Will Tougher Dog Laws Lead to a Safer Job for Postmen?
New legislation has just been passed in an attempt to make dog owners more responsible and more culpable for the actions of their dogs. While the legislation may have good intentions, many believe that it is an empty gesture and will do nothing to actually minimise the hazard of dangerous or out-of-control dogs. This legislation means that were your dog to attack someone in public, then you as the owner will either pay much heftier fines or be imprisoned for up to eighteen months.
Dog owners who the courts deem to be irresponsible can now be banned from owning dogs. Dogs that are determined to be dangerous can be ordered to be put down and compensation will now be available for the victims of a public dog attack. While using a dog as a weapon is still considered assault, what is covered by the new ‘tough’ guidelines are dogs that are out-of-control and seen to be a danger and owners in the possession of dogs that have been banned. All of this, of course, only applies to public areas, and not private, which is of concern regarding the safety of postmen.
The legislation has been put in place in order to provide the courts with guidelines that will hopefully translate into consistent, harsh and fair sentencing. While eighteen months is the prescribed maximum sentence, it can be raised to two years in severe cases such as an attack on a child or if the owner has refused to heed previous warnings.
If, however, the injuries sustained are minor, or the owner made attempts to control the dog, then the courts may let the owner go free with a discharge. If no injury is caused, an owner may still be liable for up to six months of imprisonment, if their dog has been out-of-control in public in a dangerous way, particularly if there are vulnerable people around such as children, the elderly or the disabled.
There is an appropriate spectrum of punishment; the lightest would be a fine while others might incur a Community Order. Certain types of dogs are also prohibited: Japanese Tosa, Fila Brasileiro, Dogo Argentino and pit bull terriers.
In practise, many argue that the stricter legislation and new guidelines for courts will do little to prevent actual dog attacks. Punishing irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to behave dangerously in public, or who are simply unable to control their dogs, will not do enough to prevent those dogs from attacking in public and private areas. Real preventative measures need to be put in place – prevent the attack rather than punishing it after the fact.
Some helpful suggestions have been to introduce a dog ownership test, which would mean that potential owners would have to pass a test similar to the Highway Code test in order to own a dog. This is already in effect in Sweden. In addition dog breeders must be better regulated.
While the debates raging around this issue have focused on the flaws in the legislation, the key detractor is that it does nothing to rectify dog attacks on private property. This means that the postman still has no protection from dangerous dogs as they enter a private property. While there are many weaknesses to the legislation, this is perhaps the area getting the least attention. In practice, the suggestions mentioned above would significantly increase the safety of postmen, but they need to be put in to effective legislation first.
There are only a few careers that involve working with dogs and while a postman can be at the wrong end of this one of the most sought after careers is that of a police dog handler. For many not just in the police but also outside the police force it is considered one of the most rewarding careers choices. Unlike the postman who has no control over the dog as a handler you spend every day training and learning to deal with certain situations in order to assist the prevent of crime. If you are interested in the career as dog handler visit our career page to find out more