Owners of aggressive dogs to face fines and ‘dogbos’

A rottweiler dog bares its teeth

Allowing pets to snarl at strangers, threaten postal staff or terrify cats all punishable under laws which came into force this Monday.

Dog owners who allow their pets to snarl at strangers, threaten postal workers, damage garden fences or aggressively chase cats will face fines of up to £2,500 or have their animals taken away under laws that come into force on Monday.

Police, council officials and social housing landlords will be able to issue community protection notices, or “dogbos”, to force the owners of nuisance animals to take steps to control their behaviour.

Measures could include attending behavioural classes, keeping their dogs muzzled or on a leash, strengthening garden fencing, or having their animals neutered or microchipped.

Owners who do not comply with an order will face a £100 on-the-spot fine or criminal prosecution, with a maximum fine of £2,500, or up to £20,000 for businesses using guard dogs.

The measures are contained in the Dealing With Irresponsible Dog Ownership: Practitioner’s Manual and are part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The animal welfare minister Lord De Mauley said: “Police and local authorities will now have more powers to demand that irresponsible dog owners take steps to prevent attacks before they occur. This is on top of the tougher prison sentences we introduced earlier this year for owners who allow their dogs to attack people and assistance dogs.”

“Dogbos” could be issued if a postal worker was regularly chased off a property or became alarmed by growling when delivering letters through a door.

Similarly, owners who let their dogs chase cats in a way that forced neighbours to keep them indoors, or let their animal loose in a park and failed to bring it under control, could face a penalty.

The manual provides clear guidance on how to best implement the legislative changes, particularly the early preventative measures, such as community protection notices, to help prevent more serious events occurring in the future, said national policing lead for dangerous dogs, DCC Gareth Pritchard.

Billy Hayes, the general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said it had campaigned for the law to be tightened because about 6,300 postal workers had been attacked by dogs in the past two years.

“Reckless dog owners must be aware that it’s now a criminal offence if their dog attacks the postman or woman on private property,” he said.

The Royal Mail spokesman Shaun Davis said the company welcomed the changes.

However, the shadow animal welfare minister Angela Smith said the measures fell far short of what was needed to tackle irresponsible dog ownership and dangerous dogs.

“Ministers must do more to promote better education and responsible dog ownership, including reviewing breeding practices, so that we can prevent dog attacks and improve animal welfare,” she said.

Steve Goody, of the Blue Cross pet charity, also questioned whether the measured went far enough: “We need a consistent approach and sufficient resources for police and local authorities to be able to enforce the range of orders that they will now have at their disposal.”

Legal changes were made earlier this year to permit prosecutions for a dog attack on private property. Maximum prison sentences were increased from two years to 14 years for a fatal dog attack; from two to five years for injury; and three years for an attack on an assistance dog.