DOG-owners whose pets attack guide dogs will face stiffer punishments under Scottish Government plans to protect blind people and their canine companions.
The Scottish Government intends to adopt Westminster’s dangerous dogs legislation in Scotland which will enable courts to impose a maximum two-year prison sentence, up from six months, on owners who let their dogs savage guide dogs.
The maximum financial penalty will also be increased from £5,000 to an unlimited fine.
The move was last night welcomed by Guide Dogs Scotland, which has expressed concern about the increased incidence of attacks.
“Attacks on guide dogs are extremely distressing both to guide dogs and guide dog owners,” a spokesman said.
“We thoroughly welcome the Scottish Government’s view in requesting the UK parliament extends its amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act into Scotland.
“This is a simple and practical move that brings much needed clarity and provides the tools for attacks on assistance dogs to be dealt with by the police and courts.”
Last year, Guide Dogs Scotland warned blind people have been left housebound and at risk because their companions have been severely hurt by out-of-control dogs.
Figures out last year showed the number of reported attacks on guide dogs had risen from 3 to 8 per month since 2010. Dangerous dogs let loose by irresponsible owners were blamed for several working puppies having to be retired at a cost of more than £136,000 to the Guide Dogs charity.
Training a guide dog costs the charity £50,000 and pairing a blind person with a dog can take up to a year.
The change in law will be considered by the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee later this month.
The change will be undertaken via a “legislative consent motion” – a device for adopting Westminster legislation at Holyrood. Currently, a dog owner commits an offence if the dog is dangerously out of control.
If the dangerously out of control dog injures a person, the offence is “aggravated” and carries a higher minimum sentence.
The Westminster legislation, to be adopted at Holyrood, extends the aggravation to apply where a dangerously out of control dog injures an “assistance” dog trained to help blind and deaf people.
Last night, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We support the introduction of an aggravated offence where a dangerous dog attacks an assistance dog.”