Brown’s vow to tackle danger dogs
The vow came following the fatal attack on John-Paul Massey, the four-year-old who was killed by a pit bull belonging to his uncle, and as ministers faced a barrage of calls to review the DDA, which many feel is not working. The death of John-Paul took the total of children killed in dog attacks to five in the last three years.
Although Mr Brown stopped short of agreeing to a review of the Act, he said that calls in a national tabloid were absolutely right, and that he agreed that the press should be raising awareness of this important issue. He said: ‘Every tragic incident where a child is killed or savaged by a dog is a chilling reminder to all owners of the duty they have to keep pets under control. We must also make sure that those who fail in their responsibilities feel the full force of the law.’
Speaking in the Commons, the PM said that ministers will work with police, town hall chiefs and housing associations to make sure they use ‘all the powers at their disposal to tackle dangerous or intimidating dogs’.
He also backed the Mirror’s call for dogs to be microchipped, a move which would greatly increase the ability to marry dogs up to their owners in the event of an attack.
Labour MP, Angela Smith, warned the mounting toll of dog attacks was now so serious that ministers should get on and change the law.
Savage maulings have almost doubled in just over a decade, according to some newspaper reports. A staggering 5,221 victims needed hospital treatment last year, a 13% rise from 4,611 in the previous 12 months - and almost twice the 2,915 admitted in 1997-8. Nine out of 10 victims require emergency treatment.
Ms Smith said: ‘These figures underline the need to overhaul current legislation.’
The Kennel Club also backed the campaign to boost the powers of police and the courts to deal with irresponsible dog owners. They argue that the Dangerous Dogs Act - which outlaws four types of dog including pitbulls - is wrong to focus on specific breeds and want tougher action against owners instead, concentrating on the deed, rathe than the breed.
Indeed, the grandfather of a 13-month-old boy killed by a Rottweiler has compared owning a dangerous dog with keeping a loaded gun in the house. Andrew Williamson, whose grandson Archie-Lee Hirst died two years ago, spoke as he backed the Mirror's Tame the Danger Dogs campaign.
The 50-year-old said: ‘Dogs can be as deadly as a loaded gun. You wouldn't leave one of those on your mantelpiece. All dogs should be muzzled when they are outside and when anyone under 18 is in the house.I tried to get the law changed but nobody has listened. Every day a child is scarred by these dogs. Archie would be alive if the issue was taken more seriously. This month is the second anniversary of Archie-Lee's death and it makes me feel so helpless that other children are still in danger. I have nightmares where I can see a dog ravaging Archie-Lee and I try and save him.’
Andrew, a father-of-three, also lost his wife within months of the tragedy. Paula, 42, was found dead after taking an overdose. He said: ‘My wife died of a broken heart, my son's life has been destroyed and this wouldn't have happened if that dog was muzzled.’
Gordon Brown also promised that he would make sure that dog owners will get extra advice and support, telling MPs that it is important that dog owners were aware of the risks that certain breeds posed and that they were equipped to deal with them, and including extra advice and training for those owning certain breeds identified as posing a particular risk.
Many MPs regard the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, which was supposed to prevent attacks by dogs on their owners and families, as flawed.
The campaign has made the following four demands:
- Overhaul the Dangerous Dogs Act to give police and the courts much more extensive powers to deal with all breeds
- Microchip every dog so that the owner can be traced and brought to justice especially after any attack causing injury
- Outlaw all vicious cross-breeds currently being used to get around the Act, which specifies particular breeds
- Get police and courts to confiscate out-of-control dogs and ban guilty owners from having more in future
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