Plan for compulsory dog insurance in England and Wales

Beagle puppies
Owners could be forced to muzzle, leash or get their dog neutered

Every dog owner in England and Wales could be forced to insure their pets under new Labour proposals.

Ministers say they're responding to growing public concern that they are being used to intimidate or threaten people.

Owners could also be made to muzzle, leash or get them neutered.

Paul Coleman's a postman from Sheffield and was attacked by two dangerous dogs.

He was left scarred for life. "I was just constantly trying to get the dogs off me," he said.

"After probably a minute or something I didn't feel any pain because I must have blocked it out in my mind."

'Dog asbos'

Figures uncovered by the Tories suggest 100 people end up in hospital each week because of dogs attacks.

The RSPCA says some dogs have been specially bred and trained to be violent "weapons" but aren't covered by 1991's Dangerous Dogs Act.

Labour's consultation plans include compulsory third party insurance and microchipping for dog owners.

They would also protect people like postal workers and engineers on private land and in people's homes.

James Beaufoy, Secretary of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier club, is backing the proposals.

"Microchipping is the way forward," he said. "If all dogs were compulsorily microchipped it would at least put the emphasis away from the dog which can't help being what it is or how it's being trained and put directly on the person that owns that dog and therefore he becomes responsible."

Weeks before a general election, Home secretary Alan Johnson says they're thinking of bringing in a number of new rules, including so-called "dog asbos" that could be issued by police and local councils.

Ministers are also considering making it a criminal offence for a dog owner to allow their animal to be "dangerously out of control".

"We're consulting on whether to have dangerous dog notices," he said.

"[Also] whether we should extend the number of breeds that are on the list, whether we should extend the protection of the public to private property as well as public property."

At the moment four types of dog - the pit bull terrier, the Japanese tosa, the dogo Argentinos and the fila brasileiros - are banned.

The Conservatives say they want more action taken.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: "All we've really had for the past decade under this Government is a series of speeches and headline grabbing announcements about the things there were going to do to tackle problems like dangerous dog offences.

"But in the end nothing has ever happened. If Labour are re-elected in May all we'll get is the same tired out old approach and none of the changes the country really needs."

A bill is being considered by the Scottish Parliament which would introduce so-called "dog asbos" and give councils greater powers to impose penalties.

At the moment there are no plans for a compulsory insurance scheme.