Owners of dangerous dogs could be jailed for up to 14 years if their dog kills someone under new sentencing guidelines coming into force this summer.
Coming into force in July, the new guidelines mean that instead of the previous two year maximum, people convicted of dangerous dog offences may be given a maximum 14 year jail sentence for a fatal attack.
The guidelines are designed to clamp down on irresponsible dog ownership, says James Murray, personal injury expert at Jones & Co Solicitors.
“The majority of dog owners are responsible, but the few that fail to manage their dogs properly will now face far harsher penalties,” he said. “The new sentencing guideline is one of several changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act that deal more strongly with cases where a dog injures or kills a person, injures an assistance dog, or where someone possesses a banned breed. Banned breeds include pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Braziliero.
“Owners are seen in law as responsible for the actions of their dogs and with the Dangerous Dog Act now including attacks in private property, it doesn’t matter whether an attack happens at home or elsewhere, the prospect of a prison sentence is just the same.
“The people most likely to receive a higher prison sentence are those who use their dog as a weapon, who own a banned species or have trained their dog to be aggressive. A short lapse of control over a dog by an otherwise responsible owner is more likely to receive a shorter penalty.
“However, all dog owners need to be aware that if they don’t control their dogs and someone is hurt or even killed as a result, they now face the possibility of far harsher sentencing than they would have done in the past.”