By Tony Hudson
Attacks on guide dogs should be treated with the same severity as attacks on people, according to an influential committee of MPs.
The environment, food and rural affairs committee said an attack on guide dogs would have a severe impact on their owner's mobility and daily life, and that the action should be treated in the same manner as attacks on people.
The report argued the current dangerous dog laws have comprehensively failed to address public concern problems of dog attacks, poor breeding practices and the welfare of poorly treated dogs.
"Since 2007 dogs have killed seven people, including five children, in private homes. The NHS also spends over £3 million annually treating dog attack injuries", said committee chair Anne McIntosh.
McIntosh also noted the large number of strays found each year and the increasing incidences of cruelty and neglect.
"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".
The report supported the government's proposed amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which would treat attacks on private property the same as those in public, but warned distinctions between intruders and those innocently on a person's property lawfully needed to be made.
The government's lack of action with regard to breeding was also criticised in the report. The committee argued that relying on voluntary action had produced little reform.
"Although the dog breeding community has taken steps to improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs, progress has been too slow", McIntosh added.
The committee proposed a formal regulatory role be given to the Advisory Council on Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding in order to enforce standards.
The report comes shortly after the announcement of new regulations by ministers that all dogs are to be microchipped.
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By Tony Hudson