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Bexley people get involved in dangerous dogs debate

PUBLISHED: 13:37 03 August 2012

Barrie Linford

Barrie Linford

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Two people from Bexley paused for thought on the proposed changes to dangerous dog legislation

Angela FitchAngela Fitch

For some people, they are man’s best friend. But for others, they are a dangerous menace.

New legislation is due to be added to the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act which will see irresponsible dog owners face the possibility of six months in prison if they do not control their dogs.

The act also prohibits four breeds of dog, including pit bull terriers.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) insists the law is necessary to keep the public safe and there are opportunities for owners to get their dogs exempted if they can prove they aren’t dangerous. The move has also been welcomed by animal charities and Royal Mail, with 19 postal workers in Dartford and Gravesend reportedly attacked by dogs each year, but the proposals have sparked some debate in the Reporter.

We caught up with two people to put their side of the argument forward: What can be done about the problem of dog attacks in uncontrolled open spaces?

Barrie Linford, 72, Bexleyheath

There has been much said in the press about the way in which we should control dogs. What has been lost in this debate is the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of responsible dog owners with trained and socialised pets. Any legislation must take this into account and not bring in draconian measures that will adversely affect the majority of the dog owning public.

Here are my minimum proposals: all dog owners, regardless of the number of dogs that they have, should be licensed; it should be a criminal offence to own a dog without the owner being licensed to own dogs; all dogs should be covered by third party insurance; the penalty for non-compliance should be a least a heavy fine; all dogs should be micro chipped; the penalty for non compliance should be a least a heavy fine

In addition I would extend the law to include dog attacks on private land protecting workers such as postmen and carers; simplify the court process so that banned dogs can be destroyed immediately; and increase the prison sentences for owners convicted of allowing a dog to attack humans.

The above places the onus on the owner to have a properly licensed, insured and readily identifiable dog.

At the end of the day any legislation is only as good as the enforcement and penalties received by those who transgress.

Angela Fitch, 42, dog trainer, Progress Dog Training, Avenue Road, Bexleyheath

The tougher penalties being introduced when attacks have taken place will not alone reduce the number of incidents. Although I welcome the changes, especially the extension to cover animals as well as people, I feel they are mainly directed at owners who start out with irresponsible intent and that we are missing ’responsible’ owners, whose dogs cause a problem to people and other dogs.

Education is a way forward in providing long-term solutions to problematic dog behaviours. Fear and lack of confidence in handling a dog develops unsettled emotions which can lead dogs to display many unwanted behaviours including aggression. Owners can also have different attitudes about what is acceptable behaviour. I always aim to help owners gain confidence and the knowledge required to help them develop their handling skills, but new owners can currently purchase any breed of dog without being fully aware of what responsible ownership of that breed involves.

Tough laws are required and greater powers for the police to act so that where there are cases of an ‘accident waiting to happen’ they should be more easily able to deal with the problem before it occurs. I would also welcome an effective licensing programme.

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