Union gives evidence in Westminster on dangerous dogs legislation

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The CWU will today tell MPs that Westminster is endangering the lives of children, young people and others who come into contact with dangerous dogs by failing to take action on dangerous dogs legislation.

Laws have been changed in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Wales plans to legislate later this year, but Westminster continues to drag its feet while savage dog attacks rise.

The union has more than 200,000 members in post, telecoms and financial services, with postal workers and telecom engineers in high-risk groups for dog attacks on private property. The law currently doesn’t apply on private property, where 70% of attacks on postal workers take place, effectively absolving the owners of out of control dogs of their responsibility.

Dave Joyce, the union’s health, safety and environment officer who will this afternoon give evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee, said: “I hope my evidence will convince the Committee that urgent action is needed to rescue our failing dogs laws.

“We want a package of better laws – extended to private property, judging a dog’s behaviour not just breed, and bringing in compulsory microchipping. We also need better enforcement of these laws, by giving more power and support to police and dog wardens. These changes would both deal with offences and also act as a deterrent and help to change the behaviour of dog owners.

“Finally, we’re very concerned about changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme which will exclude dog attack victims from receiving compensation. These most vulnerable people have nowhere else to turn because the scheme only caters for those who cannot get compensation through prosecution – because the dog owner is insolvent for example – and this cut will leave injured victims struggling to cope.”

General secretary Billy Hayes said: “We need the government to recognise that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is not fit for purpose and is failing both dog owners and attack victims alike. We desperately need stronger laws to radically improve responsible dog ownership in the UK, reduce the number of attacks and punish irresponsible owners.

“Defra’s current proposals fall short of expectations. They completely lack preventative measures such as dog control notices which could quickly and effectively identify dogs which pose a risk and deal with them before an attack takes place. Action is now overdue on this issue.”

CWU wants:

  • new UK-wide laws to prevent dog attacks on children, postal workers, telecom engineers and others
  • dog control laws to apply everywhere, including private property
  • new measures to make owners more accountable and responsible for the actions of their dogs, eg. dog control notices
  • better enforcement of the law by the police, local authorities and dog wardens
  • harsher sentences by the courts for the owners of dangerous dogs
  • microchipping of all dogs
  • addressing the ‘deed not the breed’ – any dog can be dangerous
  • compulsory insurance cover for all dogs

The union estimates that up to 5,000 postal workers and around 400 telecom engineers are attacked by dogs each year – these range from minor injuries to life-threatening incidents. New Royal Mail figures show that 3,100 attacks were recorded on postal workers between April 2011 and April 2012, showing a downward trend which is welcome.

 


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