Have your say on issue of dangerous dogs

HERE’S an issue that local people first started contacting me about a couple of years ago and which has steadily increased in significance since then: dangerous dogs – and more specifically, irresponsible dog ownership.

We’ve had legislation to try to deal with the problem of ferocious dogs since the 19th century and the Dangerous Dogs Act came into being in 1991 after a spate of attacks, mainly from breeds such as pitbulls.

There seems to have been a marked increase in people keeping ‘attack dogs’ and ‘status dogs’ - the former to scare or physically attack people and the latter as a kind of accessory or status symbol. The upshot is more and more stories of people – often children – being mauled and also of other dogs, family pets and even guide dogs, being attacked.

Various statistics highlight the problem: NHS hospital admissions for dog bites more than doubled from 2,915 in 1997-98 to 6,118 in 2010, costing the NHS £3.3m. The number of dogs seized by the Metropolitan Police rose by half from 719 in 2008-09 to 1,100 in 2009-10.

It’s estimated that there are 6,000 attacks every year on postal workers, parcel force and telecom staff, not to mention other people who have to venture into people’s homes - social workers and the like.

For those reasons and also for the welfare of the dogs themselves, something has to be done. Although it only includes a tiny minority of the UK’s 8m dogs, irresponsible dog ownership is an increasing problem that affects rural communities and towns and cities alike and that’s why we recently announced a public consultation on a range of proposals including:

Extending dangerous dog legislation to cover all private property – protecting postal workers, for example, but not penalising owners whose dogs protect them against trespassers or burglars.

The possibility of compulsory micro-chipping of all newborn puppies – helping to trace owners after an attack and to cut down on strays.

The consultation is now open and running to June 15 and anyone can take part. You can:

Complete a survey online:

surveymonkey.com/s/dogsconsultation2012

Email your response to: animalwelfare.consultations@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Send your response to: Dangerous Dogs Team, Animal Welfare, Area 8B, 9 Millbank, c/o 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR.

I’ve heard from so many local people who are worried about this problem – parents of young children, dog owners, those who have guide dogs or other working dogs. Please do contribute to this consultation and make sure your views are taken into consideration.

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham