Owners urged to keep dogs on lead after woman suffers broken hip
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Dog owners have been warned they risk being fined or even jailed after a woman suffered serious injuries after being knocked over by two dogs.
Brenda Barnes, 59, from West Runton, is learning to walk unaided again and faces another year on crutches suffering a broken hip from her encounter with unleashed dogs on the Norfolk Coast Path.
People walking dogs that cause injuries while out of control could face up to three years in prison or unlimited fines.
Isabella McBride, of Smart Dog Training based in Attleborough, said: “People really need to remember other people have the right to walk in areas without being bothered by your dog.
“Part of what we cover in training is other people’s perception of your dog. We love your dogs and that’s great but other people might not.
“A good rule of thumb is you let your dog off when you are sure it will not interfere with people, whether that be raiding their picnic or jumping on them.”
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Since 2017, police have recorded 691 dangerous dog offences across the county, with almost 600 of these related to people in charge of the animals allowing them to be dangerously out of control, in many cases injuring another person.
Ms McBride said those seeking training were a mix of new owners and experienced owners who had a new younger, more boisterous dog.
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“People often don’t realise you go from having a cute puppy to that bigger dog starting to exhibit breed traits more strongly,” she said.
“At that point owners need to be aware and they may need to go back to having them on the lead in more areas using a long line.”
A Dogs Trust spokesperson said: "Owning a dog is wonderful but dog owners do have a responsibility to ensure their dog is well trained and able to socialise with people and other animals.
"Tackling dog aggression relies on us all knowing how to safely interact with our dogs, and being able to spot the early warning signs that they are in distress before a situation escalates."
What is the law on keeping dogs on a leash?
Dogs of any breed must not be allowed to be ‘dangerously out of control’, which means injuring someone or making someone fear they may be injured.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act owners, or the person in charge of the dog at the time, could face up to three years in prison if someone is injured, and up to 14 years if someone dies.
They could also face an unlimited fine, disqualification from owning pets and having the dog destroyed.
In cases where no injury is caused, owners can still go to prison for six months, be fined up to £5,000, be banned from owning pets and have their dog destroyed.
Overall, though, there is no blanket law requiring dogs to be kept on a lead in public spaces.
However, many local authorities have introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders to restrict dogs to being on leads or excluded entirely in certain places like children’s play areas, sports pitches, roads, parks and beaches.
The orders give them powers to issue fines or fixed penalty notices.
Your views - should dogs be left off leash in public?
We asked our readers on Facebook what they thought.
Danielle Kemp - There are more and more uncontrollable dogs and clueless owners about now. People can't be bothered to put in the hours and hours of training and then they expect their pooch to behave impeccably when off lead. The law is simple, dogs have to be under control.
Gloria Fountain - Why should us responsible owners, or our dogs, be restricted because of the irresponsible owners who think it's fine to let their unruly dogs run riot? There should be severe penalties for the bad owners.
Simon Roberts - It’s the owner that needs teaching how to control their dog off the lead. For a big percentage of breeds, lead walking isn’t enough exercise.
Mercedes Hood - There isn't any way my collie would get the exercise he needs if he's on the lead at all times. Not to mention the fact that dogs actually have a need for socialisation, which isn't always best when dogs are leashed.
Carolyn Hollingworth - If it's near cars, houses etc for definite, when in countryside when meeting other dogs definitely on leads, but miles away with only you and dogs in sight I'd say ok to let dogs off.