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Dangerous dog campaigner Elizabeth Hellmich of Bradford's Safe project welcomed the introduction of harsher sentencing for owners of vicious pets this week
Campaigners in Bradford have welcomed news that from next week courts in England and Wales will be adopting a tougher approach to the way those convicted of dangerous dog offences are treated.
Starting today, a new sentencing guideline comes into effect to help make sure courts use their full powers when dealing with offenders.
Dangerous dog campaigner Elizabeth Hellmich of Bradford’s Safe project, who collected more than 1,000 names on a Telegraph & Argus petition to the Government calling for tougher laws as part of our Curb The Danger Dogs campaign in 2006, said it had been a long wait for the new guidelines.
“It’s taken long enough for something like this to happen,” she said. “Thankfully it’s a move in the right direction but there is still a lot more to be done to keep the public safe. They still need to look at dangerous dogs being out of control in their own gardens or the owner’s property. There are plenty of people injured in this way, either people carrying out public services or just visiting.”
The Sentencing Council’s guidelines set the top of the sentencing range for owners allowing their dog to be dangerously out of control injuring someone to 18 months custody to encourage the courts to use more severe sentences – previously, sentences tended to go up to about 12 months.
The peak of the sentencing range for possession of a prohibited dog has now been set at the legal maximum of six months custody.
The guidelines mean more offenders will face jail sentences, more will get community orders and fewer will receive discharges.
Irresponsible owners who put the public at risk can also be banned from keeping dogs under the guidelines and genuinely dangerous dogs can be put down and compensation paid to victims.
The Telegraph & Argus has repeatedly called for tighter controls on dogs since a horrific attack on Rukhsana Khan, who was then a schoolgirl in Bradford, more than two decades ago.
In April, the Government announced plans for compulsory microchipping of dogs by breeders so owners can be traced, as well as plans to close a loop-hole in the law so dog owners will face prosecution if their pet attacks someone on their property.
More than 35 dog owners turned up to get their pets microchipped at an awareness day at the Gateway Community Centre at Bradford’s Ravenscliffe estate. The event, in partnership with The Dog’s Trust, was organised to encourage responsible ownership after one of the centre’s volunteers, Linda Woodhall, lost an arm in a vicious attack by a friend’s dog while she was visiting their home last summer.
Gerry Andrews from The Gateway Centre said: “I think people will appreciate these guidelines being given to the courts but I think prevention by education is the key to reducing the number of dangerous dog offences that are happening.”