The owners of dangerous dogs involved in violent attacks could face similar penalties to those found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving, Home Office Minister Norman Baker has said.
Mr Baker said the Government would be bringing forward amendments in the House of Lords to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill to introduce tougher penalties for the owners of dangerous dogs.
While the current maximum penalty for the owners of dangerous dogs is two years imprisonment, Mr Baker said he was attracted by the penalty for dangerous driving, for which the most severe sentence is 14 years in jail.
Mr Baker said: “We are very sympathetic to the calls from many people for increasing the maximum penalty for a dog attack and the Government agrees that two years' imprisonment is not a sufficient penalty for the devastation and damage that a serious dog attack can do.
”I can reassure the Government will table an amendment to increase the maximum penalties for dog attacks when the Bill is in the Lords and the response to the consultation on changes will, I can assure be published in good time to inform the debates on this issue in the Lords.
He said 16 adults and children had died in dog attacks since 2005, adding that 10 “assistance dogs” were attacked by other dogs every month.
“As the consultation made clear, we will be looking to make a distinction between attacks on people and attacks on assistance dogs,” Mr Baker said. “For attacks on people, where a person is killed or seriously injured, I am attracted, perhaps given my former role as a transport minister, by the comparison with penalties for causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving.”
Mr Baker's remarks came after shadow Home Office minister Steve Reed called for much stronger punishment for irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to maim and to kill.
He said Labour “were deeply disappointed” that the Government had failed to meet their own promise to publish the findings of a consultation on what level of sentencing would be appropriate for the owners of dogs involved in attacks by the time the Bill returned to the Commons.