Roger Salmon column: Dangerous dog owners face harsher sentences

Roger Salmon
Roger Salmon
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If genetic studies are to be believed , domestic dogs evolved from wolves around 11,000 years ago when our ancestors stole wolf cubs, domesticated them and trained them to help hunt for food.

If genetic studies are to be believed , domestic dogs evolved from wolves around 11,000 years ago when our ancestors stole wolf cubs, domesticated them and trained them to help hunt for food.

Both animals are very different nowadays – particularly when it comes to temperament.

Despite this there is a trend among certain elements of society to own ‘status dogs’ and many Brits have become afraid of strange dogs, particularly over the past decade. Defra has announced plans to extend the maximum penalty for owners of dangerous dogs, potentially up to life imprisonment.

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

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

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 when out of control.

“We’re already toughening laws to ensure anyone who owns a dangerous dog can be brought to justice, regardless as to where the dog attack takes place.

“It’s crucial the laws we have in place act as a deterrent to stop such horrific incidents.”

Debate in parliament argued that sentences should be extended to life imprisonment but this was considered to be extreme as death by dangerous driving is only 14 years.

Overall there is a range of possible sentences between two years of imprisonment and life which might apply in different circumstances.

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