UK & World News
Dog Attacks: Owners Face Longer Sentences
Tougher prison sentences have been brought in for dog owners whose pets attack people.
Maximum terms have been increased from two years to up to 14 years if a dog owner allows their animal to carry out a deadly attack, while the sentence for someone who allows a dog to injure another person has risen from two years to five.
Changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act also mean dog owners could face prosecution if their dog attacks a person in their home or on any private property, except if they attack a trespasser.
Animal welfare minister Lord de Mauley said: "Dog attacks can have horrific consequences for victims and families and it is only right those responsible should face tough punishments.
"Irresponsible dog owners will not only face longer prison sentences, but will also be liable for prosecution regardless of where an attack takes place, even in their own home.
"This will give protection to those who provide vital services in the community - postal workers, nurses, utility workers - as well as people visiting family and friends."
Other measures introduced include dog owners being sent to training classes and potentially dangerous dogs having to be muzzled in public.
Dee McIntosh from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home said: "We believe if more people understood how to care for and be around dogs, there would be far fewer tragic incidents.
"Any dog, no matter what size or breed, can attack a child, adult or another dog. Training and caring for an animal, and being able to clearly read a dog's body language, are the only ways to help provide safety for the likely victims of attacks, especially children."
Two babies were killed by dogs earlier this year.
Six-day-old Eliza-Mae Mullane was mauled by a family pet in Pontyberem, South Wales, in February.
Less than two weeks later, 11-month-old Ava-Jayne Corless was killed by a pit bull terrier in Blackburn.
The Dangerous Dogs Act for the first time also includes a specific offence to protect "helper" dogs, such as guide dogs, from attacks, with owners found guilty facing up to three years in prison.
Richard Leaman, of the Guide Dogs charity, said: "An attack on a guide dog can be devastating. It can rob someone with sight loss of their independence and freedom, leaving them virtually housebound.
'With an average of 10 guide dogs being attacked every month, we're looking to the police to fully use their new powers to protect vulnerable people from these sometimes life-changing attacks."