Call for action on killer dogs

A Norwich MP has backed a petition calling for action to tackle irresponsible dog owners. Ben Woods reports.

A Norwich MP has called on the council to use its powers to clamp down on a spate of vicious dog attacks.

Simon Wright MP wants Norwich City Council to impose a dog control order in the West Pottergate area to combat aggressive dogs roaming off the lead.

If put in place, the control order would mean dog-owners would be forced to keep their pets on leads or run the risk of incurring an �80 fine.

The action comes after more than 360 people signed a petition requesting dogs be kept under control in Douro Place, off Dereham Road.

Residents decided to rally together after their pets were killed by aggressive dogs which were not kept on the lead.

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Elsewhere in Norwich, people have had their pets attacked in their back garden and killed in parks by out-of-control dogs.

Norwich City Council said they would need strong evidence before putting a dog control order in place because it could restrict responsible dog owners.

In the letter to the council, the MP for Norwich South said: 'My constituents are very concerned about the number of attacks on smaller dogs and cats by larger, dangerous dogs that have been allowed to roam freely in the West Pottergate area.

'Two of my constituents, Patricia Harker and Mrs Patricia McAndrews, have had their pets killed by unleashed dogs in their area, which was very traumatic for them and could have been avoided. I have been informed by my constituents that when they have politely asked the owners of the unleashed dogs to put them on a lead, they have been answered with swearing and aggressive behaviour. Would the council be prepared to issue a Dog Control Order for the West Pottergate area to legally require that all dogs be kept on leashes?'

The move by Mr Wright comes after a leaked government consultation revealed a proposed plan to curb dangerous dogs in the UK. The measures in the document from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs would make it compulsory for all dogs in the country to be microchipped. This means all dog-owners and breeders would need to have their details stored on a microchip and implanted under their animal's skin.

The scheme is designed to make people more accountable for their pets – with the owner, and the breeder, having their details logged on a national database.

But the idea has been met with scepticism by animal welfare organisations, dog owners and MPs.

Question marks hang over the ability to enforce the scheme on irresponsible dog owners – who already flout the law by making their animals aggressive or by owning banned breeds.

There is also uncertainty as to how it will curb attacks by dangerous dogs. Currently, microchipping is used to reunite a lost animal with its owner.

Meanwhile, some people are concerned that compulsory microchipping would only punish the responsible dog owners who would have to pay, despite taking good care of their animals.

The RSPCA has backed the proposal for compulsory micro-chipping because it believes this would encourage responsible pet ownership. But it remains unsure as to whether it will be enough to stop future dog attacks.

'We are 100pc in favour of compulsory microchipping of dogs as part of the responsible pet ownership message,' an RSPCA spokesman said.

'However, we believe it needs to form part of a much more comprehensive dog licensing scheme if it is to have a significant and positive impact.

'The government needs to be clear on what specific problem it is hoping to solve by introducing compulsory microchipping because anti-social dog owners are still unlikely to comply and dog attacks on other animals and people will still happen regardless. The RSPCA would rather proactive measures are introduced that look to prevent attacks, rather than react to them once they have already happened.

'We would also question who would be responsible for policing the introduction of compulsory microchipping of dogs, and importantly, where the resources would come from to fund this. Any legislation is worthless unless it can be effectively enforced.' Last year in Norfolk, 40 crimes were recorded by police under the dangerous dogs act. In these cases, 34 were for a dog attacking an adult and five were for a dog attacking a child.

George Rockingham, the administrator for PACT animal sanctuary in Hingham, Norfolk, believes a licence should be enforced on the owner, not the animal, if an answer is to be found to dangerous dogs.

He said: 'Owning an animal is a serious situation – as serious as running a car. You should licence the person to have that animal, not the animal itself. We have always advocated microchipping here at PACT. I think it is great for stray animals, but it is not going to make much difference if a dog is taught by its owner to attack another dog.

'I think people should be background checked before they are allowed to have an animal, but there is no way the government would ever consider funding this.'

Meanwhile, Chloe Smith MP is unconvinced the government can make irresponsible owners microchip their dogs.

The MP for Norwich North said: 'I understand the government has conducted a consultation that included looking at the issue of dangerous dogs.

'I can see how microchipping can be beneficial for owners of lost dogs. I am also very aware that responsible dog owners will remain that way.

'However, I think it will be very hard to enforce microchipping on irresponsible dog owners.

'Ideally of course all dog owners would be responsible and take care of their dogs to make sure they do not harm anyone else, but it will always be difficult to solve this issue entirely.'

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