Courts to get tough on dangerous dogs
20 August 2012
Owners of dangerous dogs will face stiffer penalties under changes to sentencing which come into force today.
The Sentencing Council has encouraged judges to hand out more severe punishment to owners of the breeds of dog outlawed by the Dangerous Dogs Act.
It is hoped the measures will help to curb the growing problem of dangerous dog crime. The number of dogs confiscated by the police has ballooned from a mere 193 in 2006 to 1,107 in 2010.
More offenders are set to be jailed and incur community orders, while judges have been instructed to order more dangerous dogs to be put down and to arrange more compensation for victims of dog attacks.
Under the new guidelines, which were announced in May, anybody who allows a dangerous dog under their supervision to hurt someone will face between six and eighteen months in prison. The penalty for possession of a banned dog will be up to 6 months’ custody.
The maximum sentence could rise to two years in exceptional cases, such as when a child has been injured or previous warnings have been ignored.
Anyone who incites a dangerous dog to attack someone will be charged with assault.
A spokesman for the Sentencing Council said: "With increasing numbers of convictions for offences involving dangerous dogs in recent years, the new guideline will help ensure courts use their full powers when dealing with offenders.
"The Sentencing Council's guideline aims to provide clear guidance to judges and magistrates to encourage consistency in sentencing and appropriate sentences for owners of dangerous dogs.”
Trevor Cooper, legal consultant for the Dogs Trust, said: "These new guidelines will encourage courts to focus on the key factors of culpability of the owner and the amount of harm to the victim.
"This tougher approach should serve as a stiff reminder to dog owners to keep their pets under proper control and to behave responsibly."