Government plans to protect the public from dog attacks have been labelled as “woefully inadequate” by a group of MPs.
Despite the introduction of compulsory microchipping for all dogs in England, some MPs remarked in a report that the government wasn’t giving “sufficient priority” to dog control.
It is estimated by officials that around 210,000 people are attacked by dogs in England every year, costing the NHS approximately £3 million in treatment.
Besides providing outlines for the introduction of compulsory microchipping, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) requested laws governing dog attacks were extended to cover incidents on private property.
Introduced in 1991 after a spate of fatal attacks, the Dangerous Dogs Act only covers the behaviour of dogs on public land.
The latest proposals were met with indifference by the committee, which said they “failed to respond adequately to public concern”.
“The high number of dog attacks demonstrates that the current legislation on dangerous dogs has comprehensively failed to protect the public from attacks by out of control dogs, many of which have had horrific consequences,” the report said.
DEFRA has been urged by the committee to bring forward a bill to consolidate the legislation relating to dog control and welfare.
The MPs recommended that attacks on guide dogs be treated the same as if they were an aggravated attack on a person and urged the police to be more consistent in prosecuting the owners of dogs who attach livestock.
Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, the committee’s chairman, said: “Incidences of cruelty and neglect are rising and many dogs are out of control due to the irresponsible or deliberate actions of a minority of owners.
“The evidence we received from DEFRA and the Home Office did little to reassure us that either department is giving sufficient priority to dog control and welfare issues.”
A Defra spokesman said: “Last week, we announced that all dogs will need to be microchipped by 6 April 2016 to relieve the burden on animal charities and local authorities who deal with over 100,000 stray dogs every year by making it easier to reunite dogs with their owners.
“Giving the police extra powers to investigate dog attacks on private property means we can protect those who have to go into people’s homes to do their job. Irresponsible dog owners can also be held to account for attacks, regardless of where they take place.
“The Animal Welfare Act already regulates against poor breeding practices. Anyone found to have caused unnecessary pain or suffering to a dog faces prosecution.”