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Former H&H deputy news editor

Jail terms to be increased for owners of out-of-control dogs

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Dog attacks on ridden horses may be taken more seriously after tougher sentences for dangerous dogs offences were unveiled.

But the changes do not appear to help when dogs attack horses in the field.

Updated guidelines for judges and magistrates were published on Tuesday last week (15 May) following consultation with the public, police and animal charities, including the British Horse Society (BHS).

The guidelines increase the maximum sentence for allowing a dangerously out of control dog to injure a person to 18 months in jail.

And the guidelines have been extended to include injuries to other animals – such as horses and pets – as an “aggravating factor” in the offence of allowing a dog to be out of control.

However, if a horse is attacked and no human is harmed nor put in fear of being injured, it remains a civil rather than criminal offence.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but does not go far enough,” said Sheila Hardy of the BHS.
She said that 280 attacks by dogs on horses and riders have been reported on the BHS website www.horseaccidents.co.uk since January 2011.

“Very few of the attacks were taken further by police, but this change in sentencing policy is the support that the police need to do so,” added Mrs Hardy. “The hard evidence provided by our members has contributed to that.”

The RSPCA is urging the Government to go further and reintroduce dog licensing and microchipping. Its chief executive, Gavin Grant, welcomed tougher sentences as a “strong deterrent” to stop owners who let their dogs get dangerously out of control.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: “This guidance is a welcome step in strengthening our response to those who allow their dogs to cause serious harm and injury.”

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (24 May 2012)