7:00am Wednesday 2nd May 2012
By Dan Keel
NEWS SHOPPER is celebrating a hugely successful Shop A Dog campaign after the Government finally announced plans to overhaul dangerous dog law.
Last week the Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stood up in the House of Commons and declared that dangerous dog legislation will be extended to include attacks on private land.
This means workers such as postmen and social carers will be better protected from out-of-control animals and that dog owners who fail to keep their pets under control will at last be brought to justice.
News Shopper's Shop A Dog campaign triggered a highly charged debate on the laws needed to control dogs and their owners.
We were inundated with letters of support, took our fair share of constructive criticism and, sadly, also received threats and abuse from a minority of less informed individuals.
But last week's announcement, along with the countless supporting messages we received, proves it was a fight worth fighting.
We decided to launch the campaign after you, our loyal readers, raised the issue time and time again with the News Shopper newsdesk.
Many of you had harrowing personal tales of dog attacks - with the horrific scars to prove it.
Others had been forced to watch on helplessly as your beloved pets were savaged by badly controlled dogs.
Some of you even confessed to being too scared to walk in parks and open spaces, or nervous about letting your well-behaved dogs off the lead.
Shop A Dog called for the Government to:
:: Increase the sentence for owning a banned dog - in line with carrying a knife.
:: Extend the law to include dog attacks on private land - therefore protecting workers such as postmen and carers.
:: Increase the prison sentences for owners convicted of allowing their dog to attack humans.
:: Force all Staffordshire Bull Terriers to wear a muzzle in public.
:: Simplify the court process so that banned dogs can be destroyed immediately.
Within days of launching the campaign we were inundated with new shocking stories such as that of Kane Thomas featured in our two-month feature series.
But now, following furious debates on our website, letters pages and internet forums, we can proudly announce things are going to change.
Kane Thomas, 12, was left with horrific injuries to his leg after being attacked by vicious Staffordshire bull terriers.
Outrageously, no charge could be brought because the Greenwich tower block where he was mauled had a lock on the front gate - meaning it was classified as private land.
Kane's mum, Danielle Thomas, 30, said: "At least now children and people who are bitten on private property will be able to get some justice.
"It's a fantastic step and hopefully his story has helped contribute."
Parys Smith, 11, had to stay in hospital for four days and needed 56 stitches to her leg after she was bitten by her friend's Staffordshire bull terrier last year.
Police could not take any criminal action against its owner, Craig Hudson, as the incident happened on private property.
Parys' dad Martin Smith, 52, of Osborne Close, Elmers End, said: "Over eight or nine months I went to solicitors, doctors, surgeons and police but every time I went to talk to someone I had the door shut.
"But they can't ignore you now.
"Whether it be a postman or a kid they are now going to have some form of protection and can progress with any claims."
James Paice, Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last week told Parliament he was "pleased to announce a package of measures to tackle irresponsible dog ownership".
He said: "Irresponsible dog ownership is a complex problem and there is no single solution.
"The primary responsibility for ensuring that dogs are kept under proper control must rest with individual owners who should only acquire a dog if they are prepared to look after it properly and make sure that it does not become a nuisance or a danger to others.
"Given growing concern about the number of dog attacks, the previous Government consulted the public in 2010 to find out whether the law needed to be changed and, if so, what changes might help.
"The consultation found most people thought powers contained in the existing dangerous dogs legislation were inadequate.
"The police and the dog welfare charities said that the criminal law in relation to dogs being dangerously out of control should be extended to cover private property (the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 only applies on public land or private land where the dog is trespassing) and there was also widespread support for compulsory microchipping.
"The responses showed there was no support for adding other breeds or types to the list of prohibited dogs.
"However, the police specifically made the point that removing the ban on the four specific prohibited types, pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro, would significantly increase the risk of dog attacks because these four prohibited types were originally specifically bred for fighting, are renowned for their aggressive behaviour and are known to be disproportionately dangerous when in the hands of an irresponsible individual or when dangerously out of control.
"Having considered the replies to the consultation and further consulted the police, local authorities and other organisations who are in the front line in dealing with irresponsible dog ownership, the Government have decided it would be appropriate to extend existing dangerous dogs law in England to cover all private property.
"Extending the current law would make it enforceable in homes, private gardens and private land where people and dogs are entitled to be, better protecting the thousands of service workers such as medical staff and postmen whose jobs take them onto private property.
"However, the proposed extension to the criminal law will not extend to protect trespassers who have entered the private property with unlawful intentions."
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