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Change in Dangerous Dog Act 1991 too late for many

June 3, 2013

The week before last, on May 15th, MPs addressed a call for a tightening of Dangerous Dog Act 1991 in the UK.

For one 79-year old pensioner, mauled to death outside the house he’d lived all his life last week, any change in the law as a consequence of the Environment committee’s actions will come too late.

But why is it a problem that ministers are looking to address so readily?

The briefing note to the amendment in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is yet to be re-written into the official Government page.

However, it has its roots in the unfortunate case in March when Jade Anderson was mauled to death by five dogs in Atherton.

In that instance, the owners of the dogs were unable to be prosecuted as the attack took place in the private property where the owners lived.

Not so in the case of Mr Clarke, who was mauled to death outside his own property by his next door neighbour’s dog.

The dangerous dog appeared on the pensioner’s back door step when he opened the door to let the smoke from his smouldering lamb shank out of the kitchen.

Dog owners, two women aged 27 and 28, face charges of manslaughter

The ‘out of control’ dog responsible for Mr Clarke’s death, a ‘pit-bull type’ animal, was shot dead by police officers at the scene.

The attack on Jade was carried out by bull mastiffs and staffordshire bull terriers, other breeds synonymous with such attacks. They too were killed after the fatal attack on the 14-year old.

In the last six years, there have now been eight fatalities due to dog attacks, but that’s only a tiny speck compared to the number of non-fatal attacks.

Personal injury can be claimed if owner negligence is established

Every year, some 200,000 dog attacks are reported; some of them, the victims can claim personal injury for whilst others go without punishment.

Immediately after the amendments to the law MPs were discussing, it was thought that the only shift would be to increase the sentence for owners incapable of controlling danger dogs would be extended from six months to two years.

However, that was before the attack on Cliff Clarke last week. Perhaps the escalation in fatalities may now cause MPs to react harder and faster before any such incident happens again.

The new legislation hopes to combat two areas that the Commons environment committee has raised concerns over:

  1. over the last eight years, there has been a marked rise in the amount of people prosecuted due to their dogs attacking others
  2. the inability to prosecute people whose dogs carry out attacks in a private property

So many attacks go unpunished, but if you believe that a dog owner has been negligent and you have been injured as a result of a dog straying where it’s not permitted, you can help put the record straight.

Only by making personal injury claims against the owners will their onus of responsibility become apparent. And by doing so, you may prevent an injury much worse waiting to happen by highlighting the potential in a dangerous dog sooner rather than later.