MPs slam Government over dog laws
15th March 2012
Opening the adjournment debate, Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest MP), cited the attack in January this year, on a little girl, aged six, in her constituency, by a dog that was out of control, and which triggered the debate. The girl's ear was partially bitten off and she was covered in bites. Her mother was also badly injured while trying to rescue her. The dog's owner was given a three month suspended sentence and 200 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay compensation of £450.
Mrs Laing said: "That was not an adequate penalty, and its imposition was not an encouragement to others to control their dogs properly. The way in which the case was handled has done nothing to prevent such a tragic incident from happening again."
The Epping MP paid tribute to the CWU's 'Bite Back' campaign and to other groups campaigning for a change to the law. Stressing that the emphasis must be on prevention and stronger penalties, she said: "Penalties imposed on people who have let their dogs get out of control and injure other people should be severe so that they have a deterrent effect. The current penalties are not taken seriously."
Angela Smith MP raised the crucial issue of attacks on postal workers, saying: "Given the sheer number of postal workers who are attacked every year, is it not therefore necessary to extend the law relating to dog control to private property, and recognise that many children die in the home as a result of attacks by dogs that are out of control?"
The debate covered dog insurance, licensing and microchipping, dog-free areas, the need for a public information campaign and, most importantly, the need for more effective dog laws with much harsher penalties for owners of out-of-control dogs.
However, despite the many strong arguments made by MPs on both sides of the House, the Government dragged its feet once more, making excuses for again failing to act. The Minister, James Paice, said: "I and other Ministers have said that we are close to making an announcement on a package of measures designed to tackle irresponsible dog owners. I confess that it is a matter of personal disappointment that I have not been able to make that announcement before today."
CWU health and safety officer Dave Joyce,
who was present for the debate, commented: "The debate was
well attended and positive, with strong cross-party support for
legislative change, modernisation and consolidation of dangerous
dogs' laws which meets the aspirations of the CWU 'Bite-Back' campaign
objectives to change the outdated and ineffective laws governing
"The only disappointment was the poor and indecisive response from Minister Jim Paice,
which didn't deal with the issues or reply in any firm way. Nevertheless, the campaign continues to grow in support as does pressure on the Government to deliver the pre-election pledge from the Prime Minister."