Acpo says dog owners should be prosecuted for attacks that occur on private property as well as those on public land
The Association of Chief Police Officers has renewed a call to strengthen the terms of the Dangerous Dogs Act after an attack in east London hospitalised five officers.
Acpo's lead officer on the issue, North Wales assistant chief constable Gareth Pritchard, said he wanted dog owners to be prosecuted if their animal attacked police when they were making an arrest in a suspect's home. Currently owners can only be prosecuted if a dog attack occurs on public land as opposed to private property. Pritchard added that any new legislation should cover nurses, social workers and postal workers, who were lawfully entitled to be on private property.
Pritchard said he had already worked up draft legislation in conjunction with animal welfare charities and believed the government was now seeking to put that legislation on the statute books. This would allow the more than 6,000 postal workers who are injured in dog attacks each year to seek redress.
On Thursday five officers were injured, three seriously, when a pitbull-type dog went berserk during a raid on a suspect's house in east London. A 25-year-old musician has been charged with offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Police marksmen from the Met's C019 unit later shot the dog dead as officers held it on the ground.
Pritchard, who said he would be in contact with the Met to "look at the lessons and issues" surrounding the case, said he also knew of deaths and injuries that had resulted from dogs attacking people within the confines of private property and new legislation would seek to make owners more responsible. "We are concerned about the deaths and the injuries that are occurring and there is no law to protect people who are injured on private property. We've had cases of kids being killed and seriously injured by dogs on private property and criminal accountability is very difficult in those situations," he said.
He added that the Met now had a new unit to deal with so-called "status dogs", used by gangs to protect themselves against the police and rivals. "We want to protect people who are in a property within the law. We want to give them protection."
Pritchard said that Acpo wanted a more effective preventative strategy and hoped the government would grant police and council officers the power to issue dog control notices as a precursory step to issuing a formal dog control order and dragging dog owners through the courts. "We believe a lot of people would react positively to a notice," he said.
There was also concern that current legislation did not give police enough discretion to lock up dogs they thought were dangerous. Presently, all dogs labelled as dangerous breeds have to be locked up and kennelled automatically at an annual cost to police forces of ?4m.
Gavin Grant, the new chief executive for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has also been pushing for the new legislation, said: "Irresponsible ownership is dire for dogs and the community. Inaction by successive governments has seen it worsen. RSPCA inspectors, our animal rescue centres and veterinary clinics are left to pick up the pieces. As the new RSPCA chief executive, changing this is a key priority.
"The coalition has had 18 months to reintroduce dog registration and microchipping that ties owners to their dogs. Previous governments have failed dogs and owners ? The time for talking is past. We need effective action now."