The UK’s postal union has welcomed moves by the government to set tougher sentencing for people owning dangerous dogs.
New guidelines were adopted yesterday by judges and magistrates in England and Wales, which will see owners allowing their dog to be dangerously out of control to receive 18 months in jail if someone is injured.
In exceptional cases, courts could impose a two-year jail term.
Previously, the maximum limit was 12 months’ custody.
The Sentencing Council, an independent body tied to the Ministry of Justice that advises the UK courts on sentencing, said the new guidelines would mean more offenders will face jail sentences, and fewer will receive discharges.
It will also encourage courts to ban irresponsible owners from owning dogs, require genuinely dangerous dogs to be put down and compensation paid to victims.
More than 3,100 dog attacks were recorded against Royal Mail postal workers in the year up to April 2012.
The Communication Workers Union said the new guidelines were welcome, particularly since there were no formal guidelines on sentencing for dangerous dogs offences before.
Dave Joyce, the CWU health, safety and environment officer, said without guidelines, “inconsistent and inadequate” sentences were being handed out.
But he said a change in the law was still needed to boost the number of successful prosecutions concerning dangerous dogs.
“Thousands of innocent people – including young children and postal workers – are being attacked by dogs every year,” said Joyce. “The change in sentencing is welcome, but much more needs to be done to prevent attacks from happening in the first place and to encourage more responsible dog ownership.”
The CWU, which has more than 204,000 members in postal, telecoms and financial services sectors, launched a “Bit Back” campaign back in 2008 to highlight dangerous dog issues.
The union says 70% of dog attacks on postal workers take place on private property, where UK dangerous dogs legislation does not apply.
Along with extending the current laws to private property, the CWU wants to see dogs compulsorily microchipped and insured for potential damages. It also wants dog control notices used for dangerous dogs, and compensation provided to victims.
Source: Post&Parcel/CWU/Sentencing Council