Cornwall attack victims want changes to dog legislation

Image caption,
Pit bull terriers are one of four breeds banned under the 1991 act

Dog attack victims and animal charities in Cornwall have called for tougher legislation to protect the public.

The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act bans four "fighting" breeds - pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro.

The law also gives police powers to deal with any breed of dog out of control in a public place.

Jo Barr, a spokeswoman for the RSPCA in the South West, said reform of the act was "long overdue".

She said the charity would like new legislation to cover "not the breed, but the deed".

"The real problem is people taking on dogs and ostensibly using them as weapons," she told BBC News.

"It's about irresponsible owners encouraging them to be dangerously out of control."

Image caption,
Postman Brian Eddy wants owners prosecuted for all dog attacks

About half a million people are bitten or attacked by dogs in the UK each year, but there are fewer than 650 convictions annually.

Attack victims have also called for tougher legislation.

Brian Eddy, who has worked as a postman in Penzance for 21 years, has been bitten numerous times, requiring hospital treatment on six occasions.

"The worst time was last summer... when a dog jumped up and grabbed my stomach and ripped it open," he said.

"I think owners should get prosecuted for any attack at all - any dog from the smallest, cutest ones to big Alsatians."

'Bad owners'

A government consultation on whether the current legislation adequately protected the public was held earlier this year.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the Dangerous Dog Act would be looked at again in the New Year.

A Defra spokesperson said: "The issue of dangerous dogs is not just a problem of dangerous breeds but also one of bad owners.

"They need to be held to account and stopped from ruining people's lives."