Owners of dangerous dogs which attack people in public are to face stiffer penalties - including up to 18 months in prison.
The new guidelines - for judges dealing with people convicted of being owners of dangerously out of control dogs which harm others in a public place - mean tougher sentences for irresponsible pet owners.
The new guidelines could see more offenders jailed or given community orders and fewer discharged.
The laws are welcomed by Cleadon Kennels manager Sarah Wilkinson, who specialises in retraining aggressive and neglected dogs.
She said: "There’s no such thing as a bad dog which is born, it’s when bad people get hold of puppies."
Under the guidelines, courts will also be encouraged to ban irresponsible owners who put the public at risk from keeping dogs, order dangerous dogs to be put down and arrange compensation for victims.
Anyone using an animal as a weapon to attack someone would still be sentenced for assault.
Owners, or anyone in charge of a dangerously out of control dog, would face up to 18 months in jail, with the sentence rising to the legal maximum of two years in exceptional cases.
The most serious cases could include incidents where a dangerously out of control dog has caused serious injury during a sustained attack, injured a child, or where the owner has failed to respond to previous warnings or concerns.
Any deliberate goading of the dog by its owner would also be seen as an aggravating factor by judges. But the owner could walk free from court with a discharge if the injuries caused were only minor, attempts had been made to regain control of the dog and safety steps had been taken by the owner.
In cases where no injury is caused, owners could still face up to six months in jail if they allow their dogs to be dangerously out of control in a public place, especially if children or other vulnerable people such as the elderly or disabled people were around at the time.
But the starting point for the most serious of offences would be a community order, while a lesser offence could attract a fine.
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