It might become compulsory for owners to take out third party pet insurance for dogs, under new plans to toughen laws which protect the public from dangerous dogs.
The proposals were unveiled this week by the Environment Secretary Hilary Benn and Home Secretary Alan Johnson, and follow a rise in public concern about and incidents of dogs being used to 'intimidate communities or as weapons by gangs.'
Additionally, the RSPCA has reported that complaints about dog fights rose 12-fold between 2004 and 2008. In the last year, it has seized 900 dangerous dogs just in London.
The current Dangerous Dogs Act would also be modernised to cover attacks on private property where a dog is permitted to be, as currently victims have to use the civil courts to seek recourse.
The aim of the changes to the current legislation is to better protect the public, help enforcers who tackle those who abuse the law, and prevent the abuse of dogs in this way.
Under the new legislation, all places would be covered, including private property, which would give police and councils more power to tackle problems, microchipping for dogs would become compulsory, to enable owners to be more easily traced, and third party pet insurance would become compulsory, so that victims of dog attacks can be financially compensated.
Critics of the proposals have suggested that responsible owners would comply with taking out pet insurance for their dogs, while perpetrators of animal abuse and disuse will continue to flaunt the law.
Commenting, Mr Benn said "There is a lot of public concern about dog attacks, including the recent tragic deaths of young children, and about the rise in the number of so-called ‘status dogs' used to intimidate or threaten people." The Government is calling for public opinion on this issue and what they think should be done about it, he said.
Alan Johnson added: "Britain is a nation of animal lovers, but people have a fundamental right to feel safe on the streets and in their homes. The vast majority of dog owners are responsible, but there is no doubt that some people breed and keep dogs for the sole purpose of intimidating others, in a sense using dogs as a weapon. It is this sort of behaviour that we will not tolerate; it is this sort of behaviour that we are determined to stop."
© Fair Investment Company Ltd