducing dog control notices.

Mr Healey said: “Thousands of victims are injured and hospitalised each year as a result of dog attacks. The number of owners sentenced for offences related to dangerous dogs has increased by more than one third since 2009.

“Just in South Yorkshire the police have responded to 464 dog attack incidents in the past year, and just in 2013 so far they have taken out 26 court cases pursuing prosecution against those owners.”

He spoke about the serious injuries to Mrs Lowman’s arm and leg, suffered when defending a woman being attacked by a family dog in her own house. Rebecca and her husband John came to Mr Healey after learning the police could not take any action because the incident happened in a private house.

He added: “Dog control notices have been legislated for in Scotland for three years and this represents a sensible extension of the scope for local authorities, courts and the police to take action against a person in control of a dog whose behaviour is out of control.

“Labour has been arguing this case but Ministers have been dragging their feet for three years now. During that time, thousands more have suffered serious and often debilitating injuries.

“Most dog owners are responsible and their dogs are well behaved, but a minority see dogs as status symbols or even offensive weapons.

“The Government must go further than this Bill. Let us see Ministers introduce and accept the principle of dog control notices and help to reverse the rising trend of attacks and to head off some of the attacks we will otherwise definitely see, which will leave adults and children badly scarred, badly injured, badly traumatised and, in some cases, dead.”

Responding, Home Office minister Norman Baker said the powers sought by amendments including the one to introduce dog control notices already exist in the Bill.