The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

Owners may be jailed for dog-on-dog deaths

- By Amy Gibbons

DOG owners who let their pet kill another dog could be sent to prison for the first time after a minister backed plans to toughen up animal protection laws.

Lord Benyon has lent his support in principle to proposals from Tory MP Anna Firth to make owners criminally liable for fatal dog-ondog attacks.

Under the legal change, a person would have to take “all reasonable steps” to ensure their animal does not kill another dog.

If they allow a fatal attack to occur, Ms Firth is calling for them to face up to six months in prison.

Lord Benyon, the animal welfare minister, said the Department for Environmen­t and Rural Affairs (Defra) would back the MP’s plans to criminalis­e fatal dogon-dog attacks, subject to checks by officials and crossgover­nment approval.

Ms Firth, whose team has been working on the proposals for more than a year, said it was “really exciting” to get government support.

She stressed that the aim of the change is to encourage responsibl­e ownership, rather than “demonising” the dogs themselves.

As it stands, there is no legislatio­n specifical­ly criminalis­ing dog-on-dog attacks.

However, it is an offence for owners to allow their dog to be dangerousl­y out of control.

This is generally deemed to be when there is “reasonable apprehensi­on” that the animal will injure a person or assistance dog, with no specific safeguards for ordinary pets.

Mr Firth would seek to tighten up the law by making it an offence to allow any dog-on-dog attacks that result in an animal’s death.

The crime would be punishable by up to six months in prison, or a fine, or both.

Introducin­g her Animal Welfare (Responsibi­lity for Dog Attacks) Bill to the Commons on Tuesday, Ms Firth said: “Since lockdown, with everyone buying their Covid-19 pandemic puppies, the numbers have skyrockete­d.

“In 2021, the same 14 police forces recorded 11,559 dog-on-dog attacks, a 700 per cent increase.”

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