A blind man who needed 24 stitches after struggling to save his guide dog from attack, and a woman whose dog was killed and nearly lost her fingers trying to save it were amongst Londoners joining the Deputy Mayor for Policing, Kit Malthouse’s pledge today demanding urgent government action on dangerous dog legislation.
Kit Malthouse launched the public pledge against so called ‘weapon’ dogs in Battersea Park alongside the victims of dog attacks, animal welfare organisations and park wardens.
The petition is available online from: www.london.gov.uk/dangerousdogs and states: 'Irresponsible dog ownership and dogs being used as weapons is an urgent and worrying issue that blights many neighbourhoods and parks. I back City Hall in calling upon the government to take immediate action to deal with the problem.'
Members of the public can sign up and also share their own personal experiences of weapon dogs. The pledge comes days after a jogger was violently attacked by a dog in Plaistow Park. It will then be presented to the Government later this year. Kit Malthouse has campaigned for the last two years on greater control on ‘weapon’ dogs and is calling for:
- Stiffer penalties - certain breeds are used as weapons and should be treated as weapons, carrying the same penalties as a knife.
- Extended legislation - to include private land; currently police can only seize a dog and prosecute an owner when an attack takes place on public land.
- Continued legislation banning specific breeds.
- Tougher punishment for owners whose dog are dangerously out of control or cause injury. The emphasis must be on addressing owners’ behaviour and ensure appropriate sentences/ outcomes reflect the seriousness of the offence.
Kit Malthouse said: ‘How many more innocent people and pets need to suffer horrific attacks before the government realises this needs urgent action? I am asking everyone to sign this petition and back our call to tackle the problem of snarling ‘weapon’ dogs in London. Anyone using a dog as a weapon should feel the full force of the law. These animals are just as dangerous as a knife or a gun and should carry the same penalties. The people hear today are proof that these dogs and their irresponsible owners are terrorising neighbourhoods across London. '
Unfortunately, the current legislation doesn’t go far enough to protect people from attack, fear, intimidation and, in some cases, being mauled to death. We need tough legislation, tough enforcement and a hard-line approach to those who breed dogs for fighting and attack. The Mayor has established the Met’s Status Dogs Unit to start to deal with the problem but we need urgent Government action to make their job easier.'
Barrie Hopcroft was shopping with guide dog Bailey an eight year old Labrador retriever in Walworth Road, SE17, last July when a pitbull attacked Bailey, and knocked Barrie sideways. The guide dog suffered four puncture wounds to its neck and shoulder and as Barrie tried to stop the pitbull off he was bitten, causing deep hand wounds requiring 24 stitches. The dangerous dog owner then picked up his dog and jumped onto a bus and escaped.
He said: 'It was an horrific attack and the pitbull wouldn't let go. Even now, over a year later, Bailey is wary when approached by the same type of pitbull terriers. These dogs need to be on leads and muzzled in public.'
Also joining the pledge is Munever Ibrahim whose beloved Yorkshire Terrier Chippie was killed by a ‘status’ dog in Finsbury Park and Munever nearly lost her finger trying in vain to save her dog. Chippie died almost instantly from a broken neck and back and Mrs Ibrahim was unable to work for many weeks whilst she recovered in hospital.
She said: 'I’m utterly devastated by what has happened to my dog, and I don’t think I will ever truly recover. I keep having flash backs of seeing Chippie in that dog’s mouth, I didn’t even notice at first that my hand was dangling off. Doctors thought they would have to amputate my fingers but managed to save them. When I found out my dog had died I was inconsolable. I want to do everything I can to stop this happening to someone else. People can’t use dogs to scare and intimidate – they are literally ruining people’s lives.'
Mrs Ibrahim said it was the third attack on her pet by the same dog in two years - despite repeated requests to its owner to put it on a lead.
Addressing the proliferation of weapon dogs in London is a key priority for the Mayor as part of his pledge to reduce crime and make London safer for all. As well as animal welfare issues such as attacks on family pets by dangerous dogs, a key concern is the use of dogs in gang fights and criminal activity such as dog fighting and illegal breeding. An ongoing problem throughout the city is the ownership of ‘status’ dogs by increasing numbers of young people in London who think that having a particular breed of dog makes them look ‘tough’ and intimidate others.
To sign the Mayor’s Dog pledge please visit: www.london.gov.uk/dangerousdogs
Notes to editors
See Kit's video clip: http://www.youtube.com/user/MayorsOfficeLondon#p/u/13/qKrEwBGWw0U
For interviews with Kit Malthouse / or people who have been attacked by dogs call 020 7983 4599 In order to tackle the problem, the Met Police and the Mayor’s Office established the Status Dogs Unit (SDU), a specialised arm of the Met tasked with dealing with dangerous dogs. Since the unit was set up in March 2009, the team has seized 1,520 dangerous dogs. This equates to over 33 times as many dogs seized by the police in 2009/10 compared to five years ago, when 35 dogs were seized. The unit has carried out 361 warrants where people are suspected of breeding illegal dogs, dog fighting or using dogs in anti-social behaviour. It has also taken part in 500 examinations at animal welfare organisations.
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