Tougher penalties demanded on 'weapon dogs'

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MPs were urged today to put pressure on the Government for tougher legislation to tackle the growing menace of so-called "weapon dogs" and a rise on attacks against the public.

London's Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse told a meeting in Westminster that the law on dangerous dogs should be strengthened, with stiffer penalties.

He revealed that 769 dogs were seized by the Metropolitan police between April and November, compared with just 35 in 2005/6, with 80% prohibited by law.

The cost to the taxpayer of kennelling dogs in London this year is over £2.5 million, he said.

"We are sending a clear message to Parliament that unless legislation is toughened up, London's streets are not safe from the menace of weapon dogs and there will be more attacks like the ones we have seen.

"We want stiffer penalties and the Act extended to cover attacks on private land. Certain breeds are used as weapons and should be treated as weapons, carrying the same penalties as a gun or a knife'.

Angie Bray, Conservative MP for Ealing Central and Acton, said: "More and more of us are becoming aware of this growing menace blighting our public spaces across London and other urban and suburban areas."

Dave Joyce, the Communication Workers Union's health and safety officer, said: "The problem of dangerous dogs is not going away. Last month a dog attack in Canvey Island forced Royal Mail to stop delivering to a street and an attack on a postwoman in Colchester left her without the tips of two fingers.

"Our Bite Back campaign aims to reverse rising dog attacks on postal workers and change the law to better protect both victims and dog owners.

"The Greater London Authority's support for changing dangerous dog laws is very welcome. We need the Government to respond sensibly in the New Year and announce changes which will improve safety and accountability for dog owners and attack victims alike. Horrific dog attacks on children, postal workers and members of the public cannot continue to go unchecked."

Campaigners believe the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is not being used effectively and is increasingly outdated in its approach to combating the problem of dangerous dogs.

"These dogs and their irresponsible owners are a growing menace for many people across the country in terms of anti-social behaviour and other, more serious crimes," said a spokesman for the Dangerous Dogs Campaign.