New dog attack laws win praise from postmen
Postmen joined animal charities, vets and union leaders yesterday in praising changes to laws on dogs.
As well as the much-trailed move to make it compulsory for all dogs in England to be microchipped, ministers also announced plans to extend legal protection over dog attacks to cover incidents on private property.
The change will be a boost for postmen and women, health visitors and others who call at private addresses but until now have not been covered by the law if they are bitten by a dog.
The union estimated that 5,000 postal workers and around 400 telecom engineers are attacked by dogs each year, with 70 per cent happening on private property such as gardens, drives, paths and private roads.
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In June last year, dog owner Garfield King escaped prosecution after his Staffordshire bull terrier attacked a two-year-old boy in Swindon because the attack happened on his own land.
The boy, Keiron Guess, who had wandered through an open gate, had to be put into an induced coma and was left with life-changing injuries, while police said officers had previously been attacked by dogs at the property.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “It’s ludicrous that in a nation of dog lovers, thousands of dogs are roaming the streets or stuck in kennels because the owner cannot be tracked down. I am determined to put an end to this and ease the pressure on charities and councils to find new homes for these dogs.”
Around 110,000 stray dogs are picked up each year, with around half unable to be reunited with their owner because they cannot be identified. Around 6,000 dogs are put down each year, while strays cost the taxpayer and charities £57 million a year.
The RSPCA gave a cautious welcome to the news, but warned more preventative measures were needed to improve animal welfare.
David Bowles, head of public affairs, said: “Compulsory microchipping and extending the law to cover private property as well as public spaces is a welcome move.
“However, on their own we don’t believe they will make owners more responsible or ensure fewer dogs bite people or other animals.”
Sir Gordon Langley, who led an inquiry into dog attacks for Royal Mail, said: “The extent and frequency of attacks on postal workers is a matter of considerable concern. The inadequacies of the present law are apparent and these changes whilst long overdue are very welcome.”
Dogs Trust chief executive Clarissa Baldwin said: “The Dogs Trust has led the campaign for the introduction of compulsory microchipping and we applaud the decision, which represents a hugely significant and progressive breakthrough for welfare.”