Pet owners face fines of up to £20,000 if they fail to take steps preventing dog attacks, as new laws come into force from Monday.
Authorities in England and Wales will be able to demand owners be trained, muzzle dogs or insert microchips. It follows changes made earlier this year enabling prosecution for a dog attack on private property.
Animal welfare minister Lord de Mauley said the government was taking “tough action” against negligent owners. Prison sentences for owners of violent dogs were extended earlier this year as part of changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and owners now face a maximum of 14 years for a fatal dog attack, five years for an injury and three years for an attack on an assistance dog.
In 2013, 6,740 people required hospital treatment for dog attacks – an increase of 6% from 2012. In total, 8 adults and 13 children have died from dog attacks since 2005 and in October last year, Jade Anderson, 14, was mauled to death by a dog, but the owner could not be prosecuted under the Dangerous Dogs Act because it did not happen in a public place.
But in May, the Act was amended to allow prosecution if the pet attacked someone who was on private property, regardless of the circumstances by which they were there.
Lord de Mauley said, “Dog attacks are devastating for victims and their families which is why we are taking tough action against those who allow them to happen. Police and local authorities will now have more powers to demand that irresponsible dog owners take steps to prevent attacks before they occur.”
Around nine postmen and women are attacked by dogs across the UK every day.
Shaun Davis, Royal Mail director of safety, health, wellbeing and sustainability, said he was “pleased” with the measure.
A manual will be released alongside the new legislation to help guide local and police authorities.
The national policing lead for dangerous dogs, Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard, said, “The practitioners manual gives police officers and other practitioners clear guidance on how to best implement the legislative changes, especially the early preventative measures such as community protection notices, to help prevent more serious events occurring in the future.
“It also provides a platform to share good practice between police forces and partner agencies and it will form part of the ongoing training of dog legislation officers across England and Wales.”