However they believe changes could have gone further
Proposals to hand down longer prison sentences to the owners of killer dogs have been welcomed – but could have gone further, the council believes.
In its response to the Government’s consultation on whether to amend the maximum sentence for aggravated offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act, Wandsworth Council called for courts to be given the power to impose life sentences in dangerous dog attack cases that result in a person’s death.
This week, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced it was proposing to increase such sentences from two years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both, to 14 years in jail.
Wandsworth’s community safety spokesman, Councillor Jonathan Cook, said:
“We had hoped the Government would share our view that life sentences should be considered when sentencing a dog owner whose pet has killed a person - but we obviously welcome the fact that a significant increase in sentencing power could soon be available to judges in such cases.”
Under the proposed changes, people whose dogs injure a person face a new maximum jail sentence of five years, while owners will face three years imprisonment if their pet kills or injures an assistance dog.
In its consultation response the council said that the maximum sentence for all three of the offences above should be 10 years.
Councillor Cook said:
“While we think the proposed increases to the existing sentences could have gone further, we welcome the clear acknowledgement that tougher sentences are needed. This should send out a clear message that irresponsible dog ownership will simply not be tolerated.”
For years the council has been at the forefront of calls to introduce more effective rules on dog ownership in order to rid communities of reckless owners and the pain and suffering they can cause to others.
Practical steps have been taken 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.
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.
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.
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.
August 27, 2013