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STEPHEN PHILLIPS: We're tackling the difficult issue of irresponsible dog ownership

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

Stephen Phillips

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Those of us who are dog owners know the fun and companionship that they bring. It is our responsibility to look after them and ensure their welfare, but there are too many people in this country whose irresponsibility leads to their dogs becoming dangerous to others.

This is why I welcome the Government's announcement of new measures to tackle irresponsible dog ownership.

More than 100,000 dogs either stray, are lost, or are stolen each year with many having to be kept in kennels before being re-homed.

Having a microchip means they can be reunited quickly with their owners, reducing the stress for dog and owner alike.

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It will also lead to substantial savings for local authorities and welfare charities, which spend some £57 million a year on kennelling costs.

This will also mean that fewer dogs are destroyed; some 6,000 dogs have to be put down each year because their owner cannot be found.

Regulations will be introduced to require the microchipping of all dogs from April 2016.

The Government has also decided to toughen up the existing law on dangerous dogs.

The ban on owning or selling some types of dogs bred for fighting will remain for public safety reasons.

However, any dog can become dangerous and owners are ultimately responsible for the behaviour of their dogs.

Incidents involving dangerous dogs are on the rise, and it is wrong that the police cannot investigate offences and put them forward for prosecution simply because a dog attack occurred on private property.

Extending the law to cover offences on private property will help give protection both to children in their homes, and to people who have to visit private properties such as healthcare, postal and utility workers.

However, the proposed extension to the criminal law will not provide protection to trespassers who have entered a private property who the householder believes has unlawful intentions.

The primary responsibility for ensuring that dogs are kept under proper control must rest with individual owners who should only acquire a dog if they are prepared to look after it properly.

A key concern is the ease with which it is possible to buy a dog or other pet over the internet; there is a rise in the trend for pets to be advertised for sale in this way, and ministers are working closely with animal welfare charities to develop codes of conduct for website operators and to provide guidance for buyers on the potential pitfalls of buying pets in this way.

We consider that education also has a significant role to play.

Government has provided funding of £50,000 to charities to foster innovative local community projects to encourage responsible dog ownership in areas where there are high instances of dog-related problems.

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