“The horseworld needs to unite and lobby for equal protection for domestic animals — and horse owners need to bombard their MPs.”

So urged an RSPCA officer last week after the government announced plans to tackle irresponsible dog ownership the same week H&H highlighted concerns about dog attacks on horses (news, 11 March).

But the consultation is weighted towards attacks on humans and urban, gang-related, anti-social ownership.

RSPCA officer Jan Eachus said he is “horrified” that dog attacks on other animals are omitted, adding: “Humans are a priority, but they haven’t linked animal and equine welfare to dangerous dogs.”

But RSPCA government relations manager Claire Robinson said many issues were not specified.

“We would expect [any new legislation] to include attacks on other animals,” she said.

The British Horse Society (BHS) plans to respond with the Kennel Club and the RSPCA.

BHS director of safety and welfare Mark Weston said: “We will use this chance to press home the point that dog attacks on horses is a real issue.”

Petplan insurance has reported a 500% rise in third-party claims against dog owners since 1999 and backs plans for compulsory insurance.

A spokesman cited an incident where a German Shepherd spooked a horse, causing the rider to break her jaw and ankle. Damages amounted to £35,000.

But the Countryside Alliance (CA) slammed the proposals, saying they will only further burden responsible owners.

“The government accepts a sizeable proportion of those who own dangerous dogs ignore restrictions put on them,” said chief executive Simon Hart. “What hope is there that they will comply with microchipping and insurance?”

Council of Hunting Associations (CHA) director Alastair Jackson will respond for the hunting community.

“All hunts must have third-party insurance and hounds are marked with ear tattoos,” he said, adding: “We must not associate hounds with dangerous dogs. We have never had a hound attack a person.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (18 March, ’10)