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More teeth for the Dangerous Dogs Act?

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Guy Smith | 16:01 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

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Do we need to change the law on dangerous dogs?

London's deputy mayor for policing Kit Malthouse thinks so. This morning he demanded urgent government action and called on the public to sign a petition.

He believes the solution is tougher punishment.

He says owners, who use their dogs as weapons, should face the same penalties as carrying a knife. That's up to a four year jail sentence.

Is that too harsh? You could argue some offenders get lesser sentences for serious crimes like rape.

But having just talked to the mother of Maurice Lambert, you could argue four years might not be enough.

Maurice was just over two years old when he was savaged by a pit-bull-type dog in a playground in Primrose Hill. He needed 40 stitches to his right leg.

Although, Maurice was not an intended target for some gang member who wanted to take down a rival. He was the victim of an owner who was unable to control his/her dog.

Kit Malthouse also wants the ban on specific breeds to continue.

And he's calling for the legislation to be extended to include private land. Currently, police can only seize a dog and prosecute an owner when an attack takes place on public land.

Not much help then for your local postie.

According to the commucations union the CWU 6,000 postmen and women are attacked every year. They say 70 per cent of those are on private land.

Yet, don't you have to ask the question: aren't all dogs unpredictable? If your normally, child-friendly Labrador goes berserk in a park, kills another dog and bites an owner, should you face a four year stretch in jail?

Are owners of bull breeds being demonised? Are the politicians and campaigners forcing the issue? What do you think?


  • Comment number 1.

    The law on dangerous dogs is not clear to me but if it isn't law for all dogs to be kept on a lead and muzzled in public places,then it should be,young children and babies are most vulnerable in parks and public places.Impound any dog that is not kept on a lead by its owner.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am afraid for my children to play in local parks and afraid to take my dog out walking alone because of these dangerous dogs. I feel that all dog owners should have licences, chips and muzzling, if not they should face fines, this should come into action now. Any owners using dogs has weapons to be prosecuted will jail sentences. Something needs to be done now, how many children need to be harmed or killed before the goverment take this seriously.

  • Comment number 3.

    i agree that the law on dangerous should be enforced. i have a dalmation and she was attacked by a dog when we took her took the pak once, she was the most friendliest dog. she is still lovely to humans but with dogs is now very defensive and quick to attack another dog, woth no reason we keep her on a lead at all times and muzzle even though she is no threat to humans. something has to change as people are being injured and theres only a simple solution to solve it.

  • Comment number 4.

    I have two English bull terriers and 4 children and the reaction i get when i tell people this really annoys me my youngest child is 15months and i have never once worried about the children around the dogs i believe it is the person who brings them up that is the issue not the dog or breed itselff i have known toy dogs to behave more aggresivly than any of the four Bull terriers i have had in my life. be stronger on breeders who hand dogs out to any tom, dick and harry

  • Comment number 5.

    I have two English bull terriers and 4 children and the reaction i get when i tell people this really annoys me my youngest child is 15months and i have never once worried about the children around the dogs i believe it is the person who brings them up that is the issue not the dog or breed itselff i have known toy dogs to behave more aggresivly than any of the four Bull terriers i have had in my life. be stronger on breeders who hand dogs out to any person

  • Comment number 6.

    I feel all people are vulnerable as I was once asked for £1 by a group of boys in the park with their dogs & they looked as if they were going to throw their dogs at me if irefused to give them the £1. I think just hanging around with dogs for no reason must be banned!!!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    It's high time all dogs leaving the house were muzzled.

  • Comment number 8.

    It's long overdue that measures should be taken to prosecute or even confiscate dangerous dogs.

    I considder myself a responsible dog owner, and take measures to control my dogs when out in public.

    The trend nowadays for some people to want to own dogs such as the Staffordshire Terrier or Staffy / Pitbull Crossbreed is very dangerous.

    There seems to be no real control for these potentially dangerous breeds.
    It is obvious that a certain kind of person is attracted to this type of dog, and is also obvious that it is used as a weapon of intimidation, or in order to make the individual look tough.

    These breeds are banned in certain countries, and are often confiscated on sight and destroyed. Perhaps this is necessary in some cases in the UK, especially for blatent irresponsibility.

  • Comment number 9.

    We have been down this road before with the government but the approach is wrong . Any dog professional or responsible owner will tell you its the owner, and not the breed. The BBC received hundreds of emails after your report all stating the same as I am that its not giving a fine or penalty to an owner after a dog attacks someone because that will not stop the fashion or mass over breeding. Its shocking that you think it will. If you mistreat or train any dog to be aggressive it will be. The control needs to be on breeding. To many people are breeding these animals irresponsibly to make a small financial return, and the fashionable dog to young irresponsible owners is the bull terrier breeds. There are to many professionals that work with security dogs to carpet ban bite victims on private land. Look at the problem in black and white! its 16-25 year olds on low income estates breeding these animals for profit to top up social benefits. If you control breeding with guidelines for , microchips and vaccinations you will stop the problem in its tracks. The source of where these dogs are coming from! You will not stop mass breading and the problems with battersea ect by the approach your taking. Please reconsider, its as silly sorting the knife problem by giving a fine to people that stab someone but letting everyone carry a knife.

  • Comment number 10.

    Flashmeg: thanks for commenting. I agree that it is the deed not the breed. Just to clarify though; it's not me who is calling for tougher penalties. It's politicians and campaigners who are forcing the issue.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think that we might have quite enough dog related legislation, all we need is the will to enforce it.

    We currently The Dog Control Order, which requires a dog to wear a collar with identification, on pain of having the dog seized and/or a £2k fine, which isn't enforced. The Dangerous Dog Act which prohibits the breeding and sale of some breeds of dogs, which isn't enforced. The Road Traffic Act which prohibits dogs from being un-leashed next to public roads, which isn't enforced. The Metropolitan Police Act, which makes it illegal for a person to use their dog to cause fear or alarm, which isn't enforced. Even the Clean Neighbourhoods Act, which requires people to pick up their dogs poo from the street/public parks isn't enforced.

    I can understand why people might think that muzzling and keeping dog on leads might solve the problem but like most simplistic solutions, it just doesn't work. A well exercised, properly socialised dog is a safer dog, and it's impossible to properly exercise and/or socialise a muzzled, leashed dog.

    I own two large breed dog, one of whom is a bull breed cross, and I see on a daily basic the real fear that my well behaved, under control, well trained, socialised and exercised pets cause people. No one seems to consider that statistically, the owner of a small breed dog who drives that dog to the park for a walk is much more likely to kill, maim or causing injury during that car journey than all the pitbulls, staffies and rotties who are wondering around, off lead put together would ever do.

  • Comment number 12.

    What a great society we are where we are killing animals due to the way their owners train them to behave.
    Why not start to look at the problem and reallise that if you kill a dog it is not going to stop the owner just going to get another, we are just making the problem worse.
    We should be making it harder for these types of people having a dog not just killing the animal and in most cases just for what they look like
    We should be disgusted with ourselves as a nation.
    How can anyone take a dog and put it down for no reason, do not get me wrong if the animal shows aggressive problems I understand we should look at that on a case to case basis.
    If we the public discrimanated against people for what they looked like we would be in big trouble but poor animals that can not defend themself that is ok is it!!!!!
    Our government should wise up and actually sort the problem out.
    I am sorry to state to the ignorant people out there there are many loving dogs of this type out there which are the most loving dogs you will ever meet but I am sure you will never try and see that you are just happy to keep going on a killing spree.

  • Comment number 13.

    Which part of its down to the owner not the breed of dog do people not get.

    I own 3 Staffordshire Bull Terriers and they have been attacked and harassed by dogs that are owned by irresponsible people none of which were bull breeds.

    No law that targets the dog will ever make a difference to dog bite statistics because it allows the owner to get off virtually scot free.

    Any dog can bite.

    Education and penalising the bad owners of ALL BREEDS for allowing their dogs to be antisocial is the only way forward.

    Only responsible people will buy a dog license. The people who are mainly the problem will not.

    Stop looking at the wrong end of the lead

  • Comment number 14.

    Chris: You make a very good point - and that is what many organisations are proposing - the law should target the owner. See

  • Comment number 15.

    The situation with dangerous dogs is out of control much like the dogs themselves. I think people under the age of 16 shouldn't be allowed to walk ANY dog regardless of breed and I think you should be minimum 16 years old to own a dog dependent upon breed. I think 21 years of age minimum to own any powerful breed of dog Staffies, Rottweiler, Boxers, Labradors (yes they are big and powerful no matter how cute they MAY look) etc. I if you want to own a powerful breed under the age of 21 you should have to pay to attend classes to prove you can control the breed of dog, have knowledge of that breed of dog and most importantly you are responsible enough to own that breed of dog.

    The problem with dangerous dogs is nothing to do with breed but ownership... I can't remember the amount of times I have seen and met aggressive Labradors, Boxers and Collies with weak willed, minded and not fit to own a dog owners. I have also come arcoss aggressive Bull Breeds and Rottweilers with the same kind of owner I will not deny that although breed is irrelevant. On one occasion my Staffordshire Bull Terrier when he was 10 months old had to have 7 stitches 3 internal and 4 external on his eye lid because a Boxer attacked him and when asked to pay the vets bills the owner denied her dog doing anything wrong and became abusive even tho my dog could have and came close to loosing his eye sight in his right eye..... and those are the type of people and owners that are the problem not the dogs and definitely NOT the breed.

    I am 17 years old and encounter a lot a prejudice towards me and my dog a 1 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier just because of his breed and my age people automatically assume he is a "dangerous" or "weapon" dog when in actual FACT they couldn't be more wrong. Yes he does wear a leather harness NOT with studs and spikes just Staffordshire bars and buttons. The reason he wears a harness is because he walks better with a harness than he does with a collar. I know I said to own a Staffie and other powerful breeds people should be minimum of 21 years old but I have been bought up around the breed my mom had two Stafford that were 2 and 1 years of age when I was born and I research the Stafford breed for 7 years before finally getting one as a pet.

    I am sick of generalization of certain breeds, I am sick of Breed-Specific-Legislation and I am sick of idiot owners giving some of my favorite breeds an UNDESERVED bad name. The owners are at fault for dog attacks and so are many irresponsible breeders.. we need a well thought out and effective piece of legislation that is non breed specific, that punishes and prosecutes irresponsible owners and protects people and their pets but most importantly children from being maimed and sometimes killed by idiots with dogs they know nothing about and yet again regardless of breed.

  • Comment number 16.

    Any owner/keeper of a dog is responsible and accountable for its behaviour. As I've advocated elsewhere on these pages......muzzled dogs can't bite! As Mr Meercat wouild say....'Simple tssk'

  • Comment number 17.

    Whats wrong with most of the people in this country? Blaming a dog for the way it has been raised and what it looks like, how pathetic. Its about time the government looks to the other end of the leash and starts dealing with the real problem which is irresponsible owners who dont teach their dogs any rules, boundaries or limitations or exercise them. That also goes for the owners who think their precious little dalmation or spaniel would never hurt a fly and she was just born in her perfect little state..WAKE UP, the way a dog behaves depends COMPLETELY on how it has been raised and if the human it lives with is a strong pack leader who loves and looks after the dog in every way possible. As for muzzling and leashing all dogs? What a stupid idea, the dogs wouldn't need to be muzzled in the first place if they had been brought up correctly and had a good owner. Also demonising and slaughtering pitbulls and other dogs should be stopped completely, obviously the people who support this have no knowledge about dogs WHATSOEVER as the dog whisperer himself Cesar Milan owns many pitbulls and his right hand dogs daddy and junior (who are pitbulls) help him to rehabilitate thousands of dogs every year. He believes its the humans not the dog. Maybe you should look him up. The media should be ashamed of theirselves for creating such mass hysteria in people just to get a headline, most of these so called "dog attacks" aren't even by pitbulls, but poodle attacks child wont get any headlines will it.

    Stop the killing of innocent animals now and start putting blame on the owners!

  • Comment number 18.

    POTENTIAL....this is the word in all of these posts...these dogs are POTENTIALLY dangerous. In fact, ALL dogs are potentially dangerous! What tips the balance? Their idiotic and irrisponsible owners!

    Blaming a breed specifically is as irrisponsible as blaming the earth for not being able to cope with global warming! I train dogs, and have seen dogs attack. One attacked my sister. I don't blame the dog, and neither does she. He had a brain tumour.

    I have seen Jack Russells and Yorkshire Terriers that I have been careful not to go near because they are likley to hurt me. And who could think that adorable golden retriever could hurt a fly...let me tell you they can and do! Yet the picture most people get is of the Guide Dogs who are highly trained.

    OK lets put it like this; a child, who has been moved from his/her parents for drug misuse and violence, who hasn't had a loving word in years, starts taking drugs and attacking others for a laugh, s/he is 12 years old. Who do you blame, the child? Or that child's surroundings and upbringing?

    As for "keeping dogs on leads in parks/fields/etc" then how are we susposed to BE responsible dog owners? Dogs need exercise. Lots of it. If they are on a lead constantly, how are they supposed to behave in a natural manner?

    Come on people, when will we start seeing people imprisoned for being terrible and irrisponsible owners. I agree that we should bring back licensing...that way we can pin point the bad owners.

    But stop having a go at dogs generally...until you really REALLY know a breed/dog/species, don't label it.

  • Comment number 19.

    In my personal opinion the dangerous dogs act is a load of coswallop, it clearly hasn't served to do what it's in place for because the attacks are rising every year. It has nothing to do with breed but ownership, it's the humans that need punishing, it isn't the dogs fault it's born a "pit bull type" and that they are targeted by thugs and gang youths who sadly make them into aggressive, insecure creatures for their own benefit. It's sickens me that people have such a vendeta against these dogs that know no different they are trained to those things and in the dogs mind it is doing what it thinks is right because they are conditioned to perform such acts.

    You cannot ban a type of dog because it can be created again and again and again because we as humans lest we forget have designed and created around 400 breeds. You may as well ban dogs all together because i see plenty of aggressive little dogs when out walkin my stafford but because it yaps instead of having a deep bark of a bigger dog it is a lot of the time seen as cute and are let to get away without a crection thus the issue persists.

  • Comment number 20.

    As a responsible dog owner, I support measures that enable dog owners to enjoy their dogs' companionship and members of the public to go about their business in safety. However, my husband and I are facing court action and the possible destruction of our beloved pet as there is no law to protect a dog from the malice of people prepared to lie to the police and claim they have have been bitten.
    Our dog has never once been off his lead outside his own garden-for his safety, our peace of mind and to prevent him causing upset to others. A few weeks ago my husband was walking him near to home when a couple approached from the opposite direction. We had only moved in to the area and the dog was a bit unsettled. As is our custom, the dog was told to sit, which he did, until the people passed. As they came close they made it clear they intended to stop and pet the dog. My husband called to them to keep walking. They ignored his advice and stopped alongside and put out their hands. The dog, still on his lead, reared up but did not touch or bite the man or his wife. Seeing how big he was, (he's an adult male Newfoundland) the man panicked, started waving his arms about and shouting. He backed away and fell into a hawthorn hedge. My husband tried to help, having put the dog into a 'lay down', still on the lead, but the man became abusive. My husband walked away with the dog. Next day, the police charged my husband with failing to keep the dog under control, allowing him to badly maul the man on both arms, pin the man to a hedge for over a minute, biting him on both arms as he did so, etc. The policeman saw the bandages on the man's arms, from wrist to shoulder, but did not see the injuries. The doctor's report said that there was a 3mm puncture wound on one arm that she dressed with a small gauze dressing but she could not say what caused the wound. The dog only reared up and did not touch him but the man lied to the police, he said the dog was running loose off his lead-that has never, ever happened. From rearing up to being grabbed by his scruff and back down to the ground took about 5 seconds. Our lawyer is confident that we will win the case but we need to employ a lawyer, a behaviourist to support our testimony of the dog's nature, pay for a vet's report on the width of his teeth, a horticulturalist who can testify that 3 inch hawthorns can puncture the skin, etc etc-approximately £5000 and yet the dog did nothing. I've had dogs my entire life, and raised 6 children without any incident yet here we are, having done everything right. I am now advocating that all dogs be muzzled in a public place for their own protection. He ignored my husband's advice to walk on, so through his irresponsible action, we could lose a much loved member of our family. Where is the justice in that?


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