A leading pet charity has said the Government must do more done to tackle irresponsible dog ownership and prevent attacks.
Blue Cross said it welcomed new measures to introduce compulsory microchipping of all dogs from 2106 and an extension of laws to ensure owners of dogs who attack on private property can be prosecuted.
All dogs in England will need to be microchipped to help tackle the growing problem of strays roaming the streets, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced today.
Each year more than 100,000 dogs are dumped or lost at a cost of £57 million to the taxpayer and welfare charities.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said:
“It’s a shame that in a nation of dog lovers, thousands of dogs are roaming the streets or stuck in kennels because the owner cannot be tracked down. I am determined to put an end to this and ease the pressure on charities and councils to find new homes for these dogs.
“Microchipping is a simple solution that gives peace of mind to owners. It makes it easier to get their pet back if it strays and easier to trace if it’s stolen.”
Blue Cross said the measures would be a step forward in making owners more accountable for their dogs and would be offering free microchipping to dogs and cats at its network of animal hospitals and rehoming centres.
However, it stressed that databases would need to work together, with registrations kept up to date by owners, and that there is still need for further regulation to help stop dog attacks.
Kim Hamilton, Blue Cross chief executive, said: “These changes alone will be little comfort for the victims of dog attacks.”
Eight children and six adults have been killed in dog attacks since 2005, with many of these attacks taking place in the home.
In the last year alone, over 3,000 postal workers were attacked by dangerously out of control dogs, and 70 per cent of these attacks happened on private property.
Householders, however, will be protected from prosecution if their dog attacks a burglar or trespasser on their land.
The charity has been calling for the introduction of preventative measures for potentially dangerous dogs, which would allow the authorities to step in after signs of antisocial behaviour but before an attack has taken place.
“The current situation still fails pets and endangers the public,” Ms Hamilton said.
“An early preventative strategy would educate dog owners, helping to improve their pets’ behaviour and knowledge of their responsibilities.
“Blue Cross believes that dog ownership can be a good thing - regardless of the breed - when people are properly informed and supported.
“Without tackling this problem the reputation of some dog owners, and the breeds of dogs they choose to own, will continue to suffer. This could lead to people being penalised and marginalised.”
Currently there are around 8 million pet dogs in the UK. Nearly 60% are already chipped.
“Most people take proper care of their dogs but there are a small minority of people who behave irresponsibly, allowing their dogs to threaten and attack people,” Mr Paterson said.
“People like health and postal workers, who have to go on private property just to do their jobs, deserve protection under the law.
“By giving the police extra powers to clamp down on law-breakers, those responsible for the worst offences will be held to account regardless of where the attack takes place.”
The laws on dog attacks will be extended to cover private property, closing a loophole which has meant that dog owners whose animals have attacked people on private property are immune from prosecution.
Government measures will also allow the police, when dealing with any dogs which are subject to court proceedings under the Dangerous Dogs Act, to decide whether a suspected prohibited dog needs to be kept apart from their owners until the outcome of court proceedings. Previously all such dogs had to be kennelled until after proceedings had concluded, even if they posed no risk to the public.