Dangerous Dogs

On, Monday 20 October 2014 the second phase of changes to dog control Laws in the UK came into force with important preventative measures introduced. New legal powers aimed at preventing thousands of dog attacks every year have been be given to police forces, local authorities and Dog Wardens.

The third and final phase to help tackle irresponsible dog ownership will come in to force in 2015/2016 with compulsory microchipping becoming a legal requirement for all dogs in England in 2016, and from 2015 in Wales.

Changes to the ineffective Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 were introduced in May of this year in England and Wales, covering the largest part of the UK. Similar changes were previously introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland. On May 14th legal changes were made in England and Wales which extended the Law to enable prosecutions for a dog attacks on private property and maximum prison sentences were significantly extended to:

  • 14 years, from two years, for a fatal dog attacks
  • Five years, from two years, for injury dog attacks
  • Three years for an dog attacks on a guide dogs and assistance dogs

The landmark legislation changes were as a direct result of the successful, high profile CWU “Bite-Back” campaign spearheaded by the union’s national health, safety and environment officer Dave Joyce after a seven year campaign – a time during which 30,000 postal workers fell victim to dog attacks with the old law failing to protect 75 per cent of them due to the attacks being on private premises where the law previously didn’t apply. The few prosecutions that did occur resulted in inadequate sentences.

The latest phase of new legal changes are by way of additional ‘preventative measures’ coming in to force on 20th October 2014 and tough new legal powers are now available in England and Wales for councils, dog wardens and the police to tackle menacing or nuisance dogs prior to an attack. It’s not a crack-down on dog owners but it is a crack-down on irresponsible dog owners aimed at preventing thousands of dog attacks every year.

The main new power is the “Community Protection Notices” (CPN). The grounds for the issuing of a CPN are that there must be conduct:

(A) which is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life for those in the locality, and
(B) which is persistent or continuing, and which is unreasonable

If a complaint has been made about a dog to the council or police, its owner could be ordered to take immediate action to control the dog and prevent a dog attack. The first step is for an enforcer (Police Officer of Local Council Enforcement Officer or Dog Warden) to serve a written warning and if that doesn’t stop the threat or nuisance then a CPN can be served specifying measures, which may include;

– keeping the dog on a lead at all times in public
– muzzling the dog
– banning the dog from certain places
– keeping the dog in a secure place or erecting or repairing fencing to prevent the dog leaving the property
– requiring the dog to be microchipped and/or neutered
– requiring owner and dog to attend accredited dog behaviour and training classes etc.

If there is a breach of the CPN requirements then a fixed penalty £100 notice can be issued or the owner can be prosecuted and face a £2,500 maximum fine, for an individual and up to £20,000 for organisations.

Also, there will be a phasing out of any existing Dog Control Orders (DCO)as they will be replaced by Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO). If there are activities taking place in a public place (e.g. a park or play area) which are having (or are likely to have) a detrimental effect on quality of life. Under these new rules councils can ban dogs completely from public parks, childrens play areas and open spaces etc and will no longer have to advertise the proposal to do so in a local newspaper although it must still be published (details have not been set out on what this entails). Neither a parish nor a community council has the power to make a PSPO.

If a PSPO is made it must be published on the Council’s website and notices erected that the Council considers sufficient. If there is a breach, for example by a dog owner taking a dog into a park or onto an open space where a PSPO is in force then a Fixed Penalty Notice of £100 maximum can be issued on the owner or the owner can be prosecuted and face at maximum £1000 fine.

Dave Joyce, CWU national health and safety officer, said: “Dog attacks are devastating for victims and with 30,000 CWU postal and telecom workers attacked and injured since 2007 when we launched the “Bite-Back” campaign, the CWU has fought hard to get dangerous dogs laws strengthened because of the problem of irresponsible dog owners and shocking number of postal workers who are attacked by dogs annually.

“Negligent dog owners must be aware that it’s now a criminal offence if their dog attacks the postman or woman on private property and for the first time, police, local authorities and dog wardens will be able to demand that owners take action to prevent a dog attack or face Control Notices, fixed penalties and risk fines and prosecution for compliance failures.

“Tough action can now be taken against those who allow their dogs to injure our members, other workers, children and the public in general. Police and local authorities will now have more powers to demand that irresponsible dog owners take steps to prevent attacks before they occur. This is on top of the tougher prison sentences introduced earlier this year for owners who allow their dogs to attack people. The Bite-Back campaign has been very successful.”