Weapon dogs in UK to be chipped
London - All dog-owners face compulsory microchipping of their pets and the introduction of mandatory third party insurance under proposals announced on Tuesday to combat the rise in attacks by dangerous dogs.
Existing laws may also be extended to cover private property, to protect postmen delivering mail. Currently owners are only breaking the law if their dog is out of control in a public place.
The proposals were announced by Home Secretary Alan Johnson, himself a former postman, who hit out at owners of so-called weapon dogs.
"The vast majority of dog owners are responsible, but there is no doubt that some people breed and keep dogs for the sole purpose of intimidating others, in a sense using dogs as a weapon," he said.
"It is this sort of behaviour that we will not tolerate; it is this sort of behaviour that we are determined to stop."
The RSPCA recorded a 12-fold increase in organised dog fights between 2004 and 2008. Reported fights account for two thirds of calls concerning dogs to the animal welfare charity.
RSPCA spokesperson Rob Harris welcomed the proposals, but said plans for an insurance scheme were inadequate.
"The announcement is a major step forward but the mandatory insurance scheme risks targeting the law-abiding dog owner rather than those who are causing the problems," he said.
A spokesperson for the department for environment food and rural affairs (DEFRA) said the government was eager to hear the public's views on the proposals. The previous Dangerous Dogs Act passed in 1991 was widely criticised for being rushed through without consultation.
"This is a consultation document. We're saying 'These are the options. What do people think?' Nothing has been decided," he said.
DEFRA will analyse all submissions over a 12-week period before passing its recommendations on to the government.
The proposals follow a series of high-profile dog attacks.
Last November, four-year-old John-Paul Massey died at his grandmother's house in Liverpool after being mauled by the family dog, a pitbull terrier-type. In February 2009, three-month old Jaden Mack was killed by his grandmother's two pet dogs.