MP: Owners left powerless by lack of legal protection against dog-on-dog attacks

Dog owners are left “powerless and deeply frustrated” by a lack of legal consequences for dog-on-dog attacks, the Commons has heard.

Conservative Anna Firth told MPs the law should be changed so that the owner responsible in a fatal dog-on-dog attack can be held criminally responsible.

The MP for Southend West in Essex put forward a 10-minute rule bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday which she said would implement the change if enacted, and would also require police forces to record dog-on-dog attacks.

She said her Animal Welfare (Responsibility for Dog Attacks) Bill would amend the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to require a person in charge of a dog to take “all reasonable steps” to ensure their animal does not fatally injure another dog.

Ms Firth told the PA news agency she began campaigning for what she is calling “Emilie’s law” after a man in her constituency, Michael Joannou, came to her “incredibly distressed” and “inconsolable” and saying his dog Emilie, also known as Millie, had been fatally injured in an attack by another dog in a local park.

She told the Commons: “Only 14 police forces currently record a dog-on-dog attack as a separate incident. However, of that 14, in 2016, there were 1,700 dog-on-dog attacks reported and recorded.

“Since lockdown, with everyone buying their Covid-19 pandemic puppies, the numbers have skyrocketed. In 2021, the same 14 police forces recorded 11,559 dog-on-dog attacks, a 700% increase.”

She said stealing the dog could have led to up to seven years imprisonment, saying: “But because she was brutally torn apart by someone else’s dog, nothing could be done.

“Not surprisingly, this leaves pet owners feeling powerless and deeply frustrated. It’s also no doubt the reason why police forces don’t even record such awful incidences.

“Plainly it is not the dogs that are the problem. Dogs have owners, and every dog owner has a responsibility to ensure their dog does not fatally attack another one.”

She added: “Emilie’s law will empower owners to pursue justice if their beloved pet is brutally attacked, whilst not demonising any particular breed or creating unhelpful stereotypes around certain breeds of dogs.”

She went on: “The Bill will also compel local police forces to record dog-on-dog attacks as separate offences so that finally the full scale of these awful offences can be seen and counted.”

Describing the attack on his dog, Mr Joannou told PA: “It happened in seconds. I was screaming at the owner to remove the dog.

“Somehow the owner did get the dog off. This dog had just come at her – honestly it was like something in the Serengeti.

“When you see a loved one of yours opened up in two and still alive, there’s not a lot worse you can ever experience.”

He said she was then taken to the vet where she had to be put down.

“The police couldn’t do anything,” he said, pointing to what he considers to be a gap in the law, and added: “It means that something you love can be torn apart and killed with no consequences.

“It’s like medieval law.

“This country’s law on it is absolutely pathetic. I’m standing up for it because it’s wrong, and what I’m asking for is right.”