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Owners of Dogs Behaving Dangerously Face Tougher Sentences

Tuesday, 21 August 2012  | 

Beware of the ownerOwners of dogs dangerously out of control in England and Wales face tougher sentences under new Sentencing Council guidelines that came into effect on 20th August 2012. The new guidelines include increased penalties as the Government attempts to clamp down on irresponsible dog owners.

The Government hopes the tougher sentencing guidelines will see fewer offenders discharged and more offenders jailed or given community orders. The new Sentencing Council's guidelines aim to encourage consistency in sentencing and give appropriate sentences for owners of dogs acting dangerously and causing injury to the public.

Trevor Cooper, legal consultant for the Dogs Trust, said: "These new guidelines will encourage courts to focus on the key factors of culpability of the owner and the amount of harm to the victim. This tougher approach should serve as a stiff reminder to dog owners to keep their pets under proper control and to behave responsibly."

The new guidelines cover dogs dangerously out of control and causing injury in a public place or dogs dangerously out of control and causing injury or fear of injury in a private place where they are not permitted to be. The guidelines also cover possession, breeding, selling, exchange or advertising of a prohibited dog. The guidelines apply to all offenders aged 18 and older who are sentenced on or after 20th August 2012.

The guideline specifies offence ranges – the range of sentences appropriate for each type of offence. Within each offence, the Council has specified three categories which reflect varying degrees of seriousness. The offence range is split into category ranges – sentences appropriate for each level of seriousness. The Council has also identified a starting point within each category. Once the starting point is established, the court should consider further aggravating and mitigating factors and previous convictions so as to adjust the sentence within the range.

Dogs dangerously out of control and causing injury
Maximum: 2 years’ custody
Offence range: Discharge – 18 months’ custody

Dogs dangerously out of control and/or causing fear of injury
Maximum: 6 months’ custody
Offence range: Discharge – 6 months’ custody

Possession, breeding, selling, exchanging or advertising of a prohibited dog
Maximum: 6 months’ custody
Offence range: Discharge – 6 months’ custody

The above is a summary.  For the full 22 page document please see Dangerous dog offences [PDF 0.22mb] - Definitive guideline on dangerous dog offences effective from 20 August 2012.

Dogs Trust comment on the change in sentencing guidelines saying there is scope for improvement
As the changes to the sentencing guidelines have come into effect Dogs Trust commends the tougher revisions but would welcome radical changes to existing legislation that better protect the public and welfare of dogs. Whilst the new guidelines will encourage courts to focus on the key factors of culpability, Dogs Trust hopes they will act as a salient reminder to dog owners of their responsibility.

Says Clarissa Baldwin, Dogs Trust Chief Executive: “This is a small step in the right direction. But, with such momentum behind these changes we need to capitalise on this and use the energy invested by animal welfare organisations such as Dogs Trust to campaign for even more work to be done. Whilst we would like to see a complete overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, the introduction of dog control notices and extending the law to private property could be hugely beneficial and another step in the right direction.

Once again, Dogs Trust urges the government to introduce compulsory microchipping which will help improve the traceability of irresponsible dog owners, making them and not the dogs accountable.”

The Charity is continuing to campaign for stiffer legislation to protect responsible dog owners and supports the ‘deed not breed’ message.

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